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.

More shots of the northern bobwhite

Photo by
Chris Bosak A nothern bobwhite seen at Happy Landings in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.

Here are some more photos of the northern bobwhite I spotted yesterday at Happy Landings in Brookfield, Connecticut. Click here for the original post.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A nothern bobwhite seen at Happy Landings in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A nothern bobwhite seen at Happy Landings in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.

Putting a bow on winter

Photo by Chris Bosak  A broken birdbath and several inches of snow made for an ideal canvas to make a face made out of nuts and seeds used to feed birds.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A broken birdbath and several inches of snow made for an ideal canvas to make a face made out of nuts and seeds used to feed birds.

It’s supposed to be 70, pushing 80, degrees this week. Although New England can throw us some surprises, I’m fairly confident we are done with winter and spring is ready to bloom.

So with that said, here are my last leftover winter photos. I love the photo above. My birdbath bowl broke in half this winter and I didn’t have the heart to throw it away. I used it as a small platform feeder, but when the snow came, obviously it accumulated and covered the seeds. After one of the storms I used¬†some peanuts and sunflower seeds to make a face on the accumulate snow. I was hoping a bird would show up and enhance the photo even more, but no such luck … at least not when I was looking. But it made for a neat photo anyway.

Enjoy and happy spring.

Photo by Chris Bosak Ablack-capped chickadee grabs a sunflower seed from a Christmas decoration during the winter of 2016-17 in Danbury, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A black-capped chickadee grabs a sunflower seed from a Christmas decoration during the winter of 2016-17 in Danbury, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak A white-breasted nuthatch sits on a bird-shaped birdfeeder during the winter of 2016-17 in Danbury, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A white-breasted nuthatch sits on a bird-shaped bird feeder during the winter of 2016-17 in Danbury, Conn.

Another shot or three of the Blue-winged Warbler

Photo by Chris Bosak A Blue-winged Warbler seen at Fairchild Wildflower Sanctuary in Greenwich, Conn., May 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Blue-winged Warbler seen at Fairchild Wildflower Sanctuary in Greenwich, Conn., May 2016.

Here’s a few more of the Blue-winged Warbler. See the post below for more information about the photos.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Blue-winged Warbler seen at Fairchild Wildflower Sanctuary in Greenwich, Conn., May 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Blue-winged Warbler seen at Fairchild Wildflower Sanctuary in Greenwich, Conn., May 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Blue-winged Warbler seen at Fairchild Wildflower Sanctuary in Greenwich, Conn., May 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Blue-winged Warbler seen at Fairchild Wildflower Sanctuary in Greenwich, Conn., May 2016.

My top birding moments of 2015

Here is my latest column for The Hour (Norwalk, CT) and Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.) It’s my favorite column of the year to write: my top 10 list.

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey carries a fish along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, CT, summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey carries a fish along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, CT, summer 2015.

Not sure how it happened so quickly, but it’s time for me to write another year-end birding column. Each year at about this time I sit down and think about my top 10 birding experiences of past year. It’s not necessarily about the best birds I’ve seen, but rather the birding moments that most impacted me in one way or another.

What will be missing from this year’s list for the first time in about 10 years is my Thanksgiving “Duck Hunt” with my boys. The hunt is an annual tradition whereby we wake up early on Thanksgiving and visit a bunch of beaches and fresh-water bodies of water to count duck species. We try to get 10 species, but for me, the real thrill is being out with the boys looking for birds. This year I was so sick I couldn’t even get out of bed so we put the annual “duck hunt” on hold. Perhaps I’ll revisit it for another occasion. Maybe for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Or maybe just some random day this winter.

So here’s what did make the list …

10. Having the featured photo on The Birding Wire. The weekly e-newsletter features a photo in each edition and in early December it featured my photo of Pine Warblers squabbling at my suet feeder. I look at The Birding Wire each week, so it was neat to see my work as one of the featured items.

9. Having chickadees eat out of my hand. I noticed that each time I took down the feeders to fill them at my new house the chickadees would still land on the pole that holds the feeders, even though I was only a few feet away. I decided to hold off on putting the feeders back up immediately and instead extended my arm and held a handful of sunflower seeds out for the birds. They hesitated, but eventually landed and happily (if not nervously) took a seed and flew off.

8. A week-long summer camping trip with the boys. We went to the northern most part of New Hampshire and took the most remote site we could find. Gray Jays visited the camp and a Common Loon swam in the pond near the site. Of course, the call of the loon echoing at night capped off the experience.

7. Seeing a Bald Eagle nest off the coast of Norwalk. Ultimately the nest at Chimon Island did not result in young eagles being fledged, but it was still a thrill knowing they were out there. The unsuccessful nesting attempt is not surprising as many first-year nests fail. The nest still stands

Click here for the rest. 

Continue reading