May 25, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 02 February 2012 12:03
Frank McBrearity of New Canaan had written last fall about a pesky cardinal attacking a window at his New Canaan home.
“I believe we have found a solution to the nettlesome cardinal problem,” Frank wrote a couple weeks ago. “It is an extraordinary remedy — put up a Christmas tree full of bright lights and colorful ornaments.
“We had a joyful family Christmas holiday without any annoying distractions from our backyard friend. We celebrated. We toasted. We enjoyed our backyard scene. But as the holiday drew to a close, we had to make a decision. Do we leave the decorated tree up in the family room year-round? Some voted for that proposal, but others prevailed. We removed the lights and ornaments, and discarded the tree last week.
“She has returned now with a vengeance. Without a sure-fire solution in sight, she has indeed become a real pain in the glass.”
The calendar in last week’s column said the four-day master birding class that’s coming up in Bridgeport is sponsored by Connecticut Audubon when in fact, it’s sponsored by Audubon Connecticut. Confused?
Connecticut is one of several states that have two Audubon societies (Massachusetts and New Jersey are among the others).
Audubon Connecticut is the state office of the National Audubon Society, and is headquartered at Audubon Greenwich. It has centers there and at Bent of the River in Southbury and at Sharon. While the National Audubon Society dates from 1905, Audubon Connecticut didn’t get going until 1941 when the Greenwich center was established.
The Connecticut Audubon Society is one of the granddaddies of birding organizations, established in 1898 (Massachusetts Audubon dates from 1896, New Jersey, 1897). It has no association with National Audubon, and operates independently, with centers in Fairfield, Milford, Glastonbury, and Pomfret plus the Birdcraft Museum in Fairfield.
In Connecticut, both Connecticut Audubon and Audubon Connecticut share the goals of conservation and education, as did their namesake artist John James Audubon. Both Connecticut Audubon and National Audubon were established by people primarily interested in birds — in fact, at the turn of the 20th Century, they were concerned about the mass slaughter of many kinds of birds. However, their interests have grown over the years to include many of the living things that make up our environment.
We were walking Sunday at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport when a good-sized, hawk-like bird passed us, flying low along an open, grassy area of the park. Both Sally and I thought it was a Northern Harrier and I said, “Let’s see if it hovers.” And sure enough, a few moments later, the harrier hovered over a patch of taller grass next to the park’s nature center, then continued on its hunt.
As Pete Dunn in his “Essential Field Guide Companion” says of the harrier, “hunts low and slow over open ground, often following vegetative leading lines, frequently pulling up and hovering (often with long legs dangling).”
We’ve seen these birds before while kayaking in Long Island Sound marshes, and they are a species easy to identify by its behavior — as Dunn describes it above. They are also handsome birds — especially the juveniles, which have a rich rusty red breast, as this one did, and a distinctive white patch at the base of its tail.
I had thought this bird might have been named because it preys on hares. I was wrong.
Harrier is “a British name for the hawks, which usually hunt by flying low over the ground,” says Ernest A. Choate in “The Dictionary of American Bird Names.” “The English names of harrier or hen-harrier came from the bird’s harrying of poultry.”
To harry means to persistently attack.
Hudson River EagleFest, celebrate the Bald Eagle on the Hudson River, Saturday, Feb. 4 (snow date: Feb 5), 9 to 4, free, Croton Point County Park, Croton on Hudson, N.Y., www.teatown.org/eaglefest.
First Sunday Bird Walks at Greenwich Point (Tod’s Point ), Feb. 5, March 4, 9 to 11 a.m., spotting scopes available, free, sponsored by Wild Wings, Bruce Museum and Audubon Greenwich, for info, Meredith Sampson, 203-637-9822.
Bird Gardening, five-session class on how to attract birds with plants, with Julia Cencebaugh Kloth, Wednesdays, Feb. 8, 15, 22, 29, March 7, 7 to 9 p.m., $97, Ridgefield Continuing Education, at East Ridge Middle School, ridgefieldschools.org, 203-431-9995.
Training session for Great Backyard Bird, Saturday, Feb. 18, 1 to 2:30, Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, RSVP 203-869-5272 x230.
Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 17-20, www.birdsource.org.
Master Bird Conservationist program, classes with and field trip, Feb. 22, March 7, 21, April 4, free, but volunteer service expected, Audubon Connecticut, at Bridgeport City Hall Annex, audubonct.org 203-264-5098.
Eagle Viewing Trips, on Connecticut River, Feb. 11 through March 18, 9, 11:30 and 2 on weekends, and 10 and 1 on Thursdays, $40, Connecticut Audubon, 1-800-996-8747
Cuba bird study, trip with Connecticut Audubon, survey work involved, March 3-15, 860-767-0660
Copyright 2012 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] gmail.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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