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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to all,
and have a wonderful New Year!

We're taking off the holidays and will see you back on the blog Jan. 5th.

And a Happy Holiday card from Corgis Phoebe and puppy Abby, "woof-woof".

And, what's new for 2009? -

Red-tail in Luck

During the ice storm power outage we just endured, we saw this Red-tailed Hawk sitting in a tree. It was several days after the ice storm hit and we were getting a foot of snow that day.

Much to our surprise, we saw the hawk swoop down, grab a fat vole, then begin to flap carrying the vole.

Here's the downbeat of the wings,

a glide,

then a landing in the pine, the beautiful red tail spread like a fan. All this happened so quickly, I only grabbed my Canon Mark II camera after the redtail had struck the snow. My camera has fast focus so I did manage to get these shots. Photographed through the window from about 400 feet away. I had on a Canon 300 mm IS lens and a 1.4 teleconverter. I love the soft light, it makes the images look like a watercolor. We have never seen a Red-tailed Hawk catch a vole right in front of our house while we were watching. A very magic moment. Lucky for the redtail, it got a nice fat vole, a meal to help it survive that storm. We hope the redtail moves farther south, as we have gotten another foot of snow since then, which will make catching voles even harder. Then the voles, not the redtails will be in luck.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Power is Back!

One of our maples snapped off at the top. This happened to hundreds of thousands of trees in our area.

Hi All,
We finally got power restored here several hours ago. THANK YOU ALL for all your well wishes, it cheered us up. We feel for the people who still don't have power, keep your spirits up. We know that hundreds of electric crews from all over the country are working, through the snow storms we are having now, to return power as soon as possible. More updates are on PHNS.com.
Some images from the crisis:

Our lifeline for the first 6 days without power, was our wood stove. It kept our pipes from freezing. You can heat up things such as soup, instant coffee, oatmeal and you can toast bread on the cake cooling rack. But it needed to be fed every 3 hours through the night, so we had sleep deprivation.

You don't want to go far from the wood stove where it's warmest. It's toasty by the fire, but 55 degress at the corners of the house. The Corgis really liked the fire.

Puppy Abby just wants to have fun and provided much appreciated comic relief. Do you think she has enough toys? One of her favorites was the little blue squeaky dinosaur she has in her mouth.

On top of all the other problems, we started having a big snow storm yesterday at midday and it's still going on. We have had about a foot of snow and tomorrow 12 inches of snow are predicted.

Looking out at the snow. The Corgis sit by the door looking out. Today was supposed to be the Christmas Bird Count for our area, but it was canceled. We were supposed to have the big countdown party at our house tonight, not happening. The count for our area is postponed until next Sat. with the results called in, no party. We saw lots of birds at the feeders today including a flock of 50 plus goldfinches, a small flock of robins and a Red-tailed Hawk. We did get a generator 2 days ago and were able to have the furnace, cold water, some lights and one burner on the stove.

Today, we got power back. What a difference it is to have full power and how easy it is to get used to it. Phoebe and Abby at the door watch the snow and the birds. They paw at the door to go out and romp in the snow. They were aware we were stressed and were patient.

Our thank-you's go to all who sent their best wishes, to Barbara and Kit for a hot meal and showers, to the guy at our local hunting store for the apple crisp and coffee he was handing out to everyone and for the batteries and lanterns, to Cliff at our local hardware store for staying open late to get us our generator, to Don E. for hooking it up, to Dianne for clothes wash, showers, homemade soup, much moral support, and for letting us have Phoebe and Abby, and to everyone else who sent their concern.

Friday, December 19, 2008

And Still No Power

Hi All,
We still have no power. We are in one of the ice storm's hardest hit areas of New Hampshire, the Monadnock Region. 30,000 people in the state still have no power. 850 line crews from all over the country are in the state working to restore the power.
We finally got a generator (hard to get as they all sold out) a few days ago and can run our furnace, cold water, a few lights and charge the computer. Now we can sleep at night, as the wood stove needed to be restocked every 3 hours.
We hope to get power soon but a big storm is coming tonight and will slow down the efforts.
We'll keep you posted.
Puppy Abby, who plays and plays with Phoebe, is comic relief during this trying time.
Lillian and Don

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Still no power

In the massive ice storm that hit New England, New Hampshire was the hardest hit state. In New Hampshire, the area hardest hit was the southwest, the Monadnock region. We are in the Monadnock region and still have no power for 5 days. The extent of the damage is enormous. Whole mountain tops look like a giant chain saw sheared off the trees half way. Many towns still with no power. The Public Service of New Hampshire says it is the worst ice storm they have EVER had. So many trees fell and took down the power lines and telephone poles.

The first priority is to establish the main power lines and get power to emergency services like police, fire departments and hospitals in the area. Power has been restored to some of the town centers like Peterborough, Greenfield, Antrim, Dublin. But it could be quite a while before power is restored to all the smaller roads and homes along those roads. I am in the library writing this blog. I have just seen 6 big electric repair trucks working on the main line south of Peterborough. One of the trucks was from Indiana. Crews from many states have come to help.

We have a wood stove that heats the house to about 55 when it is very cold out. We have to restock it every 3 hours during the night. We are hopeful we will get power soon, then we can return to blogging.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ice Storm

We were in a major ice storm last night that brought down tree limbs. A big limb fell off our maple, right next to the bird feeder. Glad it didn't hit the house.

The feeders are coated with a thick layer of ice. Don is scraping them off, so the birds can feed.

Outside we constantly hear the cracking of more limbs and trees as they fall. You can see the birches at the base of our twin pines are bent almost to the ground. This really messes up birches and some never recover.

We have no electricity (I'm using my computer's stored battery power to post this) and neither do hundreds of thousands of people in the East. It is supposed to go down into the 'teens tonight. Fortunately we have a wood stove.

Help the birds by filling the feeders and scraping off the ice. Throw some seed on the ground for the ground-feeding species of birds. This weather can be brutal for birds because just about all their food sources are covered with ice.

If there is any upside, it's that there will be lots of dead snags and tree stubs for woodpeckers to make homes in this spring.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Birder Gifts

You're probably as busy as we are, getting ready for the holidays, shopping for gifts for friends and family, sending cards, etc., all the while trying to do work and maintain the rest of your life. A few gift ideas for the birder:
- Stokes Sandpiper 15x45-65 mm Spotting scope
- New binoculars
- A membership to the American Birding Association
- A bird calendar
- Lens cleaning kit for binoculars and scope
- A membership to your local or state nature or birding society or orginazation
- The Federal Duck Stamp (saves habitat and gives entry to National Wildlife Refuges)
- A portable weather radio
- One of the many wonderful books on where to find birds, bird stories, etc.
- Stokes Field Guide To Bird Song CDs, or possibly already loaded on an ipod

Monday, December 08, 2008

Boreal Birds threatened

Evening Grosbeaks are Boreal birds

The Boreal Forests of Canada are home to millions of North American birds, many of whom will be placed at risk by the development of Alberta's oilsands (shallow areas where oil can be extracted.) You can help save Boreal birds, click here.

Learn more about it in this important video on Youtube by Boreal Songbird Initiative Senior Scientist, Dr. Jeff Wells (click on the arrow to play the video),

Friday, December 05, 2008

Eagle On Ice



This morning, out on the pond, we saw a Bald Eagle standing on the ice! Bald Eagles are always a thrilling sight for us, no matter how many times we see them. This was a subadult eagle, that's why its plumage looked mottled and it did not have the white head of the adult. Crows were nearby and one brave crow crowded near the eagle. Most likely the eagle had some bit of fish that was frozen in the ice. It pecked at the ice and we could see the eagle's feet slipping on the ice as we watched it through our scope. What a great way to start our morning.

I digiscoped these photos (photographed them with my canon A620 point and shoot through the scope) through our window and the eagle was more than 500 feet ways from me! This is extreme digiscoping. Most digiscopers suggest the bird be no more than about 50 feet away for small birds, 100 ft. for larger birds.

Lillian's photo tip: Never be afraid to try digiscoping a distant bird. The result may not be a calendar shot, but it could be a record of a rare bird, or just something you want to share with people on your blog. Like I did.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Downy/Hairy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker, male

Hairy Woodpecker, male

Is it a Downy or a Hairy Woodpecker? That's the tricky ID question that even sometimes experienced birders have to pause and think about when encountering these species. Both species look remarkably similar and both can be found at bird feeders across most of the U.S.
Here's two photos of the birds in similar poses.
One of the best ways, we find, to tell them apart is to look at the proportion of the bill to the head length when viewed from the side. The Hairy Woodpecker's bill is usually greater than one-half the depth of the head and the nasal tufts are proportionately smaller. The Downy Woodpecker has a bill less than one-half the depth of the head, and the nasal tufts are proportionately larger. Males of both species have red on the back of the head, females do not.
Other good clues -
The Downy usually has dark bars on the outer tail feathers (barely visible on the above photo) and lacks a black spur on side of breast. Hairy lacks bars on outer tail feathers and usually has a black spur on side of breast. On the photo you can see this little black mark coming out onto the upper breast.
It's a good time to review this ID challenge because the Christmas Bird Count is coming up soon. That's a survey anyone can participate in. Check here for how you can sign-up.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

More Siskins

More Pine Siskins have been at the feeders. Pine Siskins are a type of small finch who breed in northern and western areas and come down, or "irrupt" into other areas of the country when their winter food supply of seeds is scarce. They frequentlly show up at bird feeders, often seen there among your American Goldfinches. This one is on a "thistle sock" feeder, a little mesh bag that holds "thistle", i.e. Nyjer seed. This seed is not from the wildflower thistle, but is an imported seed that is sterilized upon import, to prevent sprouting. We find that finches really do like these finch socks. They can cling on them in any manner and often several will be on one sock. The little socks can be washed to make sure they're clean, then refilled with Nyjer seed.

Note the yellow patch on the wing at the base of the primary feathers. This one is on our finch feeder which is filled with "Nyjer Plus", a mix of Nyjer seed and sunflower chips.

Monday, December 01, 2008

First Snow

We had the first real snow here. The birds flocked to the feeders. Someone asked us to identify the seed in the feeders we show. This hopper feeder is filled with our Stokes Select Cardinal Songbird mix, which has a good percentage of sunflower seeds in it and is a good all-purpose mix for feeder birds.

Our Corgis, Phoebe and puppy Abby, played and played.

This was Abby's first snow. Here she is tasting this delicious white stuff. There's nothing like watching a puppy delight in her first experience of snow.

Phoebe and Abby hang out on "the rocks" area of our property.

Don outside the new kitchen garden.

Corgis running and running.