Latest For the Birds column: Another Christmas Bird Count in the books

Photo by Chris Bosak A large flock of Brant at Calf Pasture Beach, April 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Brant were once again numerous at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, Conn., during the 2016 Christmas Bird Count.

Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.), The Keene (NH) Sentinel and several Connecticut weekly newspapers.

Buffleheads were everywhere. Not in great numbers, particularly, but they were everywhere we looked.

Norwalk Harbor, Norwalk River, Long Island Sound off Calf Pasture and Cedar Point Yacht Club, the small pond at Taylor Farm … it seemed the bufflehead was the duck of the day for the most recent Christmas Bird Count. As I have for the past 16 years or so, I participated in the Westport Circle count and covered East Norwalk with Frank Mantlik.

The Christmas Bird Count is the world’s largest citizen science program, with data going back to 1900. The data helps scientists track bird populations and is valuable in determining what steps, if any, need to be taken to help certain species.

Frank and I found a total of 53 species, which is about typical for us. The weather was wet and gray, so that may account for the slightly lower total. I can’t complain, though; Continue reading

Duck (watching) season begins in New England

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Bufflehead swims in Gorham's Pond, Nov. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female Bufflehead swims in Gorham’s Pond, Nov. 2014.

Ducks are my favorite family of birds to watch in New England. The migration starts in October and many waterfowl may be seen in open water right up through April. For me, it makes our harsh winters that much more bearable.

With that said, here’s the first of what will likely be plenty of waterfowl photos I take (and post) this fall/winter/early spring season. It’s not a great photo, but it’s a start.

Female Buffleheads are much less dramatic looking their male counterparts, which feature contrasting black (or, depending on the sun’s angle, blue, purple or green) and white plumage.

Oh, and there’s a loon

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-throated Loon swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-throated Loon swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

I drove past Veterans Park the other day and, as is usually the case in winter, I pulled in to see what winter ducks might be around. I immediately spotted a female Red-breasted Merganser swimming somewhat near the shore. It was cloudy and the light was no at all ideal, but I managed to get a few very average photos of the bird.

It kept moving south slowly until it came up on a male Bufflehead. The two birds ignored each other, but for a brief moment they were mere feet away from each other. I snapped a few (again average) photos.  I always like to see birds together that you don’t always see “hanging out” near each other.

As I was photographing the merganser and Bufflehead I noticed out of the corner of my other eye a loon close to the shore. When did that pop up? I wondered. Loons are diving birds (as are mergansers and Buffleheads) and often “pop up” far from where they dove. I refocused and took some shots of the loon. It was a Red-throated Loon, a somewhat common occurrence in the Norwalk Harbor and Long Island Sound. They breed in the Arctic and some spend their winters here in New England. Common Loons, which breed in northern New England and farther north, are also fairly common birds in the winter around here. The loons will be heading north soon so I was happy to get this late sighting.

Soon enough the loon I was photographing dove again. I never did see where it popped up next.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-throated Loon swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-throated Loon swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Red-breasted Merganser swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female Red-breasted Merganser swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Red-breasted Merganser and a male Bufflehead swim in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female Red-breasted Merganser and a male Bufflehead swim in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.