The 2018 birding year in review: Part I

Photo by Chris Bosak A male bobolink perches in a small tree and overlooks the fields at Happy Landings in Brookfield, CT.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A male bobolink perches in a small tree and overlooks the fields at Happy Landings in Brookfield, CT.

My latest For the Birds column releases my personal top 10 birding moments for 2018. Recapping the previous year is my favorite column to write each late December or early January. This year, instead of blasting out the top 10 all at once I’m going to spread it out and reveal two each day, starting today (Jan. 1, 2019.) This post will include Nos. 10 and 9.

Feel free to comment or send me an email with some of your 2018 birding or nature highlights.

10. Bobolinks at preserve. Happy Landings is a huge, protected field in Brookfield, Connecticut, where bobolinks thrive. Fields and meadows are a critical and disappearing habitat so it’s nice to see some still exist and are maintained for the wildlife that depend on them.

Photo by Chris Bosak A luna moth clings to a screen in Danbury, Conn., during spring 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A luna moth clings to a screen in Danbury, Conn., during spring 2018.

9. Visit from a luna moth. May brought several bird surprises to my yard, but also a visit from another interesting creature. I went to refill the bird feeders one day and noticed a luna moth clinging to a screen. I’ve seen the large green moth only a few times previously. It hung around all day and was gone the next morning. 

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Lots of towhees on a rainy day

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Towhee perches on a branch in Ridgefield, Conn., April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Towhee perches on a branch in Ridgefield, Conn., April 2017.

I spent some of the rainy Saturday at Bennett’s Pond in Ridgefield, Conn. I didn’t see or hear a single warbler, but I did see and hear several eastern towhees. It is a great bird with interesting plumage and a unique song.

Formerly called the rufous-sided towhee, this bird has light brown/reddish flanks. Its call is a loud and quickly uttered “tow-hee” and its song is the famous “drink-your-teaaa!” They are more often seen on the ground, scratching in the leaves to uncover food. The male is pictured in this post. The female, which I couldn’t photograph yesterday but did see, is also a handsome bird with white and reddish light brown plumage.

They were passing through in large numbers Saturday. I hope at least a few of them stick around locally to nest. It’s a great bird to see in summer when the birding can get a little slow.

You can even see the little rain drops on this guy.

Here’s one of him singing: Drink-your-teaaa!

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Towhee sings from a perch in Ridgefield, Conn., April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Towhee sings from a perch in Ridgefield, Conn., April 2017.

 

Living in the woods


It’s been about a year and a half since I bought a house in the woods. It’s not exactly isolated like Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond, but it is in the woods nonetheless. Every once in a while a scene catches my eye and I need to grab a photo of it, even with my iPhone.

If it doesn’t include a bird in the photo, I typically do not post it to this site. With this photo I will start posting them more often. Otherwise the photos never see the light of day. The woods are just too cool not to share.

Below is the color version. Which one do you like better?

ax-snow

 

This one’s for Lorna: Blue Jay at feeder

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.

This post is for my friend Lorna, a tough young bird. The Hour family is thinking of you.

The feeder is an Enchanted Bird Venetian Bronze feeder by Good Directions. More importantly for this post, though, it was a gift from Lorna when I bought my house in Danbury last year. Well, it works Lorna, as you can see from these photos. More photos to come in the following days, too.

Thanks again, Lorna, and be well!

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.

Latest For the Birds column: Gearing up for National Bird Feeding Month

Photo by Chris Bosak A Tufted Timouse perches near a feeding station in New England, fall 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Tufted Timouse perches near a feeding station in New England, fall 2015.

February may be a few weeks away, but there’s no harm in being prepared for what’s in store.

February is a big month in the birdwatching world. It’s a cold month in the middle of winter, but a little birding and bird feeding will help make the cold more tolerable.

First of all, February is National Bird Feeding Month. I don’t normally get too excited about national this month or that, but I’ll celebrate anything that gives me an excuse to do more birdwatching. National Bird Feeding Month was first proclaimed in 1994.

Also, February is always the month of the Great Backyard Bird Count. I’ll write more about this citizen science project in a later column, but just so you can mark your calendars, this year it will be held the weekend of Feb. 12-15.

For now, in honor of National Bird Feeding Month, here are a few tips on how to attract birds to your yard in the typically cold month of February.

Suet is a must. Whether you use pre-packaged suet cakes or make your own out of beef fat (the store-bought cakes are much, much easier), suet should be an offering in the winter. I can count on one hand the number of minutes a bird is not at my suet feeder. Usually it’s a Downy Woodpecker, but also seen are Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Carolina Wrens. Occasionally, chickadees and titmice visit the suet as well.

Who knows? You may even get lucky and have a Pileated Woodpecker come visit. I had one at my suet feeder about 10 years

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For the Birds column: Another big Snowy Owl irruption year?

Here’s my For the Birds column from last week. Another big Snowy Owl irruption year? We’ll see …

Photo by Chris Bosak A Snowy Owl flies across the beach at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Owl flies across the beach at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

The historic Snowy Owl irruption of the 2013-14 winter is still fresh in many people’s minds. I know it’s still on the top of my mind. Could we be in store for another one this winter?

We’ll have to wait and see, of course, but if what is happening in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan already is any indication, the chances are pretty good. We’ve barely turned the calendar over to November and sightings in those states are booming. Typically it is mid to late November when the Snowy Owls start showing up.

The Snowy Owl that delighted hundreds of visitors at Calf Pasture Beach in 2008, however, showed up in early November. This year the sightings in the Midwest came even earlier, starting as early as Oct. 20, according to the folks at eBird. eBird is an online database of bird sightings with much of the data submitted by citizen scientists.

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One more Pine Warbler photo

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine Warblers squabble over a birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., during fall 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Pine Warblers squabble over a birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., during fall 2015.

Last post about the Pine Warblers that visited my feeders recently, I promise. I did an original post and followed that up with a post that included several more photos. I’ll conclude with my favorite (previously unpublished) photo I took of the warblers.

The warblers were there for a total of three days. On day one it was one Pine Warbler, on day two it was three and on day three it was back to only one. At one point all three landed on the feeder at once. From the photo above, you can tell they didn’t like sharing.