For the Birds: What others have been seeing

Photo by Chris Bosak A Hermit Thrush perches on a branch at Selleck's/Dunlap Woods this fall.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Hermit Thrush perches on a branch at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods this fall.

It’s been a busy spring around here for sure. The bluebirds have youngsters, the grosbeaks are regular visitors and the female ruby-throated hummingbird is back to her old tricks of dominating the backyard.

There have been plenty of other highlights, but I want to share what others throughout the region have been seeing.

I received an interesting email from Roxanne of Swanzey. She noticed a blue jay hanging upside down bat-like. She assumed it was sick, injured or dead, but 15 minutes later the bird perched upright and soon after flew away. As it turns out, blue jays sometimes roost upside down. Who knew?

Roxanne sent me a photo of the upside-down bird, which I posted on my website, www.birdsofnewengland.com, under the “Reader-Submitted Photos” tab.

Allen from Fitzwilliam sent in photos of a female purple finch gathering fleece placed into a small cage. The wool comes from a neighbor’s sheep. Birds often gather animal fur to use as nest material.

Allen also sent in photos of a Baltimore oriole eating grape jelly from a feeder. I’ve never had luck attracting orioles to my feeders, but this year I did have a male oriole visit my suet cake feeder several times. I had orange halves, grape jelly and sugar water available as well, but the oriole ignored it all in favor of suet. Even individual birds of the same species have their particular tastes.

Lenny from Greenfield sent in several photos including rose-breasted grosbeaks, purple finches and brown thrashers. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen a thrasher. That’s not a good sign.

Mimi from Troy sent in a nice list of yard birds, including nesting bluebirds. She also had yellow-rumped warblers visit for the first time. In all, she has seen more than 30 species in her yard this spring. She also included a message that I’m sure many would agree with: “Thank goodness the birds are able to bring me joy and solace during these trying times and fill me with joy.”

Celia from Keene was disappointed with the recent snow day in May but was rewarded by seeing an indigo bunting and rose-breasted grosbeak at her feeder at the same time. “Those colorful birds made my day,” she wrote.

I’ll conclude with a poem sent to me by Jackie Cleary of Westmoreland. I’ve seen and heard a lot of thrushes this spring (wood thrush, hermit thrush and veery) so the poem was timely indeed. Thanks to Jackie for the beautiful poem, titled “Thrush Time.”

We keep the thrushes’ hours in summer;

Gently pulled from sleep

By their double rhythmic trills,

Like a pleasant saw

Which severs the night from the day;

And when the break is made

They retire to their hidden woodland business ‘Til they must sing the day to sleep, And us along with it.

We keep the thrushes’ hours.

Birds to brighten your day: May 13

Photo by Chris Bosak
A hermit thrush visits a backyard in New England, May 2020. Merganser Lake.

A Day on Merganser Lake

I’ve seen a lot more hermit thrushes this year than in year’s past. (Probably because I’m looking more.) They are handsome birds but their claim to fame, of course, is their song. The website www.musicofnature.com says this about the song of the hermit thrush: “The Hermit Thrush is perhaps North America’s most highly regarded singer, both for musicality and emotional impact.”

Thank you for checking out this website and for supporting http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com

(Repeat text for context:  I’m running out of COVID-19 lockdown themes so from now until things get back to some semblance of normalcy, I will simply post my best photo from the previous day. You could say it fits because of its uncertainty and challenge. I’ll call the series “A Day on Merganser Lake,” even though that’s not the real name of the lake I live near in southwestern Connecticut, it’s just a nod to my favorite duck family.)

A few more Hermit Thrush photos; and a link to column

Photo by Chris Bosak A Hermit Thrush perches on a branch at Selleck's/Dunlap Woods this fall.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Hermit Thrush perches on a branch at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods this fall.

Here are a few more photos of Hermit Thrushes, a species profiled in my last post a few days ago. Also below is a link to my latest For the Birds column, which appears weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, CT) and The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.)

Here’s the link.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Hermit Thrush rests on a log at Selleck's/Dunlap Woods this fall.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Hermit Thrush rests on a log at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods this fall.

Hermit thrushes abound on latest bird walk

Photo by Chris Bosak A Hermit Thrush perches on a branch at Selleck's/Dunlap Woods .

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Hermit Thrush perches on a branch at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods .

I can’t speak for how well the Hermit Thrush population is doing in general, but the last bird walk I took yielded a lot of these handsome birds. I was walking through Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien (Conn.) with my buddy Larry Flynn and the thrushes were by far the most commonly seen bird. At one point we had five or six Hermit Thrushes in one bush. I’ve seen plenty of Hermit Thrushes in my day, but never that many in the same bush.

As we walked along the trails, Hermit Thrushes popped up here and there, and pretty much everywhere. The birds, however, were silent — other than their little feet rustling among the fallen leaves. They didn’t sing their famous flute-like song because it’s the fall migration. During the breeding season (spring and summer) it’s a treat to hear their song echo throughout the woods.

I mentioned before than I can’t speak for how the population is doing overall. Well, that was a white lie because I can, at least by crediting another source. Hermit Thrushes, thankfully, are doing well as a species. In fact their numbers have been rising since 1966, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

Hermit Thrushes are probably the most commonly seen thrush in New England, but there are several types of thrushes — and they can be very difficult to tell apart. The Wood Thrush and Veery look somewhat different than the Hermit Thrush and are fairly easy to differentiate. However, species such as Bicknell’s Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush and Gray-checked Thrush pose a tougher ID challenge and it takes a trained eye to pick out those species.

Larry and I are pretty certain that what we were seeing were all Hermit Thrushes. The next walk, however, may yield nary a Hermit Thrush. That’s the joy of migration — and birding in general.

Feel free to leave a comment …

Eastern Towhee highlights quick morning walk

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Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Towhee at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien, Nov. 2013.

A quick walk at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien this morning yielded a few surprises, such as a Hermit Thrush, a few kinglets and this very vocal Eastern Towhee.

A Blue Jay mimicked a Red-shouldered Hawk and plenty of American Robins ate berries along the trail. White-throated Sparrows were in abundance, too.

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Towhee at Selleck's/Dunlap Woods in Darien, Nov. 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Towhee at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien, Nov. 2013.

This particular towhee was very vocal, which is how I found it in the first place. It didn’t sing its “drink your tea” song, of course, but gave itself up by constantly uttering its “chwink” or “tow-hee” call over and over.

Let me know what you’re seeing out there at bozclark@earthlink.net. Also submit a photo for my “reader submitted” photo page.

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Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Towhee at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien, Nov. 2013.