For the Birds: A different kind of ‘feeder’ bird

I walked across the living room toward the large window that offers a view of the bird-feeding station and birdbath. I stopped dead in my tracks as a bird much larger than I expected to see was perched on the side of the birdbath.

Wisely, all of the other birds were nowhere to be seen. 

It was a Copper’s hawk, one of the hawks in New England that commonly preys on small feeder birds. The large bird of prey had no interest in the birdbath’s water — either for drinking or cleaning. It was simply using the structure as a perch to get a better look at the feeders and nearby bushes. It hopped off the birdbath and onto a hemlock branch I had discarded to give the feeder birds a place to hide. After peering through the underbrush and finding nothing, the hawk flew off.

Continue reading

One more Christmas Bird Count photo

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-tailed hawk perches on the top of a pine tree in New England, December 2020.

Here’s one more shot of the red-tailed hawk that we saw during the Christmas Bird Count on Sunday in Norwalk, Connecticut. We were looking for warblers among the pine trees and this bird flew in out of nowhere to entertain us for a bit.

Christmas Bird Count photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A northern shoveler swims on the Norwalk River in New England, December 2020.

It was a gray day that turned into a snowy day that turned into a misty, gray day. The weather never fails to be part of the story of a Christmas Bird Count (CBC) in New England. Yesterday (Sunday) was the annual CBC in my area and, as usual, I covered the Norwalk (Conn.) coastline and parts inland with Frank Mantlik, one of Connecticut”s top birders. We tallied 61 species, which will be combined with the other birds spotted by the Count’s other teams. Highlights included northern shoveler, northern pintail, prairie warbler, pine warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, northern harrier, merlin and horned lark. Full story coming in my For the Birds column. In the meantime, here’s what the Christmas Bird Count is all about.

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-tailed hawk perches on the top of a pine tree in New England, December 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A prairie warbler perches on a cement barrier at a waste water treatment center in New England, December 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A northern pintail drake swims in a pool of water with Canada geese in New England, December 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A northern shoveler swims on the Norwalk River in New England, December 2020.

Classic For the Birds: Fall is for hawk watches

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey soars over the Norwalk River on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.
Photo by Chris Bosak
An Osprey soars over the Norwalk River on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.

Here is a For the Birds column from circa 2003 …

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

More shots of the red-shouldered hawk

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-shouldered hawk perches on the top of an evergreen, Brookfield, Connecticut, January 2019.

Here are a few more shots of the red-shouldered hawk I photographed last weekend in Brookfield, Connecticut. Here’s the original story, in case you missed it.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perches on the top of an evergreen, Brookfield, Connecticut, January 2019.
Photo by Chris Bosak A red-shouldered hawk perches on the top of an evergreen, Brookfield, Connecticut, January 2019.

Familiar tree draws a different type of hawk

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perched on the top of an evergreen, Brookfield, Connecticut, January 2019.

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.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

Red-shouldered hawk in tree

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk sits in a tree in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.

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.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk sits in a tree in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.

For the Birds column: Preening away

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.

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