For the Birds: Love those cooperative birds

It is hit or miss when it comes to photographing birds. It is mostly miss, but that just makes the hits even more rewarding.

Once in a great while, I have come across very cooperative birds. One of the more memorable times took place on a small lake in New Hampshire where a great blue heron stalked its prey on the shoreline as I silently approached in my canoe. The bird never broke its glance on its prey as my canoe drifted into range.

There have been a few times when a loon, or a loon family, has approached me in my canoe. Talk about a wonderful experience, especially when they sing or call from close range. There is no better wilderness experience than that.

Feeder birds can often make for a similar experience, but there is nothing like finding a cooperative bird in the wild. This particularly goes for birds that you otherwise wouldn’t see in your backyard. These moments come along often when I visit family in Florida, but New England birds are much more challenging.

Continue reading

Common yellowthroat, just because

Photo by Chris Bosak — Common yellowthroat in New England, spring 2022.

Here’s a shot of a male common yellowthroat. They are a common warbler that nests throughout most of the U.S. and into Canada. They migrate south in the fall, but in my observations, stick with us a little longer than many of the warblers.

Yellow warbler: an all-time favorite

I’ve always loved Yellow Warblers from the first time I saw (and heard) one. They are one of the more ubiquitous warblers in New England from the time they arrive in early May until the time they leave in the fall. In between, they raise families throughout our region and delight birders with their bright plumage and cheerful song (sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet).

For the Birds: May is prime time

Where to begin? May is a firestorm of birding activity in New England.

I’ll recap a few of my recent highlights and then expand, where necessary or otherwise interesting, in subsequent columns.

A warbler by any other name: Many warblers actually have the name warbler in their name. Yellow warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, worm-eating warbler and so on. Many, however, don’t have warbler in their name. Common yellowthroat, American redstart to name a few.

A few warblers don’t have warbler in their name and look like they belong in the thrush family. The ovenbird and waterthrushes (northern and Louisiana) could easily pass for thrushes with their brown bodies and spotted chests. Heck, the waterthrushes even have thrush in their name. But they are all, indeed, warblers.

That warrants a column unto itself. I’ll dig into that in the coming weeks.

Dueling grosbeaks: I heard a rose-breasted grosbeak singing in a tree during the tail end of one of my recent walks. I paused enough to find its perch. As soon as I spotted the beautiful bird, another male rose-breasted grosbeak dive-bombed the original bird, and they started chasing each other through the woods. The action caught the eye of a third male grosbeak and that one joined in the chase as well. That was a first for me. Rose-breasted grosbeaks, with their white wing bars, are just as impressive-looking in flight as they are perched.

Continue reading

For the Birds: Warblers return

The warblers are back and delighting, confusing, and frustrating birdwatchers throughout New England.

Warblers are small, usually colorful, passerine (perching) birds that migrate into New England every spring. Many nest here while others continue north to nest in Canada. In the fall, they head to points south such as southern U.S., the Caribbean, Central America or South America. The odd warbler shows up on New England Christmas Bird Counts from time to time, but for the most part, they are gone before the snow starts to fly. 

To me, the quintessential warbler is the yellow warbler. It is small, brightly colored, numerous throughout the region and sings its ubiquitous song (“sweet sweet I’m so sweet”) over and over from the brush. It is all yellow with some rusty streaking on its chest and belly.

Warblers come in all colors, however. Many are mostly yellow and many others have flashes of yellow in their plumage. Some are black and white, and some are mostly brownish. A few are mostly blue. It’s no wonder that the spring migration, highlighted by warblers, is the favorite time of year for most birdwatchers.

Continue reading

A few birds from a late-April morning walk: field sparrow, eastern towhee, bald eagle

Photo by Chris Bosak – Field sparrow, April 2022.

Not as many migrants as I expected, but a good walk nonetheless at Huntington State Park in Redding, Conn. I heard only one warbler (black-and-white), but I have heard and seen dozens of eastern towhees over the last two days. It’s (arguably) the best time of year to be out there. No excuses! (I’m talking to myself too). The bald eagle flyover was a bit of a surprise, hence the lousy photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak – Eastern towhee, April 2022
Photo by Chris Bosak – Bald eagle, April 2022
Photo by Chris Bosak – field sparrow, April 2022.

For the Birds: Just a little more patience

Photo by Chris Bosak – A yellow-rumped warbler perches on a branch in New England, spring 2022.

It was a classic early spring walk.

Expectations were high to see a lot of migrants, but those expectations did not match the calendar. Mid-April can be a tough time for birdwatchers. We know the migrants are coming any day, and we have waited so long that the anticipation gets the better of our waning patience. It’s like the feeling children get on December 22 and 23. The decorations and tree have been up for weeks already, but it’s still not time to celebrate.

This is not to say it wasn’t a fruitful walk. I saw a handful of migrants including my first warblers of the season. But instead of dozens of species and 100s of individual birds, as we will get in a few weeks, it was more like a few species and about a dozen individuals.

It was a good warm-up to the upcoming peak of spring migration. Let’s put it that way.

Continue reading

Palm warblers uncropped

Sometimes I’ll crop photos to delete extraneous background “clutter” or just to highlight the bird more. This time, I decided to run the photos as is (as are?). The palm warbler was a fair distance away, but I kind of like the “clutter” in these photos. (I did burn the edges of the photos in Photoshop to make the bird stand out a bit more.)

For the Birds: Patience pays off again

Photo by Chris Bosak A yellow-rumped warbler eats poison ivy berries in New England, fall 2021.

Any birdwatcher knows that patience and faith are perhaps the two most important components to a successful bird walk.

I started a recent walk with high hopes, as I always do, but as the morning went on and no birds were to be found, I started to lose hope of seeing anything. To compound matters, the field at the park had recently been mowed for the first time of the year, making bird encounters even less likely.

It still would have been a pleasant walk because the autumn morning chill had given way to a beautiful and warm sunny day. But with fall migration in full swing, I was disappointed in the birding results.

Continue reading

Palm warblers out in force

Photo by Chris Bosak A palm warbler stands on a stone wall in New England, October 2021.

Three species dominated the count total on my morning bird walk today. White-throated sparrows were plentiful and it was great to hear their song again. Yellow-rumped warblers were plentiful, as they often are this time of year. Palm warblers were numerous as well and a flock of five kept me company near a stone wall at Huntington State Park. The fall warbler migration is bittersweet. It’s great to see them, of course, but the crisp air reminds me they will be gone soon and a long winter looms. At least winter is good for birdwatching too.

Photo by Chris Bosak A palm warbler stands on a stone wall in New England, October 2021.