For the Birds: Supporting conservation this giving season

One of my favorite places is a small pond in northern New Hampshire near the Canadian border.

It is miles from the nearest house and, in fact, miles from the nearest utility pole. It is truly wild, and over the years I have seen a lot of wildlife there, including dozens of moose, otters, bald eagles and osprey. The pond (technically it’s a fen) is too small for loons to nest on, but there is usually a loon or two using it for hunting and rest.

One morning, I was canoeing there, and as I made my way through a serpentine-like creek that feeds the pond, I noticed a sign attached to a tree. This is a strange place to see a sign, I thought, out here in the middle of nowhere and particularly this far down the creek.

As I got closer, I noticed it was a sign for the Nature Conservancy. I hadn’t really thought of it before, but some entity had to own the land that I enjoy visiting so much. In this case, obviously, it was land owned by the Nature Conservancy.

When you think of it, all land that we enjoy our nature watching, hiking, or any other outdoor recreational activity on is owned by someone or some thing. One of my favorite photos that I have taken is of a Baltimore oriole sipping nectar from a crab apple blossom. I took the photo many years ago in the spring on land owned by a local land trust. Without that land trust’s passion for conservation, I never would have gotten the opportunity to photograph the beautiful bird, and the land likely would have been a house, condominium complex, or strip mall.

Pretty much any photo or memory of the outdoors that I can think of will have a similar story. The land on which the photo was taken or the memory was made is owned by an entity that cares about land conservation and the importance of outdoor recreation. In many cases, the land is owned by a nonprofit organization that relies on philanthropy to support its mission.

Many people wait until December to make their charitable gifts for the year, and indeed, most of these organizations receive the bulk of their gifts at the end of the year. I certainly am not about to tell people how to spend their money, but if you are planning to make contributions to nonprofit organizations this year, I would encourage you to at least consider one of the many valuable conservation organizations out there. 

There are terrific conservation organizations at the international, national, state, and local levels. I am usually partial to the smaller state and local organizations, but all of these organizations are worthy of consideration. The Nature Conservancy, which I mentioned at the beginning of this column, is an international entity that has preserved land throughout the world.

I have been looking for years to purchase some land for camping and birdwatching but have been priced out of the market with the recent surge in real estate value. Land is expensive, finite and valuable. I am grateful for the organizations that understand the importance of outdoor recreation and keep their land available to the public. 

These organizations are certainly worthy of support.

For the Birds: An interesting time at the feeders

Photo by Chris Bosak – American goldfinch in late fall/winter plumage.

November is an interesting time to watch the feeders. The regular birds are still around, although some of them look a little different than they did in the summer.

A few new birds are also likely to show up. The trick is spotting them and seeing which ones actually do make an appearance. November is also a time when the weather can be unpredictable, and ahead of a good storm is always a terrific time to see the birds as they prepare for a rough day or days ahead.

My regular birds these days are chickadees, titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays and cardinals. Over the years, for whatever reason, I’ve never had great luck attracting cardinals. But this fall is different with daily visits from several males and females. I also get house finches, house sparrows and starlings. 

One day last week, a flock of 50 to 60 grackles showed up in the evening, which was interesting to see. Carolina wrens show up on occasion as do mourning doves. 

As I mentioned in a previous column, I have also seen a few red-breasted nuthatches. I am looking forward to seeing what else shows up this fall and winter. 

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New feeders bring in the birds

Photo by Chris Bosak – A cardinal visits a domed platform feeder by Kingsyard.

I recently received two Kingsyard brand feeders, and they are bringing in the birds at a pretty good clip. I like the platform feeder (seen above) for its partial dome cover. The cover keeps the rain out of the tray, which was a problem I had with my previous platform feeder. Birds don’t like wet, soggy seeds.

The other feeder is shaped like a house and looks nice hanging on the hook whether there are birds on it or not. Of course, it looks better when birds are on it. I also like that it has three separate chambers for the food so you can offer a mix of seeds and other foods, such as mealworms.

I’m looking forward to seeing what birds will show up over the course of the winter. #kingsyard

Photo by Chris Bosak – A tufted titmouse visits a feeder by Kingsyard.

For the Birds: A different kind of ‘feeder’ bird

I walked across the living room toward the large window that offers a view of the bird-feeding station and birdbath. I stopped dead in my tracks as a bird much larger than I expected to see was perched on the side of the birdbath.

Wisely, all of the other birds were nowhere to be seen. 

It was a Copper’s hawk, one of the hawks in New England that commonly preys on small feeder birds. The large bird of prey had no interest in the birdbath’s water — either for drinking or cleaning. It was simply using the structure as a perch to get a better look at the feeders and nearby bushes. It hopped off the birdbath and onto a hemlock branch I had discarded to give the feeder birds a place to hide. After peering through the underbrush and finding nothing, the hawk flew off.

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For the Birds: Blue jays and special memories

Photo by Chris Bosak A blue jay perches on a log and grabs a peanut in New England, October 2020.

I settled on the back porch of my brother’s house in western Pennsylvania and watched the blue jays hunt for acorns in an oak tree. 

Before I get into that, I wanted to acknowledge how exceptional the fall foliage has been this year. The conditions must have been just right. Oaks can sometimes go from green to burnt orange to brown quickly. This oak, and many others I’ve seen this fall, are a much brighter orange and the color is lingering longer before turning brown.

The blue jays would fly in from the surrounding areas and alight in this spectacular oak tree. The birds disappeared into the bright orange foliage and work at dislodging acorns. I couldn’t see the jays at work but the rustling of the leaves and branches let me know where they were.

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Cardinal plumages

Photo by Chris Bosak – A male cardinal visits a backyard in New England, fall 2022.

As a follow-up to my recent post on cardinals, here is a look at a male cardinal, female cardinal and immature cardinal. Note the brighter bill of the adult female cardinal compared to the young bird. Here is the original post.

Photo by Chris Bosak — A female cardinal visits a backyard in New England, fall 2022.
Photo by Chris Bosak – An immature cardinal visits a backyard in New England, fall 2022.

For the Birds: Cardinals provide the entertainment

Photo by Chris Bosak – An immature cardinal perches in a bush next to a feeder.

My intermittent foot problems have kept me grounded for the most part over the last few weeks, so I have relied heavily on my backyard birds to keep me entertained.

Thankfully, it is a great time of year to watch birds in the backyard. Just as fall migration brings many birds to our parks and open spaces, they also bring plenty of birds to the backyard.

In addition to the common feeder birds, I have seen a few surprises either at the feeder or among the bushes near the feeder. One day I was sitting outside working when a ruby-crowned kinglet flew right past my face and landed in a bush about five feet away from me. Like most kinglets, it did not sit still for very long and hopped around the branches before disappearing in a matter of seconds. It was a nice little visit anyway.

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For the Birds: The magic of fall in New England

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

People love fall for a variety of reasons.

Cooler temperatures, Halloween decorations, fall foliage, football, and, of course, pumpkin spice. Everybody claims to hate pumpkin spice, but they wouldn’t make it if people weren’t buying it.

For me, I love fall for the bird migration – obviously. I particularly like finding fall warblers. It is especially rewarding when I stumble across a small flock of fall warblers.

Palm warblers and yellow-rumped warblers are the prime candidates to find in small flocks. Such was the case the other day when I found a group of about a dozen palm warblers eating seeds from the dying weeds and flowers in a meadow.

Large flocks of yellow-rumped warblers are fairly common to come across as well. Just be on the lookout as you never played know where you will find them. I have usually found them eating small berries of some sort.

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