The first warblers

Photo by Chris Bosak A pine warbler visits a backyard in New England, April 2020, Merganser Lake.

Other than the very few warblers of various types that remained in New England all winter, the pine warbler and palm warbler will be the first arrive in the region. I have seen them show up on rare bird alerts already but they will return in larger numbers over the next two weeks. Keep you eyes on your feeders as pine warblers are one of the few warbler species that will visit feeders. I’ve seen them eat suet, suet nuggets and meal worms. Above is the pine warbler; below is the palm.

Photo by Chris Bosak A palm warbler rests on a wire fence in a backyard in New England, April 2020. Merganser Lake.

Christmas Bird Count photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A northern shoveler swims on the Norwalk River in New England, December 2020.

It was a gray day that turned into a snowy day that turned into a misty, gray day. The weather never fails to be part of the story of a Christmas Bird Count (CBC) in New England. Yesterday (Sunday) was the annual CBC in my area and, as usual, I covered the Norwalk (Conn.) coastline and parts inland with Frank Mantlik, one of Connecticut”s top birders. We tallied 61 species, which will be combined with the other birds spotted by the Count’s other teams. Highlights included northern shoveler, northern pintail, prairie warbler, pine warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, northern harrier, merlin and horned lark. Full story coming in my For the Birds column. In the meantime, here’s what the Christmas Bird Count is all about.

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-tailed hawk perches on the top of a pine tree in New England, December 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A prairie warbler perches on a cement barrier at a waste water treatment center in New England, December 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A northern pintail drake swims in a pool of water with Canada geese in New England, December 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A northern shoveler swims on the Norwalk River in New England, December 2020.

Bluebird and pine warbler, a look back

Photo by Chris Bosak An eastern bluebird and pine warbler share a suet feeder in New England, April 2020. Merganser Lake.

A Day on Merganser Lake

Unfortunately, the bluebirds that had visited daily since February have moved on. I haven’t seen them in about a week. Hopefully they will return next winter. It seems an appropriate time to look back on an action-packed April, which included scenes like this: an eastern bluebird and pine warbler sharing a suet feeder.

Palm warbler searches in the moss

Photo by Chris Bosak A palm warbler searches for food in a bed of moss, April 2020. Merganser Lake.

A Day on Merganser Lake

Warbler season, sadly, is done for the year. The warblers that remain are the nesters, which is exciting in its own right. Here’s a throwback photo of a palm warbler I saw back in April. Palm warblers are one of the first warblers to arrive in New England each spring.

American redstart male and female

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female American redstart perches on a branch in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

A Day on Merganser Lake

Like most warblers, American redstarts are dimorphic. (From Wikipedia: Sexual dimorphism is the condition where the two sexes of the same species exhibit different characteristics beyond the differences in their sexual organs.) In other words, males and females look different from each other. Females are usually duller in color so as to not attract the attention of predators. Cardinals are one of the most obvious examples. Chickadees and many other birds are sexually monomorphic. I got these shots of male and female redstarts yesterday and those terms came to mind.

Here’s the male …

Photo by Chris Bosak
A male American redstart perches on a branch in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

Birds to brighten your day: May 18

Photo by Chris Bosak A chestnut-sided warbler lurks in the brush in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

A Day on Merganser Lake

Warbler season was on full display over the weekend. One of my favorite warblers is the chestnut-sided warbler. I like the color scheme and anything with the color chestnut has got to be cool. This guy was lurking among the bushes as I was trying to find a different warbler. I’m glad he made himself known.

(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.)

Birds to brighten your day: May 14

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American redstart perches in a bush at Bennett’s Farm State Park in Connecticut, May 2020.

Something woke me up around 3:30 a.m. and I couldn’t fall back asleep. I gave up trying when the darkness outside my window started to brighten. What the heck, I told myself. It’s the height of warbler season so let’s go find some warblers. I made a cup of coffee and raced the rising sun to a nearby park. I headed down a path that has led to warblers in the past. It did again this time. There wasn’t a tremendous variety of warblers (maybe seven species) but the ones I did see kept me entertained.

My favorite was this American redstart that followed me along the path for an inordinate amount of time. It gave me great looks at it, but it would not sit still very well for photos. I managed a few decent shots despite his hyperactivity. A few more photos are below.

(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 redstart perches in a bush at Bennett’s Farm State Park in Connecticut, May 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak An American redstart perches on a branch at Bennett’s Farm State Park in Connecticut, May 2020.

Birds to brighten your day: May 10 (Part II)

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.

Usually I post my latest bird column on Sunday and leave it at that. But yesterday (yes May 9) many in New England woke up to a snow-covered ground and then got another dose of the white stuff later in the day. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get up early and head into the woods to try to get photos of warblers and other spring migrants that we typically don’t associate with snow. There was just a covering of snow and the morning sun was melting it quickly so I had to hurry. I ended up with a few shots of an ovenbird and a blue-winged warbler on snowy branches. Strange times, indeed. (I’ll post the ovenbird a bit later today.)

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there!

(Here’s even more 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 ovenbird perches on snowy branches at Bennett’s Farm State Park in Connecticut during a rare May snowfall in 2020.

Birds to brighten your day: May 10

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.

Usually I post my latest bird column on Sunday and leave it at that. But yesterday (yes May 9) many in New England woke up to a snow-covered ground and then got another dose of the white stuff later in the day. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get up early and head into the woods to try to get photos of warblers and other spring migrants that we typically don’t associate with snow. There was just a covering of snow and the morning sun was melting it quickly so I had to hurry. I ended up with a few shots of an ovenbird and a blue-winged warbler on snowy branches. Strange times, indeed. (I’ll post the ovenbird a bit later today.)

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there!

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

For the Birds: Patience is key, even though it’s hard

Photo by Chris Bosak A yellow-rumped warbler perches on a clothesline in Danbury, CT, April 2020. (Merganser Lake)

I doubt Tom Petty had birdwatching in mind when he wrote the lyrics “the waiting is the hardest part,” but it sure is appropriate for birders in the spring.


Signs of spring start as early as January or February when a few hardy flowers poke out of the ground. Owls also start their breeding season about this time but that is done in secret and largely unbeknownst to humans. March brings the first spring peeper calls, more flowers, red-winged blackbirds, American woodcock and, finally, eastern phoebes, at the end of the month. March also brings the official start to spring, of course.


April starts off fairly slowly until the first pine warblers arrive. Then it’s warbler season! The problem is, pine warblers are three weeks to a month ahead of most of the other warblers and other colorful migratory songbirds. Palm warblers and yellow-rumped warblers are the exceptions as they closely follow the pines.

Those three weeks to a month can seem like an eternity. We’ve endured winter and have slowly gotten small teases of spring. Bring it on already! We jump Continue reading