Ticks decimate New England moose population

Photo by Chris Bosak

I would never turn down the opportunity to write a story about New England moose, even if the subject is a bit somber. So when The Keene Sentinel asked if I would do an update story on the moose’s decline, I happily obliged.

Moose are my favorite New England wildlife watching target. Unfortunately, winter ticks and brain worm are taking a heavy toll on moose throughout New England.

Click here for the story, which appeared in today’s Sentinel.

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Stranger things: Dobsonfly

With an intense heat wave gripping much of the country, including New England, and many people confined to their air-conditioned homes, it seems like an opportune time to start a new series of photos called “stranger things.”

I’m stealing the title from a popular Netflix show, of course, but this series of photos will feature strange-looking creatures found in New England. I have plenty of fodder in my basement and yard, but I will venture into the field for some shots, as well.

I’ll start with the dobsonfly, a large and intimidating-looking insect. I noticed this one the other day clinging to the side of my house near my deck. This is a female dobsonfly as it has a small mandible. Males have large mandibles and look even more fierce.

Like most intimidating-looking creatures in New England, dobsonflies are harmless to humans — although I’ve read that females can inflict a painful bite if provoked.

Click here for more information about dobsonflies from insectidentification.org.

Here’s a closer look.

Zeroing in on an American kestrel

Remember a few weeks ago when I urged readers to “check those blotches” carefully. Here’s the column for those who missed it. Basically, the column said that if something looks out of the ordinary in the distance, it should be checked out. It may be a plastic bag or mylar balloon stuck in a tree; or it may be a hawk, owl or something else of note in the tree.

I took my own advice the other day and checked out a small clump on one of the old windmills that grace the property at Happy Landings, an open space in Brookfield, Connecticut. Turns out, it was an American kestrel, a small falcon that is somewhat Continue reading

Warbler watch is on

Photo by Chris Bosak A Pine Warbler sits on a deck railing in New England this fall.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Pine Warbler sits on a deck railing in New England this fall.

The early warblers started arriving in New England a week or two ago. Pine warblers and palm warblers are typically the first two species to make their way back this far north and, sure enough, both are back now. This post includes photos of both species so you know what you’re looking for. (Above is the pine warbler; below is the palm warbler.)

The spring warbler season is the highlight of the year for many birdwatchers. It will pick up gradually over the next week or so and then erupt from late April through the middle of May. At the height of the warbler migration, a New England birdwatcher can see between 20 and 30 warbler species in a single day. (It would take some effort, of course, but it’s very possible.)

I’ll post frequently about warblers over the next few weeks and, hopefully, have plenty of fresh warbler photos to share. In the meantime, practice up with this link from AllAboutBirds.org — it includes various warblers and their songs.

Photo by Chris Bosak Palm Warbler
Photo by Chris Bosak Palm Warbler

More brant photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A brant seen at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, Conn., April 2019.

You didn’t think I’d see thousands of brant and limit the experience to just one post, did you? Here is the first follow-up to Saturday’s post. The original post is here in case you missed it.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Brant at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, Connecticut, 2019.

This brant is banded with silver bands on each leg. I can’t make out the numbers and letters, however.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Brant at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, Connecticut, 2019.

Spring migration under way; don’t forget about shorebirds

Photo by Chris Bosak
A dunlin walks through the shallow water of Long Island Sound in Westport, Connecticut, during Nov. 2017.

The spring migration is under way and many birds have made appearances in New England already. Birds such as red-winged blackbirds started showing up in February but the spring migration here is still in the beginning stages. By the end of April and into May, we’ll be hitting full stride.

Today I heard my first eastern phoebe. That, to me, is a true sign of spring. I’ve also seen a few American woodcock, thousands of mergansers, a handful of hawks, and several great blue herons flying with large sticks in their bills.

Eventually, all the talk will be about warblers and other songbirds. But we have a few weeks before that happens. To me, the large flocks of shorebirds that move through New England is an underrated aspect of spring migration. Shorebird migration is underrated in general, probably because it is so spread out. The northward movements start in late March and April and continue all the way into June. The southward movements start in July and continue into November. Of course, many shorebirds remain in New England throughout the winter.

So while we are excited to see the ducks, songbirds, hawks and other birds return to New England, don’t forget about the shorebirds dotting our saltwater and freshwater shorelines.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Dunlins stand in the shallow water of Long Island Sound in Westport, Connecticut, during Nov. 2017.

Working for peanuts

Photo by Chris Bosak A downy woodpecker eats peanuts from a feeder in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

Here’s a downy woodpecker getting peanuts from the homemade feeder I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

It’s funny how birds prefer their food offered in different ways. White-breasted nuthatches and downy woodpeckers are all over this feeder. They typically perch on the feeder and peck away at the shell to expose the nut inside. My other peanut eaters — blue jays, red-bellied woodpeckers and tufted titmice — barely touch this feeder and prefer to grab their peanuts from a platform feeder and fly off with it.