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Thursday, June 22, 2017

When Birding is Slow, ID Dragonflies, Here's How!

Birders can look for dragonflies through their binoculars! This is a Halloween Pennant dragonfly, so aptly named, and one of my favorites. We have hundreds in our fields right now.

Widow Skimmer

Widow Skimmer. The most colorful dragonflies with patterns on their wings are often in the Skimmer family of dragonflies.

When birds are quiet in summer, birders turn to watching dragonflies, that's what we do. Dragonflies are active on warm days, the hotter and sunnier the better. Dragonflies are stunningly beautiful, have cool names, and are abundant in fields, lakes, streams, shores, many of the places people go in summer.

Here are a few tips to enjoy and identify them.

1. Use your binoculars to spot them, if you have close focusing binos, even better.
2. Some dragonfly males patrol territories along ponds, lakes, and streams. Females mate with them then lay their eggs on emerging vegetation. If you see 2 dragonflies flying in tandem, this is a precursor to mating. In the wheel positon, mating is occurring.
3. Some dragonflies are more perchers, others more fliers, that can be a clue to their ID. Different perchers have different ways of perching, again an ID clue.
4. In general, some of the most obvious, colorful, and patterned-wing dragonflies you see are in the Skimmer family, so look in that section of our book.
5. Different species of dragonflies are on the wing at different times during the summer, so you will constantly see new ones.
6. Male, female and immature dragonflies of the same species can look different, just like birds.

We (along with dragonfly experts Blair Nikula and Jackie Sones) produced a book, Stokes Beginner's Guide To Dragonflies in order to quickly help you get into enjoying these marvelous insects. We worked out an easy key and lots of color photos. Take it and binoculars along with you the next time you go to the lake, river or stream. We take it with us in the canoe whenever we go out in the summer. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Saving Bobolinks!

Bobolink male

Here at Bobolink Farm, our 23 acre NH property, we have breeding Bobolinks. It's especially thrilling to see the Bobolinks here, because Bobolinks face declining populations in New England due to of loss of habitat. A federal State of The Birds Report lists Bobolinks among birds that have declined by 38-77% since 1968. A new The Bobolink Project is an attempt in New England to preserve grasslands and save Bobolinks.

We're helping their populations because we provide them with good habitat. Most importantly, we do not let the farmer who hays our fields, cut the fields before the Bobolinks fledge the young out of their nests around mid-July. Usually our farmer cuts the fields at the end of August since, in addition to nesting Bobolinks, we have sometimes had a nesting a American Bittern in the field.

We take our walk around the edge of the field or look from our deck and and it's so beautiful to see the Bobolinks, making their lyrical "plinking" call notes, and settling in the grasses to feed. We get such a deep sense of satisfaction, knowing we are helping a species in trouble and maintaining this grassland habitat. Years ago, when New England was a booming farm economy, grasslands were prevalent. Now, much of New England has grown back to forest and it's rare to find big fields, especially ones that are not cut until the end of the summer.
The male Bobolinks in fall will molt from their black-and-white breeding plumage and resemble the streaked, staw-colored females and young. The flocks will stay here until they depart in early fall, for their long migration to wintering areas in South America. We'll miss them.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Warbler Bonanza, NH Coast!

Northern Parula

American Redstart, 1st summer male

American Redstart, 1st summer male

American Redstart

Canada Warbler

On a tip this morning we headed to Odiorne State Park, on the NH coast, where the temp climbed to 95 degrees but the multitude of warblers could be found in the cooler shade of the tall trees. At least 15 singing American Redstarts, both adult males and immature males, looking like "Yellowstarts," were everywhere. 3 Canada Warblers lurked in the understory. A Northern Parula, gave us a warbler neck view and feasted on apple blossoms. We also saw Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Yellow and Common Yellowthroat Warblers and a Northern Waterthrush. Then ended with a lobster roll at Ray's. A good day!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Warblers Are Coming to You!! Are You Ready?

Palm Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Warbler mania is about to hit much of the middle and northern part of the country. Already beautiful warblers, such as this Palm, Black-throated Green, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, are being spotted in New England and other areas. Look for migrating warblers in forests, river corridors, nature preserves, parks and even your backyard! To identify warblers see our new The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern and Western Regions. Happy Warbler Watching!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter Bunny!

Marsh Rabbit, Sanibel, FL. There are a lot of them there this year! Marsh Rabbits are small cottontail rabbits that live in marshes in coastal regions of the Southern and Eastern U.S.

Happy Easter!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Migration April 2017, Look Who is Coming to You!

 Prairie Warbler

Scarlet Tanager

 Summer Tanager

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Eastern Kingbird

Northern Parula, male

 Northern Waterthrush

Blue-headed Vireo

On their way to you now are all these beautiful migrant birds. We just saw many of them come into Sanibel, FL. By end of April and early May they will have arrived on their breeding grounds. To find out who breeds near you and how to ID them, see our new The New Stokes Field Guides to Birds: Eastern and Western Regions, which contain all new photos and information.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Migrants on Sanibel, Summer Tanager and more

A different look at today's migrants on Sanibel, FL. The best action was on Pond Apple Trail. The male Summer Tanager looked down on us. The Northern Waterthrush was in the "Commerce Pond" the first water area as you walk from the Chamber of Commerce parking lot, showing a view another waterthrush may see as it faced it. What's with those eyebrows anyway? The female Northern Parula sat looking upward, her yellow throat glowing. An Ovenbird was so skulking in the underbrush to the right of the pond in deep shadow, I gave it a "diffuse glow" from photoshop to capture the feeling. And a female Northern Cardinal was determined to build her nest in the woods.