This morning’s bird walk brought me to the Still River Greenway Trail in Brookfield, Connecticut. An eastern phoebe (late for this species) was the highlight species, but I failed to get a photo as it disappeared into thin air when I reached for the camera. At any rate, I found more than 20 species, including eastern bluebirds, pileated woodpeckers, and a red-tailed hawk. The dominant species were white-throated sparrows, dark-eyed juncos and Carolina wrens.
Here’s a quick video I put together on the northern shoveler drake that I featured in a few posts last week. Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel, which I hope to populate with more videos in the coming months. It already has several older videos I posted over the years.
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Here’s the 2018 State of the Birds report from the Connecticut Audubon Society. (Press release shamelessly copy/pasted here.)
November 29, 2018 — For the scores of migratory and nesting bird species in Connecticut to survive and thrive, the state’s cities and suburbs must create, maintain, and improve their local habitats in everything from small neighborhood parks to larger nature preserves.
That’s the key finding of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s 2018 State of the Birds report, released today at a news conference at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven.
Titled “In Cities and Suburbs: A Fresh Look at How Birds Are Surviving in Connecticut,” the report shows how the state’s most heavily-developed areas are crucial to the survival of the state’s and the region’s birds. Some of the most vulnerable species nest in Continue reading →
Its shovel-like bill is its most distinguishing feature. Both males and females have that flattened bill, but only the male (drake) features this bright plumage. Females are mottled tan or brown, like many female ducks.
There has been a lot of talk lately about winter finches. There usually is this time of year.
I have read accounts of people seeing big flocks of pine siskins. Siskins are probably the most common winter finch that irrupts into the middle and southern parts of New England sporadically in winter.
Winter finch is not an official term with a clear-cut number of species that nicely fits the category. Rather, it is a general term used for members of the finch family that breed up north and typically spend their winters up north, but irregularly move south during the winter as food sources dictate.
The species most commonly associated with a winter finch irruption include pine siskin, common redpoll and purple finch. Larger finches, such as pine grosbeak and evening grosbeak, are also species seen at backyard feeders throughout New England during the winter.
But birds do not even have to be finches to fall into the loose category of “winter finch.” Often, the red-breasted nuthatch is lumped into the category due to its great abundance at feeders some winters and being a no-show during other winters.
So far this winter I have seen a lone female purple finch at my backyard feeding station. That has been the extent of my winter finch season so far. The nature of a winter finch irruption, however, could mean a sizable flock of pine siskins can show up and empty out my Nyjer seed feeder at any moment.
I did see a few red-breasted nuthatches on a recent trip to northern New Hampshire, but that is part of their breeding and winter grounds, and would not fall into the category of a winter-finch sighting.
Admittedly, it took a minute or two to identify the female purple finch that has been visiting my yard. It was clearly something different, so I knew I had to lock down an ID as soon as possible.
Female purple finches are streaky brown in plumage. It didn’t have the look or feel of a sparrow, so I eliminated those possibilities immediately. It looked a lot like a house finch, but was more heavily streaked and slightly larger and plumper overall. The thick bill further eliminated any sparrow possibilities and after very briefly considering the female rose-breasted grosbeak, I was able to nail down the ID as a female purple finch.
In the past when I have seen purple finches, it has usually been a pair so getting an ID was easier because I had the more colorful male to observe.
For whatever reason, regardless of how great a winter finch season it is throughout New England, my yard typically does not drive in a lot of these birds. While I’ve read about several backyards being ambushed by pine siskins already this season, I haven’t seen a pine siskin in about 10 years. That species typically irrupts every three or four years.
If nothing else shows up at my feeders all winter, I still have my regular feeder birds and my female purple finch. And I’m good with that.
Two weeks ago I had a post on this site about mushrooms and last week I made a few posts during my trip to Pittsburg, N.H.
By way of revisiting both of those topics, here’s a photo of interesting looking fungi we spotted during a walk through the boreal forest. There’s so much cool stuff to see out there — whether it’s southern, central or northern New England — but you have to get out there to see it.