For the Birds: Winter and birds

Here is the latest For the Birds column:

Photo by Chris Bosak A black-capped chickadee rests on an icy branch during a winter storm in Jan. 2019 in New England.

Winter poses serious challenges for birds and other wildlife.

The cold is the first thing that comes to mind. How do small birds such as chickadees and goldfinches survive sustained sub-zero temperatures? How do water birds such as gulls, ducks and geese stand on ice all day with bitter winds driving through them?

Birds that remain in New England all year have adapted to the low temperatures. Cold may be a challenge, but it’s one they can handle.

Chickadees and other birds have all sorts of adaptations to survive bitter cold days and nights. They increase their weight and fat percentage, they puff out their feathers to trap warm air close to their bodies, they huddle together for warmth, they drop their body temperature at night, and they eat a lot.

Water birds have an extra layer of down feathers to keep dry and toasty. Also, their legs don’t freeze because of a magical counter-current heat exchange between their veins and arteries. It’s not magic, of course, but it’s a complex system worthy of its own column. Let’s just say their feet don’t have to be as warm as their bodies (otherwise they’d be covered in feathers) and the way their blood flows keeps the legs from freezing.

So the cold, while uncomfortable on the most bitter nights, is usually Continue reading

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Bird Book Look: Birding in Connecticut, by Frank Gallo

 

Here’s the latest installment of Bird Book Look. See the “Bird Book Look” page for previous entries.  …

Planning a birding trip to Connecticut and not exactly sure where to go? Now there’s help.

Frank Gallo, a well-known birder in Connecticut, has recently written “Birding in Connecticut,” published by Wesleyan University Press. The book breaks down the state by regions and offers insight, directions, and unusual species that may be seen there.

“Birding in Connecticut” is valuable to those who know Connecticut well and those who don’t know a thing about the Constitution State. I know Connecticut and its birding hot spots Continue reading

More shots of the red-shouldered hawk

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-shouldered hawk perches on the top of an evergreen, Brookfield, Connecticut, January 2019.

Here are a few more shots of the red-shouldered hawk I photographed last weekend in Brookfield, Connecticut. Here’s the original story, in case you missed it.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perches on the top of an evergreen, Brookfield, Connecticut, January 2019.
Photo by Chris Bosak A red-shouldered hawk perches on the top of an evergreen, Brookfield, Connecticut, January 2019.

Familiar tree draws a different type of hawk

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perched on the top of an evergreen, Brookfield, Connecticut, January 2019.

About three years ago I got a photo of a red-tailed hawk in an evergreen tree across the road from Brookfield High School in SW Connecticut. Yesterday, I was able to photograph another hawk in the same tree — this one a red-shouldered hawk.

There is often confusion between the two species as they are both large birds of the genus buteo. Throw in the broad-winged hawk and there’s even more confusion with three common buteos to be found in New England. (There are others, too, but not as commonly seen.)

The red-tailed hawk is the largest and broad-winged the smallest, but size is of little help in the field — unless, of course, individuals of all three species are perched next to each other, which never happens. I find the easiest way to distinguish the red-shouldered hawk is with its reddish or rusty chest and belly. Young birds, however, have tan or brown chests and bellies, similar to the other buteos in question.

For comparison’s sake, here’s a shot of the red-tailed hawk I photographed in the same tree in 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

For the Birds: Always a nice walk in the woods

Photo by Chris Bosak
Ice on Little Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., winter 2019.

Any walk in the woods is a good walk.

I’ve always believed that and am reminded of it every time I step foot in New England woods, a field, a marsh or along a coastline.

For the birdwatcher, not every walk is filled with birds, but there is always something interesting to discover or observe. Even if you’ve walked your patch a thousand times, the next walk almost always holds something special.

A recent walk on the nature trail behind my house drove home that point. I wasn’t expecting much in terms of birds as the temperature was in the low 20s and the pond at the end of the trail was surely frozen.

Turns out I was right. Hardly any birds to speak of on this walk, but it was enlightening nonetheless.

I got to the pond, which is about a 20-minute walk, without seeing a single bird. The frozen pond, obviously, did not offer any hooded mergansers, ring-necked ducks, or even Continue reading

Yet more icy bird photos

Photo by Chris Bosak
A white-breasted nuthatch perches on an icy branch, Danbury, Connecticut, January 2019.

Parts of southern New England remain encrusted in ice. It’s been several days since the snow-then-ice storm hit, but brutally cold weather followed to keep everything frozen. The beautiful ice-covered landscape will change soon, however, as the forecast calls for rain and temperatures in the 40s. In the meantime, I’ll keep taking and sharing bird photos with this icy backdrop.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A fox sparrow rests in icy branches, Danbury, Connecticut, January 2019.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A fish crow eats berries from a frozen bush, Danbury, Connecticut, January 2019.