For the Birds: GBBC and divers

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pair of Ring-necked Ducks rest at a pond in Darien, March 2014.

Here is the latest For the Birds column.

I decided to stick to the woods behind my house for the Great Backyard Bird Count. I could have gone off to some nearby birding hot spot to try to log more birds, but I decided to stay put and “bird my patch.”

The action was fairly slow but not terribly so. I didn’t find any out-of-the-ordinary species, but I did get a lot of the common ones. I got my chickadees, titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers and American goldfinches. A small flock of pine siskins came to the backyard just as I was wrapping things up. I was glad it arrived for the count as this bird has been a regular visitor all winter.

The highlight of the count for me was checking out the beaver pond at the end of the trail that begins behind my house. The pond was mostly frozen, probably about 85 percent so, but the open water that did exist on the far edge held a lone male hooded merganser and nine ring-necked ducks.

Did I say nine? I meant to say 12. No, make that 13. When getting a precise number of birds is important, such as when doing a bird census like the Great Backyard Bird Count, it is important to check and double check the diving ducks.

When I first looked at the ring-necked ducks, I counted nine. I moved along the edge of the pond to change my angle and suddenly I counted 12. I watched for another minute and another duck popped up its head to make 13. I watched carefully for another couple minutes and the number stayed at 13.

Ring-necked ducks are one of the more common diving ducks we see in New England during the winter. Diving ducks are the ones that, true to the description, dive underwater for their prey such as fish and crustaceans. The other types of ducks are dabblers and they simply tip up and stick their heads in the water in their search for food.

Most of our very common ducks are dabblers. Mallards, black ducks, wood ducks and teal are all dabblers. The divers include species such as the mergansers, bufflehead, goldeneye, and, as mentioned, ring-necked ducks.

Dabblers are sometimes difficult to count because there can be so many of them they tend to crowd each other out. But at least you can always see them. They don’t “disappear” underwater.

When you approach a pond and see a flock of divers, you never know whether you are looking at all of them or not. Not that it would have made a whole lot of difference in the grand scheme of things if I had submitted 12 ring-necked ducks, or even my original count of nine, for that matter. But, of course, I was trying to be as accurate as possible so I’m glad I was able to submit the correct number.

All in all, it was a fun count with a decent number of species. How did you do? Feel free to send me an email and let me know.

For more information and international results of the Great Backyard Bird Count, click here.

Great Backyard Bird Count personal results

Photo by Chris Bosak A white-breasted nuthatch sits on a bird-shaped birdfeeder during the winter of 2016-17 in Danbury, Conn.
Photo by Chris Bosak A white-breasted nuthatch sits on a bird-shaped birdfeeder during the winter of 2016-17 in Danbury, Conn.

As promised, here are the results of my Great Backyard Bird Count experience this morning. It wasn’t overly successful in terms of finding birds, but it wasn’t too bad either. At any rate, all checklists are valuable, so my 2019 GBBC list is in. Not that participants are limited to one checklist, and I may just do another one tomorrow as the Count runs through Monday.

My species list included: black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, dark-eyed junco, pine siskin, American goldfinch, hooded merganser, and ring-necked duck. The waterfowl, of course, I spotted at the pond at the end of the trail behind my house. The pond is 85 percent frozen, but open just enough to hold a small flock of ring-necks.

Feel free to share your highlights by commenting on this site or Facebook.

Since my species list wasn’t so great, here are photos of each bird I saw today. (Note: The photos were not taken today, but these are “file photos.”) Continue reading

Still time to participate in Great Backyard Bird Count

A Red-breasted Nuthatch perches near a birdfeeding station in Danbury, Conn., Oct. 2016.
A Red-breasted Nuthatch perches near a bird feeding station in Danbury, Conn., Oct. 2016.

There is still time to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. In fact, in recent years the Count has been extended through Monday — so no excuses. It’s a beautiful day in New England (at least where I am) and I’m eager to head out right after making this post. I’ll let you know what I find later today or tomorrow. As always, feel free to send me your highlights.

Remember, if you see a ton of birds or only a few (or none), it’s all good data. Don’t fail to submit results just because you think it was an “unsuccessful” bird walk. Click here for my recent column on that matter.

Many people are concerned that they are not seeing chickadees at their feeder this winter. This is your chance to contribute to data that may help scientists determine if, indeed, there is a problem.

All the information about the GBBC and how to submit your results may be found by clicking here.

Latest For the Birds column: Be prepared for snowstorms by filling birdfeeders

Photo by Chris Bosak A Brown Creeper finds food at the base of a tree during a cold snap in February 2016, Danbury, Connecticut.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Brown Creeper finds food at the base of a tree during a cold snap in February 2016, Danbury, Connecticut.

Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in several New England newspapers. (Note the date of the Great Backyard Bird Count has passed for this year.)

When I know a major snowstorm is coming, I want to be well prepared.

That does not include a trip to the grocery store to buy milk, bread, bottled water or any other essentials like that. That stuff I can get after everything is plowed or dug out — usually the next day.

For me, being prepared means making sure my camera batteries are charged, lenses cleaned and storage card emptied. It also means making sure the feeders are full before the storm hits. Perhaps I’ll add a few special treats for the birds in preparation for the snow.

The latest predicted snowstorm did not disappoint. It was supposed to start overnight, and it did. Thankfully I had filled the feeders before going to bed. I woke up to several inches of fresh snow and nonstop action at the feeders.

Juncos were the most prolific bird of the day. They typically hang around the ground seeking seeds, but with snow covering the ground, they perched on feeders alongside the chickadees, titmice and nuthatches.

It was a great storm, and the snow fell all day. Other than a snowshoe hike with the boys, I kept an eye on the feeders most of the day. Nothing too unusual showed up, but the falling snow made for a spectacular scene.

Several New Hampshire readers sent me photos of the birds they saw that day. A collection is available on my website, If you took any bird photos that day and haven’t shared them with anyone yet, feel free to send them to me at I’ll add them to collection for the world to see.

Speaking of sharing bird sightings, the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up this weekend, taking place Friday, Feb. 17 to Monday, Feb. 20. It is your chance to contribute to a data base of winter bird sightings. The data is used to track bird populations and identify potential problems before they become irreversible.

All it takes is 15 minutes (or longer, of course) of counting birds and entering your checklist online at You can count the birds alone or with a group, in your backyard or in the woods, for 15 minutes or all four days. It’s that easy. Checklists must be submitted online, however.

“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in citizen science,” Gary Langham, the Audubon Society’s vice president and chief scientist, said in a news release. “No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds.”

The project is growing quickly. In the first year, 13,500 checklists were submitted from the U.S. and Canada. Last year, nearly 164,000 checklists were submitted from more than 100 countries.

It’s a fun project, too, and a good way to introduce children to the joys of birdwatching and citizen science.

Get out there and count.

More Brown Creeper photos from #GBBC

Photo by Chris Bosak A Brown Creeper finds food at the base of a tree during a cold snap in February 2016, Danbury, Connecticut.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Brown Creeper finds food at the base of a tree during a cold snap in February 2016, Danbury, Connecticut.

Here are some more shots of the Brown Creeper that visited my yard during the cold snap experienced in New England over the weekend. With temperatures at or even below zero for much of the weekend, it wasn’t easy snapping photos of birds in the yard, but the thrill of seeing these energetic, albeit rather nondescript, birds made me forget about the cold for the time being.

Brown Creepers may not be much to look at with their small size and white and brown coloring, they are a thrill to see nonetheless. They are rather common in New England, but it’s not a bird you see every day, or in great n Continue reading

Brown Creeper and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker pay a visit

Photo by Chris Bosak Brown Creeper at base of tree.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Brown Creeper at base of tree.

At one point today a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was on the suet feeder and a Brown Creeper crept along the base of an adjacent tree. Neither are earth-shattering sightings, but both are rather unusual in my part of New England at Merganser Lake. In fact, it was the first time I had ever seen a sapsucker at one of my feeders. I even managed to get a decent photograph of the Brown Creeper, a species that can be tricky to shoot.

The photos accompanying this post, admittedly, don’t look that great. They are merely photos I took with my iPhone of the display screen of my camera. When I have more time I’ll get to a computer and download the photos, but for now the mediocre iPhone will have to do. Thanks for your patience. I wanted to post this as soon as possible as this is Great Backyard Bird Count weekend. It runs through Monday, so maybe this posting will inspire others to participate. For more information, click here.

Photo by Chris Bosak Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on suet feeder.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on suet feeder.

Release: Great Backyard Bird Count sets new species record


Here’s a press release from the Great Backyard Bird Count folks: All text and photos below the dotted line are directly from the release.

I love the charts they compile following this count. Great photos included, too.

Here’s my post directly following the GBBC.


New York, NY, Ithaca, NY, and Port Rowan, ON–Participants from more than 100 countries submitted a record 147, 265 bird checklists for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count and broke the previous count record for the number of species identified. The 5,090 species reported represents nearly half the possible bird species in the world. The four-day count was held February 13-16, the 18th year for the event which is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.

The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale made possible by using the eBird online checklist program. A sampling of species found by intrepid counters include Ibisbill in India, Bornean Bistlehead in Malaysia, and  Continue reading

My GBBC highlights

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Bufflehead swims in Gorham's Pond, Nov. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female Bufflehead swims in Darien.

I hit Weed Beach this morning for the Great Backyard Bird Count. The woods were fairly quiet, but the water offered some good birds. Some of the highlights were about a dozen Black-capped Chickadees, some American Robins, a Northern Mockingbirds, several Red-breasted Mergansers, a few Gadwall, dozens of American Black Ducks, dozens of Bufflehead and a couple Common Goldeneye.

So what was on your list? Feel free to comment below.

More information is available here.