For the Birds: Warblers in the snow

Photo by Chris Bosak
A blue-winged warbler perches on snowy branches at Bennett’s Farm State Park in Connecticut during a rare May snowfall in 2020.

It feels as if it were months ago and the weather has certainly taken a turn for the better, but the May 9 snowfall created some unique opportunities for birdwatchers and photographers.

I mentioned in last week’s column that we rarely see our late migratory birds in the snow. In fact, I can count on one finger the number of times in my memory it has snowed when these migrants were around — and that one time was last week.

The snow was predicted to fall during the night so I was fairly certain it would already be gone by the time I woke up. I got up early and, to my pleasant surprise, snow blanketed all surfaces. I jumped out of bed and headed to the nearest park.

How much snow you got depends on where you are in New England. I had only a slight covering where I am and the morning sun was already rising, so I had to hurry if I wanted to see these birds with a snowy background.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An ovenbird perches on snowy branches at Bennett’s Farm State Park in Connecticut during a rare May snowfall in 2020.

The first bird I was able to see was an ovenbird, a warbler that more resembles a small thrush. He belted out his signature “teacher teacher teacher” call and I stopped in my tracks. The bird flew in for a closer look and perched in a branch right above me. The branch and those around it were covered in about a quarter of an inch of snow and I got my coveted warbler-in-snow photo. Ovenbirds usually arrive In New England during the last week of April or the first week of May, well past what is normally a threat for snow.

I continued along the trail and heard a familiar insect-like buzzing and knew a blue-winged warbler was nearby. I also heard the “witchety witchety witchety” call of a common yellowthroat.

I didn’t have a lot of faith in the yellowthroat making an appearance, as they like to sulk near the ground or in heavy brush. Blue-winged warblers tend to be more curious so I waited out his appearance. After a few minutes, he did indeed appear and gave me some decent photo opps on snowy branches. My guess is that there aren’t too many photos of blue-winged warblers in the snow (even if my photos show minimal snow cover.) Most of the snow in the brushy areas was gone by the time I was done with the blue-winged warbler, so I headed back.

Along the way, I saw a hermit thrush and got some shots of it in the snow, as there were some snowy spots left in the woods. Photos of hermit thrushes in the snow are not as unusual as they tend to migrate out of New England later than a lot of our transient bird species.

Later in the day, another snow squall blanketed the ground and the hummingbirds kept up their busy schedule of visiting the feeders. Never thought I’d see hummingbirds on a snowy day in New England.

Getting shots of late migrants in the snow is a rare opportunity indeed. I’d be OK if the opportunity didn’t come again for a long time.

Birds to brighten your day: May 22

Photo by Chris Bosak
A mourning dove perches on a branch in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

A Day on Merganser Lake

I like this photo as it is a good kickoff to Memorial Day Weekend. We celebrate Memorial Day as the start of the summer season, but its real meaning, of course, is much more important and somber. The name mourning dove itself reflects this reality, but the bird’s pose is also somewhat reflective. Thanks to our fallen heroes.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend everybody.

(Repeat text for context:  I’m running out of COVID-19 lockdown themes so from now until things get back to some semblance of normalcy, I will simply post my best photo from the previous day. You could say it fits because of its uncertainty and challenge. I’ll call the series “A Day on Merganser Lake,” even though that’s not the real name of the lake I live near in southwestern Connecticut, it’s just a nod to my favorite duck family.)

Photo by Chris Bosak
A mourning dove perches on a branch in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

Birds to brighten your day: May 20

Photo by Chris Bosak An eastern towhee sings from a branch in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

A Day on Merganser Lake

The other day I posted a photo of a chestnut-sided warbler and I remarked how I liked the color chestnut. Today, here’s a rufous-sided towhee. Rufous is a cool color too. Chestnut and rufous sure beat “tan” or “brown.” Of course, it’s not really called rufous-sided towhee anymore. It now goes by the much more boring name eastern towhee. The name changed in 1998 to split it from the spotted towhee of the West.

(Repeat text for context:  I’m running out of COVID-19 lockdown themes so from now until things get back to some semblance of normalcy, I will simply post my best photo from the previous day. You could say it fits because of its uncertainty and challenge. I’ll call the series “A Day on Merganser Lake,” even though that’s not the real name of the lake I live near in southwestern Connecticut, it’s just a nod to my favorite duck family.)

Photo by Chris Bosak An eastern towhee sings from a branch in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

Birds to brighten your Day: May 17

Photo by Chris Bosak
A rose-breasted grosbeak shows off its red feathers in its “wing pits” in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

A Day on Merganser Lake

Male rose-breasted grosbeaks are known for their beautiful plumage: contrasting black-and-white overall with a large rose-red triangle patch on the chest. The red under the wings is not seen often, even in flight. Here’s a shot that shows that extra splash of color.

(Repeat text for context:  I’m running out of COVID-19 lockdown themes so from now until things get back to some semblance of normalcy, I will simply post my best photo from the previous day. You could say it fits because of its uncertainty and challenge. I’ll call the series “A Day on Merganser Lake,” even though that’s not the real name of the lake I live near in southwestern Connecticut, it’s just a nod to my favorite duck family.)

Photo by Chris Bosak A rose-breasted grosbeak shows off its red feathers in its “wing pits” in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

Birds to brighten your day: May 15

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American goldfinch perches on a branch in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

A Day on Merganser Lake

American goldfinches continue to be the top customer at my feeding station. I get dozens and dozens each day and it’s been like that for months. I only wish Nyjer seed wasn’t so expensive. It’s been fun and educational watching the goldfinches. Their plumage is constantly changing and there is great variety among the individual birds.

It is the height of spring migration. Drop me a line and let me know what you’re seeing.

(Repeat text for context:  I’m running out of COVID-19 lockdown themes so from now until things get back to some semblance of normalcy, I will simply post my best photo from the previous day. You could say it fits because of its uncertainty and challenge. I’ll call the series “A Day on Merganser Lake,” even though that’s not the real name of the lake I live near in southwestern Connecticut, it’s just a nod to my favorite duck family.)

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American goldfinch perches on a branch in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

Birds to brighten your day: May 13

Photo by Chris Bosak
A hermit thrush visits a backyard in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

A Day on Merganser Lake

I’ve seen a lot more hermit thrushes this year than in year’s past. (Probably because I’m looking more.) They are handsome birds but their claim to fame, of course, is their song. The website www.musicofnature.com says this about the song of the hermit thrush: “The Hermit Thrush is perhaps North America’s most highly regarded singer, both for musicality and emotional impact.”

Thank you for checking out this website and for supporting http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com

(Repeat text for context:  I’m running out of COVID-19 lockdown themes so from now until things get back to some semblance of normalcy, I will simply post my best photo from the previous day. You could say it fits because of its uncertainty and challenge. I’ll call the series “A Day on Merganser Lake,” even though that’s not the real name of the lake I live near in southwestern Connecticut, it’s just a nod to my favorite duck family.)

Follow up to this morning’s post: Red fox with mouth full of prey

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red fox walks through the woods of New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

A Day on Merganser Lake

The fox was back and, boy, did it provide some photo opps. I saw it trotting along the trail behind my house again and watched it through the open windows of my sunroom. It paused briefly to look up at me, then continued a short way (about 30 feet) down the trail. It stopped for several seconds along the trail. At the time, I was simply taking photos and didn’t realize what it was doing.

Here’s where I should warn you that the story takes a bit of a gruesome turn, so stop here if the death of little critters upsets you. … You’ve been warned and, remember, it’s only nature running its natural course. (I’ll even add a ‘continue reading’ break here.) Continue reading