The 2018 birding year in review: Part III

Photo by Chris Bosak A purple finch eats seeds at a feeder in New England, Nov. 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A purple finch eats seeds at a feeder in New England, Nov. 2018.

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. 6 and 5.

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

6. Winter birds at feeder. They were really late fall sightings, but happened after the leaves had dropped so it felt more like winter. It started with a female purple finch, continued with several fox sparrows, and ended with a ton of pine siskins. There is still plenty of time left in winter to add to that list. Anybody want to send me their evening grosbeaks?

Photo by Chris Bosak
Common loon on Long Island Sound during winter months.

5. Christmas Bird Count. It’s going on 20 years now that I’ve participated in the annual bird census. As usual, I did a count in southwestern New England that features varied habitat — from wooded areas to freshwater ponds to Long Island Sound. A few highlight species include: great egret; common loon; merlin; and red-breasted nuthatch.

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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

Some photos from the Christmas Bird Count 2015

Photo by Chris Bosak A Monk Parakeet seen eating crab apples at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk on Sunday during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Monk Parakeet seen eating crab apples at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk on Sunday during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Here are some photos of the annual Christmas Bird Count held locally (Westport, Connecticut, Circle) on Sunday. I did the Count with old friends Frank Mantlik and Larry Flynn. Highlight species included: American Woodcock; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; Northern Shoveler; Gray Catbird; and Wood Duck (about 12 of them).

The above bird is indeed a New England bird. Well, at least it is now. A group of Monk Parakeets bound for the pet stores were believed to have escaped from JFK airport and established wild populations throughout the coastal regions of Long Island Sound. Some people don’t like them because they are non-native and very noisy. They do make good photo subject on occasion, though.

Here are some more photos from Sunday:

Photo by Chris Bosak A Belted Kingfisher seen near the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk on Sunday during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Belted Kingfisher seen near the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk on Sunday during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Northern Mockingbird seen Sunday at Taylor Farm in Norwalk during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Northern Mockingbird seen Sunday at Taylor Farm in Norwalk during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Hour photo/Chris Bosak A Belted Kingfisher seen near the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk on Sunday during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Hour photo/Chris Bosak
A Belted Kingfisher seen near the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk on Sunday during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Hour photo/Chris Bosak A Monk Parakeet seen eating crab apples at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk on Sundayt during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Hour photo/Chris Bosak
A Monk Parakeet seen eating crab apples at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk on Sundayt during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Photo by Chris Bosak Frank and Larry scan Long Island Sound.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Frank and Larry scan Long Island Sound.

 

Good day for Christmas Bird Count (lots of photos)

 

Photo by Chris Bosak Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., seen during the 115th Christmas Bird Count.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., seen during the 115th Christmas Bird Count.

The weather was actually quite nice (cold, but calm) and the birds were plentiful. A story about the Christmas Bird Count (Westport Circle) is posted on http://www.theour.com.

I personally had a good day, too, in terms of finding birds. Below are more photos from the interesting birds I found during the count. Yes, I realize the photos aren’t of great quality, but it was very overcast and the photos were taken mostly to prove what was seen. Some of the photos aren’t too bad, though. Anyway …

The highlight was the three warblers I saw at Oystershell Park in Norwalk. Even one warbler species is pretty rare for a New England Christmas Bird Count, but I had three at one location. The warblers were an Orange-crowned Warbler, Continue reading

Christmas Bird Count time is here

CBC-logo-stacked

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season is upon us. The local one that I participate in — the Westport Circle — takes place on Sunday. Many of the counts take place this weekend, but the range to do the count started on Dec. 14 and runs through Jan. 5. Participants spend all day “in the field” counting birds (individual species and total number) and send the data to the circle’s compiler, who turns it all into the National Audubon Society.

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.

The data, of course, is valuable and is indeed the most important part of the CBC. But it’s also a fun day to look for birds all day. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate — let me rephrase that, the weather hardly ever cooperates — but that only adds Continue reading

Brant thriving along Connecticut’s coast

Photo by Chris Bosak A huge flock of Brant congregates as an oysterboat works the waters of Long Island Sound off Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk this winter.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A huge flock of Brant congregates as an oysterboat works the waters of Long Island Sound off Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk this winter.

I was filling out my Christmas Bird Count Captain’s Statistic Sheet (finally) and I had to question for a second my own numbers. Did I really see more than 1,000 Brant that day?

Then I recalled the massive flocks we had seen at Calf Pasture Beach that brisk morning. Count compilers Townsend and Mardi Dickinson were with me during that part of the day. They saw them, too. There were so many Brant it was hard to get a good count. (Watch the accompanying video to the end to see what we were up against. Not the best video of all times, but you will see what I’m talking about.)

Photo by Chris Bosak A Brant swims off the coast of Norwalk this winter.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Brant swims off the coast of Norwalk this winter.

Brant are geese that breed in the Arctic and head to somewhat warmer waters during the winter. From a distance, or to the untrained eye, they can easily be mistaken for Canada Geese. Brant, however, are much smaller and lack the white “chin strap” that is so obvious on Canada Geese.

Norwalk has been a hot spot for Brant for many years. Huge flocks can be seen from Calf Pasture Beach throughout winter. Sometimes they are on the water. Sometimes they are near the water. Sometimes the flock is divided with some on the water and some near the water. The flocks often number hundreds and hundreds of birds.

It’s a treat to hear their low honking (maybe more of an of uttering), much different and more pleasing than the Canada Goose’s honk. When hundreds of them get going at once, it’s an even bigger treat. (Again, check out the video to listen for yourself.)

Most of the Brant will have migrated north by April, but some individuals or small flocks will remain into June or even later. They are likely young birds that aren’t going to breed anyway and therefore do not feel the sense of urgency to fly to the Arctic breeding grounds.

One of the many reasons I like Brant is because they are a reliable winter sighting here in New England. Birdwatching makes the winters here bearable — dare I say enjoyable — and it’s species like Brant that make winter birding fun.

Here’s the video:

The latest For the Birds Column: Counting some lucky larks

Photo by Chris Bosak Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Dec. 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Dec. 2013.

Click below to read the latest For the Birds column, which appears every Thursday in The Hour (Norwalk, CT) and Monday in The Keene Sentinel (Keene, NH). I talk about my experiences during the Dec. 15 Christmas Bird Count. Those are some lucky larks!

Click here for story.

Oh, and Merry Christmas, everybody.