Another shot of the ‘pileated’ woodpecker

Photo by Chris Bosak  A pileated woodpecker looks for insects at the base of a tree at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pileated woodpecker looks for insects at the base of a tree at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., April 2017.

Here’s another photo of the pileated woodpecker I saw the other day.

Hearing the name of this remarkable bird begs the question: What does pileated mean? According to dictionary.com, it simply means “crested,” an apt name for this woodpecker. There’s also this, more descriptive, definition from thefreedictionary.com: “Etymologically means “capped,” like a mushroom, but now refers to a bird with a crest on the top of the head from the bill to the nape.”

So there you have it …

 

Pileated Woodpecker — finally

Photo by Chris Bosak A pileated woodpecker looks for insects at the base of a tree at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak A pileated woodpecker looks for insects at the base of a tree at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., April 2017.

It took going on two years, but I finally got a shot of one of the pileated woodpeckers that I hear frequently in the woods behind my house. I’ve seen them before, but only at a distance and only fleeting looks.

I wondered when I’d see one working away at the multitude of dead pines in the woods. There are dozens upon dozens of these snags and they all have big holes chiseled out of them — a telltale sign of pileated woodpeckers. Yesterday was my day. The impressive bird was noisy in its calling and noisy in its banging away at the tree. It’s amazing the force at which they hammer at trees.

This guy (it is a male as females lack the red “mustache”) remained only about five minutes before heading deeper into the woods, calling as it flew.

I’m not a chaser, but a Great Gray Owl? Come on

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Gray Owl perches in a tree overlooking a field in Newport, N.H., in March 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Gray Owl perches in a tree overlooking a field in Newport, N.H., in March 2017.

As the headline says, I don’t typically chase rare birds around the region. It’s not that I don’t want to see the birds, but either family or work obligations usually prohibit me from taking long drives to see a bird.

But a Great Gray Owl within 3 1/2 hours? I gotta make that effort. I still had work but couldn’t risk waiting until the weekend should the bird decide to take off and not be found again. So I pulled a maneuver I used to do fairly often before I had kids: I basically pulled an all-nighter. I slept restlessly from midnight to 2:15 a.m. and drove three hours to Keene, N.H., to pick up my old friend Steve Hooper. Then we drove another 40 minutes to Newport, N.H., where this awesome bird had been seen in the same field each day for about a week straight. (I knew that thanks to the ABA rare bird alert.)

Hoop and I followed the directions and arrived at the scene at about 6:20 a.m. A rare bird alert message posted at 6:15 a.m. confirmed that the bird was indeed there. I was minutes away from seeing my first Great Gray Owl.

We walked a short distance down a trail, saw a handful of people and joined the small crowd. Sure enough, there was the owl, sitting in a bare deciduous tree surveying the field and ignoring his fans.

At one point it flew to another nearby deciduous tree and then eventually flew another short distance to a pine tree. The wind was strong and snow squalls came and went, but otherwise it was a rather pleasant day for the owl and his human visitors — especially for New Hampshire in early March.

I was hoping to see one more flight, but time was short. I had to drop off Hoop and drive the 3 1/2 hours back to Connecticut to get to work in the a.m. So by 10:30 a.m. I had driven to New Hampshire and back, and saw my first-ever Great Gray Owl. Just the old days.

Here are a few photos with more to come in the days ahead. Also coming soon is more information on the Great Gray Owl as a species.

No promises on how long it will stick around, of course, but here’s a link to a news story about the owl with directions on where to find it. 

And here’s the link to the ABA’s Rare Bird Alert with updates on the owl (and other sightings).

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Gray Owl perches in a pine tree in Newport, N.H., in March 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Gray Owl perches in a pine tree in Newport, N.H., in March 2017.


Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Gray Owl perches in a tree overlooking a field in Newport, N.H., in March 2017.

The difference between Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker, snow style

I’ve done similar posts before comparing the larger Hairy Woodpecker with the smaller Downy Woodpecker. But I’ll repeat the lesson as I captured them both on a homemade birdfeeder during Thursday’s snowstorm.

The hairy is larger overall, but without a reference it’s tough to tell strictly by size. To really determine the species, check out the bill. The hairy has a much more substantial bill. Females of each species are shown.

Photo by Chris Bosak A hairy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A hairy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.


Photo by Chris Bosak A downy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A downy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

More Blue Jays at the feeder taking peanuts

Photo by Chris Bosak A Blue Jay grabs a peanut from a feeder in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Blue Jay grabs a peanut from a feeder in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Here are a few more shots of the Blue Jays eating peanuts from the feeder that my friend Lorna gave me. Click here for more of that story.

I don’t know why, but I get a kick out of watching birds carrying away whole peanuts.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Blue Jay grabs a peanut from a feeder in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Blue Jay grabs a peanut from a feeder in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Red-breasted Nuthatch poses for close-up

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-breasted Nuthatch grabs a sunflower seed from a feeder in Danbury, Conn., in Dec. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-breasted Nuthatch grabs a sunflower seed from a feeder in Danbury, Conn., in Dec. 2016.

It’s been a good year for Red-breasted Nuthatches in southern New England. Here’s another one that visited my feeder this winter (even though winter hasn’t officially started yet.)

Latest For the Birds column: Hummingbirds are classic backyard entertainment

Photo by Chris Bosak A Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovers near a feeder in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovers near a feeder in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016

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.

..

The smallest of birds often provide the biggest entertainment.

I’m talking about hummingbirds, of course, and they are big, big on personality even if they are small in stature, weighing in at about an eighth of an ounce. Yes, a small fraction of an ounce, which is the smallest American standard of weight. Thank goodness for the metric system so we can put a whole number on this tiny dynamo. Hummingbirds weight about 2 or 3 grams, about the same as a penny. Not a handful of pennies or five pennies — one penny.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Ruby-throated Hummingbird eats at a feeder in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird eats at a feeder in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016

I have been enjoying immensely watching hummingbirds this spring and summer at my backyard feeder and in the garden now that the flowers have bloomed – at least those that the deer didn’t get to. The only problem is that “my” hummingbirds are very territorial. Usually I see only one male at or near the feeder with the occasional female showing up, too. That was especially true this spring. They are not quite as territorial now, but are still very feisty toward other hummingbirds that show up.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the fall as last year the feeder was dominated by one female. She tolerated nothing from other hummingbirds, even those that dared fly over the house in the general vicinity of the feeder. Will the male remain and dominate, or will he fly off and the female dominate? Or will the male stick around and the female push him out? Or will they tolerate each other and share the sugar water, which is my hope. Or … OK, enough ors for now. As I said, we’ll see what happens.

If you don’t have hummingbirds that act like they own the feeders, you have a greater likelihood of seeing hummingbirds in late summer or fall because of simple mathematics. In the spring the adults pass through or settle in our area. In late sum Continue reading

Apparently Red-bellied Woodpeckers like peanuts, too

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-bellied Woodpecker takes a peanut from a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-bellied Woodpecker takes a peanut from a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.

I wrote a few weeks ago about Blue Jays and how they love whole peanuts. They literally wait on nearby branches waiting for me to put some down on the platform feeder.

Now the Blue Jays have competition. A male Red-bellied Woodpecker discovered the peanut station and visits daily to take as many peanuts as I’ll put out there.

Here’s a few more photos of the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-bellied Woodpecker perches near a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-bellied Woodpecker perches near a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-bellied Woodpecker takes a peanut from a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-bellied Woodpecker takes a peanut from a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.

 

Click here to see the post on Blue Jays.

And click here for the follow up post with more photos

Chipping Sparrow visits homemade feeder

Photo by Chris Bosak A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

With all the talk of warblers lately it’s easy to overlook the other birds visiting us this time of year. One such non-warbler that has been around in large numbers is the Chipping Sparrow. It’s a handsome, small sparrow and nests throughout New England. It will visit feeders to eat seeds. I’ve had at least four visiting regularly over the last week or so.

The above photo shows a Chipping Sparrow visiting one of the platform birdfeeders I made in the backyard.

Enjoy the spring migration and let me know what you’re seeing out there.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

Chickadee pair picks its spot

Photo by Chris Bosak A Black-capped Chickadee cleans out a hole for a home to raise a family in Danbury, Conn., 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Black-capped Chickadee cleans out a hole for a home to raise a family in Danbury, Conn., 2016.

I tacked onto the bottom of my last For the Birds column the need to keep some dead trees standing as these “snags” are vital for birds. They provide homes and food for birds and other wildlife.

The day after writing the column I took a walk to Little Merganser Lake. I didn’t notice it while walking to the lake, but on my way back I noticed two chickadees going back and forth to a skinny dead tree. I stopped and watched for quite a while.

The birds, of course, were clearing out a hole for the Continue reading