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

A little towhee time before warbler season

Photo by Chris Bosak An eastern towhee perches on a branch in New England, April 25, 2019.

My foot was feeling up for a short, relatively non-taxing walk yesterday (Thursday) so I grabbed a walking stick and hit a trail. The aching foot enhanced the walk in one fashion as it made me slow down and take in all the sights and sounds of the spring New England woods. Too often when I walk I’m rushing to a destination or point of interest (pond or open field) and don’t take the time to fully absorb all that is around me. Not that I’m hoping the foot keeps hurting, but that was the silver lining in this latest bout of tendonitis.

It was still a bit early for a big warbler count — blue-winged and black-and-white were the only warbler species I found — but eastern towhees were numerous. I’ll expand on the eastern towhee in an upcoming post, but this large sparrow is one of my favorites. The calls and songs of the towhee filled the edge of the woods and I noticed several pairs, which bodes well for a strong breeding season (hopefully.) Above is the male eastern towhee and below is the female. The female is duller in color, but still a striking bird.

Photo by Chris Bosak A female eastern towhee perches on a branch in New England, April 25, 2019.

Warbler watch is on

Photo by Chris Bosak A Pine Warbler sits on a deck railing in New England this fall.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Pine Warbler sits on a deck railing in New England this fall.

The early warblers started arriving in New England a week or two ago. Pine warblers and palm warblers are typically the first two species to make their way back this far north and, sure enough, both are back now. This post includes photos of both species so you know what you’re looking for. (Above is the pine warbler; below is the palm warbler.)

The spring warbler season is the highlight of the year for many birdwatchers. It will pick up gradually over the next week or so and then erupt from late April through the middle of May. At the height of the warbler migration, a New England birdwatcher can see between 20 and 30 warbler species in a single day. (It would take some effort, of course, but it’s very possible.)

I’ll post frequently about warblers over the next few weeks and, hopefully, have plenty of fresh warbler photos to share. In the meantime, practice up with this link from AllAboutBirds.org — it includes various warblers and their songs.

Photo by Chris Bosak Palm Warbler
Photo by Chris Bosak Palm Warbler

Early nesters are at it already

Photo by Chris Bosak Great blue heron Danbury, CT, March 2019.

While we wait patiently for migrating warblers and other colorful songbirds to arrive in New England, some birds have already started the nesting process. Owls, of course, started a while ago and other birds of prey also get an early jump.

I’ve been watching great blue herons build and repair nests at a small rookery near the Danbury Fair mall. It’s funny to see these large, wild birds fly over a busy shopping mall with sticks in their bills. It is good to see, however, that they are adapting to human encroachment.

The other day I saw two mute swans and one Canada goose on nests at a small pond.

It’s an exciting time of year in the birdwatching world with nesting starting and the spring migration beginning to heat up.

Here’s an old shot I took of an osprey building its nest.

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey adjusts a stick in its nest at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., April 29, 2015.