For the Birds: Gray jay is out; Canada jay is in

Photo by Chris Bosak A gray jay perches on the roof of a car in Pittsburg, N.H., November 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak A gray jay perches on the roof of a car in Pittsburg, N.H., November 2018.

Well, I did it again. Apparently I’ve been using the wrong name for a bird for the past year or so.

Recall a few weeks ago when I wrote about the common gallinule that had been seen near the Dillant-Hopkins Airport. Many people, myself included, initially referred to the bird as a common moorhen, the name previously used for the bird. In 2011, the American Ornithologists’ Union changed the name to common gallinule after splitting the species from a similar bird in Europe and Asia.

I’m not as far behind on this latest name change. In May 2018, just about a year ago, the union changed the name of the gray jay to the Canada jay. The handsome, bold bird of the north was historically called the Canada jay anyway, so it was really a change back to an old name.

I wrote a column back in November about a trip to Pittsburg, during Continue reading

The 2018 birding year in review: Part V

Photo by Chris Bosak A male indigo bunting eats seeds from a platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., in May 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak A male indigo bunting eats seeds from a platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., in May 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. 2 and 1. This is the finale!

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

Photo by Chris Bosak An indigo bunting visits a feeder in New England, spring 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak An indigo bunting visits a feeder in New England, spring 2018.

2. Indigo bunting at feeder. I had two visit, actually. One was a male in a blotchy transition plumage and one was an adult male in its splendid bright blue coat. I knew these sought-after birds  visited feeders, but this was a first for me.

Gray jay on snowy bough in Pittsburg, N.H., Nov. 2018.

1. Gray jays. An early November trip to Pittsburg, N.H., yielded some interesting bird sightings, such as bald eagles, ruffed grouse, and an evening grosbeak. The highlight for sure, however, were several small groups of gray jays that ate seeds right from our hands.

Of course, the big highlight of the year was continuing to be able to share my outdoor adventures through this column and my website. Thanks for your support in 2018 and I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store. Also, feel free to share your nature highlights of 2018. 

For the Birds: No moose, but gray jays keep us busy

Photo by Chris Bosak A gray jay perches in a tree in Pittsburg, N.H., November 2018.

The surprises began as soon as we arrived in Pittsburg, the northern tip of the Granite State. To be more accurate, the surprises began about an hour before our arrival.

“Is that snow on the ground?” I asked as we drove through the darkness.

The headlights revealed that, indeed, a thin layer of snow blanketed the sides of the roads. We arrived at our rented cabin to find about 2 inches of snow in the Great North Woods.

Snow in early November in northern New Hampshire is not surprising, but this particular snow caught me off guard because of how warm it has been in southern New England. Wasn’t it just 70 degrees the week before?

Although it served as a reminder that winter is coming fast for all of the region, the snow was a welcome gift from the North Country. It was beautiful and, Continue reading

Snowy November in the Great North Woods

Gray jay on snowy bough in Pittsburg, N.H., Nov. 2018.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that there is snow in November in the Great North Woods, the area of extreme northern Vermont and New Hampshire. We were surprised, however, to see snow when we arrived on Sunday only because it has been so warm this fall in southern New England. 

I hadn’t even given snow a thought yet, to be honest. Heck, wasn’t it in the 70s in Connecticut just last week? But, sure enough, a beautiful blanket of the white stuff covered Pittsburg, N.H. It was only an inch or two, just enough to make it beautiful and remind us that snow is coming soon enough for the rest of New England. (Update: Now it’s Tuesday and a steady rain has melted all the snow.)

With the moose population continuing to dwindle in northern New Hampshire, the wildlife highlight was a trio of gray jays we came across just south of Deer Mountain Campground, which itself is just south of the Canadian border.

I’ve seen gray jays before in Pittsburg, N.H, but never during the “winter.” They were extra bold and landed on our hands as we offered sunflower seeds. I’ve had black-capped chickadees land on my hands for sunflower seeds before, but I could tell the tiny birds were unsure of themselves as they landed quickly and flew off. These gray jays, however, were not shy at all and landed on our finger tips and dug through the seeds to find just the right one. 

About half an hour later we found a pair of gray jays, which also ate from our hands and showed little fear. At one point, an evening grosbeak flew in and landed in a nearby tree. I hadn’t seen an evening grosbeak in years and years, so the large yellow, black and white bird was a welcomed, if not fleeting, sighting.

Aside from gray jays, blue jays, ruffed grouse, chickadees, and red squirrels, the wildlife sightings have been rather scarce. But we’ll keep looking and I’ll let you know what we find. 

Photo by Chris Bosak  Feeding brave gray jays in Pittsburg, N.H., Nov. 5, 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak
Feeding brave gray jays in Pittsburg, N.H., Nov. 5, 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak  Feeding gray jays in Pittsburg, N.H., on Nov. 5, 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak
Feeding gray jays in Pittsburg, N.H., on Nov. 5, 2018.

More photos from Pittsburg, N.H., trip

Photo by Chris Bosak Beaver in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Beaver in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Here are some more photos from my recent trip up north to Pittsburg, N.H. Admitted some shots aren’t great, but I didn’t have as much time to photograph wildlife as I would have liked — remember from the last bird column, I had two 14-year-old boys to keep an eye on, too.

The moose shot is particularly bad, but the moose population is having a tough time of it in New England, so I didn’t want to do anything to chase it off and potentially put it in danger.

Here are the shots. Always fun to visit the Great North Woods.

Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak Immature Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Immature Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak Lady's slipper flower in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Lady’s slipper flower in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Moose in Pittsburg, N.H.

Moose in Pittsburg, N.H.

Merry Christmas from www.BirdsofNewEngland.com: Gray Jay with berries

Photo by Chris Bosak Gray Jay with berries, northern New Hampshire, fall 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Gray Jay with berries, northern New Hampshire, fall 2013.

I took this photo of a Gray Jay in the fall of 2013 in northern New Hampshire. Until now I’ve never used the photo in any manner. Not for my bird column, not a blog posting, not in a slideshow, not as part of a gallery or exhibit. I could think of no better way to use it for the first time than to wish visitors of http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thanks for your support and help spread the word about this site. There are exciting things in store for 2014.

Gray Jay: Friendly bird of the northern woods

Photo by Chris Bosak A Gray Jay perches on a branch near a pond in northern New Hampshire, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Gray Jay perches on a branch near a pond in northern New Hampshire, Oct. 2014.

Gray Jays are quickly becoming one of my favorite birds. Their range does not stretch into southern New England, but on my last several trips to northern New England, I’ve seen these handsome and friendly birds. I have been visiting the northern reaches of New Hampshire for more than 20 years now and I started seeing Gray Jays only in the last few years. They appear out of nowhere and offer close views. They seem to be as curious about you as you are about them. From what I’ve seen, they hang out in small flocks (3, 4 or 5 birds.) Gray Jays are one of those boreal species that makes the Great North Woods so special. I took the above photo while canoeing on a small pond in northern New Hampshire. This one flew right up to the pond’s edge to check me out.