For the Birds: Get out there for fall migration

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed hawk at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.
Photo by Chris Bosak — The hawk migration is a highlight of the fall bird migration in New England.

There is more to the fall migration than hawk watches on top of mountains. Watching raptors effortlessly soar among the thermals is indeed the highlight of the fall migration, but everything from shorebirds and songbirds to waders and waterfowl move south in the fall as well.

The fall migration does not garner as much enthusiasm as the spring migration among most birders for many reasons, I believe.

The height of the spring migration is concentrated into a predictable three- or four-week period when you are assured of seeing many colorful songbirds. The fall migration is more spread out. It actually started in July with some shorebirds moving south and will Continue reading

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A walk for the birds at Oak Hills

Some bird nerd with cool birdwatching peeps.

I’m a little late with this posting but better late than never. A few Saturdays ago I led a bird walk at Oak Hills Park in Norwalk. I was honored to be invited by the park’s Nature Advisory Committee to be the bird guide. Of course, I accepted because I love spreading the good word about birds and I have a soft spot for any volunteer organization that promotes nature appreciation and saves land.

As a bit of background, Oak Hills Park is mainly a golf course and the nature trails are on land that was once targeted to be cleared for a driving range. The Nature Advisory Committee now stewards that part of the property, which is valuable for birds and other animals — and plants for that matter. Case in point, during the walk we came across a box turtle in the woods. The box turtle is one of many animal species in decline because of loss of habitat.

The walk drew a large crowd and we saw many exciting birds. The highlight for many, myself included, was a very cooperative scarlet tanager, one of the most colorful and brightest birds we see in New England during migration. The red-bodied and black-winged bird flitted around and rested at eye level not far from the gathered crowd. I also pointed out over and over the sound of the Continue reading

Warbler Week: Common yellowthroat

Photo by Chris Bosak
A common yellowthroat perches on a branch in Ridgefield, Conn., May 2019.

Aside from the yellow warbler, the common yellowthroat is perhaps New England’s most common and widespread warbler. The male is a handsome bird with a thin white “forehead,” thick black face mask and bright yellow throat and underparts. The rest of the body is olive and tan. Females are mostly olive and tan with a yellow throat. The loud “witchety-witchety-witchety” song often accompanies birders on spring and early summer walks. Yellowthroats prefer shrubby habitat and are usually found low in this habitat.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Female common yellowthroat

Warbler Week: Chestnut-sided warbler

Photo by Chris Bosak
A chestnut-sided warbler in Hardwick, Mass., May 2019.

I found this guy flitting among the low branches in the woods near my son Andrew’s school lacrosse field last weekend. I had an hour to kill before the game started and, of course, took a little walk in the woods. Towhees and ovenbirds provided the musical backdrop when this guy appeared right in front of me. The chestnut-sided warbler has always been one of my favorites ever since I saw my first one more than 20 years ago in Keene, N.H.

Chestnut-sided warblers breed throughout New England and nearby Canada. They winter in mixed flocks in Central America.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A chestnut-sided warbler in Hardwick, Mass., May 2019.

Kicking off Warbler Week

Photo by Chris Bosak A yellow warbler perches on a branch in Brookfield Conn., May 2019.

Last week may have been a better week to feature some of our more common warblers, but plenty of these beautiful little birds will be passing through or settling into New England this week as well. Each day this week I’ll feature a warbler or two with short text descriptions and, of course, photos. I’ll kick off Birds of New England’s Warbler Week here with a bonus post highlighting two of the warblers I’ve already posted about this spring.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A yellow warbler sings from a perch in Brookfield Conn., May 2019.

The yellow warblers are one of the most commonly seen warblers in New England. They start arriving in early May and nest throughout the region. They are most likely to be seen in brushy areas near woods. Their “sweet sweet sweet I’m so sweet” song is a common song heard throughout spring and summer.

Yellow warblers make a strong case for capitalizing bird names, which is something I go back and forth on. Whenever I capitalize names, however, it is usually the style of the publication for which I am writing to not capitalize and the capitalization is changed anyway. But consider this: Many warblers have yellow featured prominently in their plumage so there are many bird species that may be considered on some level to be yellow warblers. But there is only one Yellow Warbler and the capitalization makes it clear that that’s the bird I’m talking about.

Yellow warblers are all yellow with brown/rusty streaks on its chest and sides.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A blue-winged warbler sings from a perch in Brookfield, CT, May 2019.

Blue-winged warblers are also common and widespread throughout New England. Their insect-like song “buzzzz-beee” is another common sound during a spring walk. They also favor shrubby areas near woods. In my estimation, they are one of the more distinctive looking warblers with bright yellow plumage and thick black eye streak.

Here’s a shot from 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Blue-winged Warbler seen at Fairchild Wildflower Sanctuary in Greenwich, Conn., May 2016.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Blue-winged Warbler seen at Fairchild Wildflower Sanctuary in Greenwich, Conn., May 2016.

A nice spring bird walk (aren’t they all?)

Photo by Chris Bosak
A bobolink perches at the end of a branch in Brookfield, CT, May 2019.

I checked out Happy Landings, an open space of fields and shrubby areas in Brookfield, Connecticut, after dropping off my son Will at middle school the other day. With its huge fields, the protected space is a rare haven for bobolinks in New England. There should be more such field habitat. Anyway, I wanted to see if the bobolinks were back and sure enough, they were — along with plenty of other birds. Take a look …

Happy birding and let me know what you see out there this migration period.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A yellow warbler sings from a perch in Brookfield Conn., May 2019.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A yellow warbler perches on a branch in Brookfield Conn., May 2019.

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More towhees and a warbler

Photo by Chris Bosak A yellow warbler perches on a branch in Ridgefield, Conn., April 2019.

A recent walk in block 91A (my area of the Connecticut Bird Atlas) yielded even more eastern towhees than my walk last week. At one point I saw a female eastern towhee carrying a lump of straw in her bill. Good sign!

Later in my walk, after seeing a beautiful coyote cross the trail and disappear into the woods, I saw my first yellow warbler of the year. Yellow warblers are one of the more ubiquitous warblers in New England as they both migrate through and stay to breed Continue reading