The rose-breasted cardinal and the black-eyed junco might seem like an unrelated amalgamation of words to most people, but for Marc Parnell they are two of the 126 species of birds he features in his new book,” Birds of Connecticut”, now available online and in bookstores.
Although she never resided in Connecticut itself—having lived in New York, Pennsylvania, and various central and southwestern locations—Parnell’s mother grew up in Ridgefield.
But with “Birds of Connecticut,” he returns to his family roots, offering a field guide to the hundreds of birds that call Nutmeg State home.
“I’m fascinated that there are hundreds of these creatures out there and people have never seen one,” he said. “I thought that was a real eye-opener. The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a perfect example of the bird that Connecticut birders are familiar with, that a novice may never have seen.
A graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland where he currently resides, Parnell said his fascination with birds grew out of the biology classes he took.
“I fell in love with the ecological side of biology,” he said. “I went to the university nature reserve. I fell in love with this idea of the natural environment.
Parnell said his love of birds has been invested in reading more than 150 field guides and books on bird species.
“It has a lot to do with how birds interact in the real world,” he said, “the day in the bird’s life, what it eats, where to find it.”
He said “Birds of Connecticut” focuses on the state’s 126 most common species.
“I think finding the bird you’re looking for is important when choosing a field guide,” he said.
The book features full-page photographs of each species and should take the reader 15-20 seconds to identify a bird in their book, ordering them from smallest to largest.
At the bottom of each page is a forecast indicating where and when different birds may be found, he said.
Studying rarely seen birds like the rose-breasted cardinal gave Parnell a better understanding of their migration patterns and was able to detail in his book the right time of year to go to the local woods to see them.
“We have detailed habitat descriptions,” he said. This shows that there is a peak in May for the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. It tells you to go to that park at that time. It is a double duty in this sense.
He said Bolton Notch State Park is an excellent host during migratory season.
“It’s a great place to find birds,” he says, such as black-eyed juncos and winter sparrows.
“A lot of times they move under feeders and into light or light woods,” he said. “They come down in the winter to look for food.”
“Birds of Connecticut” is not just for the avid birder, but also helps birders identify the most common birds in the area and when to find them.
“Tree swallows are a good start,” Parnell said. “Each month from August to September, perhaps a million tree swallows are found along the south end of the river. Each night you will see hundreds of thousands swarming on the ground ready to roost .
He said people take kayak and boat trips along the south end of the Connecticut River to watch the annual swallow migration.
“It’s an example of the intersection of the natural world and our world,” he said. “It’s a great example of wild animals in motion.”
Other popular birds found throughout the state, he said, include the American oystercatcher found along Long Island Sound, and hawks, bluebirds and finches, which are found in open country. .
“It’s a really well balanced state with a mix of open country, ocean coasts, northwest river forests,” he said.
The northwest corner of the state is where people can find the common raven, Parnell said.
“They are much larger than the American crow and also much smarter, being able to use problem-solving tactics,” he said.
“The Connecticut River is one of central Connecticut’s underrated assets,” he said, noting that waterfowl like wood ducks and teal mallards are now showing up and are more easily observed.
Another popular bird to watch is the bald eagle, which suffered severe population declines several generations ago due to river pollution, he said, but in recent years eagles have bounced back.
“A lot of these swallow boat trips will be looking for them and ospreys,” he said.
Parnell said he has been birdwatching for 30 years and writing for nearly eight, with 41 books in total published or about to be released.
“I think it’s been a lifetime of absolute fun,” he said. “I want people to fall in love with bird watching and enjoy the identification process.”
Although he’s unfamiliar with Parnell’s book, Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society and the Birdcraft Sanctuary and Museum, said he’s always thrilled when a new book comes out to help people learn more. interested in birds.
“There’s always something new to learn,” he says. “I think that would be great because new and more birdwatchers are out there.”