Birdwatchers are used to looking up. Most of the birds we see are flitting among the trees, perched on branches, flying overhead, or otherwise above eye level. (Ducks and other water birds are an obvious exception.)
Now is the time many birdwatchers really look up, as in look to the sky. High, high in the sky where, literally, the eagles soar. But it’s not only eagles birdwatchers look for in the fall. It’s vultures, osprey, falcons and about a dozen types of hawks that pass through New England on their way south for the winter.
It’s hawk watch time — the time when birders flock to mountains, coastal areas and other open places that afford sweeping views of the sky. The hawk migration actually started in early September and will continue into November.
The peak season depends on your perspective. Broad-winged hawks pass through en masse in mid-September when birders can see groups (kettles) of more Continue reading →
About three years ago I got a photo of a red-tailed hawk in an evergreen tree across the road from Brookfield High School in SW Connecticut. Yesterday, I was able to photograph another hawk in the same tree — this one a red-shouldered hawk.
There is often confusion between the two species as they are both large birds of the genus buteo. Throw in the broad-winged hawk and there’s even more confusion with three common buteos to be found in New England. (There are others, too, but not as commonly seen.)
The red-tailed hawk is the largest and broad-winged the smallest, but size is of little help in the field — unless, of course, individuals of all three species are perched next to each other, which never happens. I find the easiest way to distinguish the red-shouldered hawk is with its reddish or rusty chest and belly. Young birds, however, have tan or brown chests and bellies, similar to the other buteos in question.
For comparison’s sake, here’s a shot of the red-tailed hawk I photographed in the same tree in 2016.
My son Will and I came across this red-shouldered hawk while we were driving through a neighborhood in Brookfield, Connecticut, the other day. It’s times like this that I usually don’t have my camera with me, but this time I happened to be prepared.
The red-shouldered hawk is one of New England’s most common hawks, along with red-tailed hawk, broad-winged hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk. There are other hawks in the region, of course, but these are the ones seen most often. I typically see red-tailed hawks most often, but I’ve been seeing more and more red-shouldered hawks of late.
Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed hawk preens at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.
I thought my cat was bad. The incessant licking to keep himself clean. He’s got to be the cleanest cat ever.
Then I watched a northern mockingbird preening itself. It went on for as long as I could watch and who knows how much longer after I walked away.
Feather maintenance is an important part of life for birds and it takes up a great amount of their time. Feathers play a role in a bird’s ability to fly, attract a mate, hide from predators and protect itself from the weather. Birds are the only living creatures with Continue reading →
Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed hawk at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.
Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.
The seasons are changing, and there’s a lot going on in the birding world.
Warblers and other songbirds are migrating south. Shorebirds — many species of which have long migrated already — continue to move through New England. Other small winged creatures — monarch butterflies — are also seen more often now as they prepare for their generational migration.
On the ponds, the waterfowl migration hasn’t started with verve yet, but wood ducks, which spend much of the summer hiding out, are more often seen and heard in the fall. At the same time, herons and egrets are still with us in large numbers, and feeder birds continue to keep us company in our backyards.
Yes, a lot is going on in early fall as we birdwatchers start to shift from a summer frame of mind to a winter one.
With all that’s going on, one type of bird still manages to take center stage in September and October: hawks.
Hawkwatches are the primary destination for birdwatchers this time of year as birds of prey by the thousands ride the wind south. Pick the right day with the ideal weather conditions, and a birdwatcher may see hundreds of hawks, falcons, eagles and vultures soaring overhead.
Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey soars over the Norwalk River on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.
Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.), The Keene (NH) Sentinel and several Connecticut weekly newspapers.
A September would not be complete without a bird column on the fall hawk migration. For many, the hawk migration is the highlight of the fall season, despite there being many other birding options this time of year.
It’s hard to blame those people who feel that way. You can’t complain about spending a sunny, crisp fall day on the top of a mountain or other open area looking for hawks coming down from the north. Pick the right day and you may see hundreds of hawks making their way to their winter grounds.
The trick for many people, including myself, is figuring out which hawk is which from such a distance in the sky. I have gotten better over the years but certainly not to the level of the experts at the popular hawkwatching sites throughout New England. The experts, who are trained in this sort of thing, know the identification of the bird long before I can even see it out in the horizon.
The other trick to hawkwatching is picking the right day. Weather plays a big role in the fall hawk migration. Pick a day with a steady southerly wind and you’ll likely see very few hawks. Which hawk wants to battle a stiff headwind to start a thousand-mile (or more) journey.
Photo by Chris Bosak A young Cooper’s Hawk eats a squirrel in southern New England in Feb. 2015.
The other day I pulled into my driveway and noticed a clump of brown in my neighbor’s yard. Birders are trained to notice anything out of the ordinary in a scene because it just might be a bird. Often these days it ends up being a plastic bag stuck in a tree, but sure enough, sometimes it is a bird.
Such was the case the other day. That brown clump was a bird, a young Cooper’s Hawk to be exact. Not only that, but the bird was eating (a Gray Squirrel as it turns out.) Cooper’s Hawks eat mainly birds, but small mammals can also fall prey to these quick and agile birds.
I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. (Warning: If you don’t like the bloody side of nature, don’t click “continue reading.” Fair warning.)