Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Most of the birds we saw were far away, so all were photographed at quite a distance. Here's a male Mallard.
The Connecticut River at one of our stops. It's quite a beautiful river and a very important migration highway and breeding area for birds.
When I said the birds were far away, this gives you an idea how far. The photos of the mergansers above were taken at this size in the original, uncropped photo. Can you make them out in the middle of the photo? This is the before shot of the mergansers showing their upper wings. The beauty of my new Canon 1D Mark IV camera is that it's 16 megapixels, so I am able to photograph birds that are very far away, but still crop them to usable size (72 dpi) for blog photos. Of course you have to get them in flight, as a tiny dot, in the center of the lens, with the autofocus operating, and shoot.
Lots of birders equal more fun and many eyes to spot things. Scopes were essential and people with scopes generously shared them with people who did not have them.
I helped this birder, find in the scope, the Barrow's Goldeneye, female. I really like to work with people to help them spot the birds. There's always an "oh, wow" moment for them when they see the cool bird everyone else is on.
Common Mergansers were plentiful. The male is below, female above. It shows her white chin and I love the red feet. We get lots of migrating Common Mergansers on the pond we live on.
At Herrick's Cove IBA, a stop on the Vermont side of the river, birders went out on a spit of land and saw few ducks but up in the sky there were 2 Bald Eagles!
At Herrick's cove, we found a Black-capped Chickadee excavating a nest in a birch. Chickadees will nest in bird houses and can excavate their own nest cavity in soft, partially rotted wood.
What a riot, it's launched in mid-air, with a beakful of birch. The chickadees flew off with the excavated material and deposited it away from the nest. I hope they have a successful breeding.
The last stop was near Springfield where we looked way, way across at that mountain at a rocky ledge, and saw a nesting Peregrine Falcon sitting at the nest, a white dot in the scope.
This birding trip, on Sun., was billed as a waterfowl safari, surveying the ducks in migration on the Middle Connecticut River, IBA (Important Bird Area) in NH (from Charlestown to Walpole) and VT (from Westminster to Springfield.) The trip was co-sponsored by the Monadnock Chapter of NH Audubon and Harris Center for Conservation Education. There were over 35 birders. We had a great time. Here's the final bird list, tallied by Julie Tilden and Phil Brown.
BRANT - 1 Atlantic race observed in Great Meadow of Charlestown
Wood Duck - 15
Mallard - 100
American Black Duck - 40
Green-winged Teal - 30+
Common Goldeneye* - 2 females from Joy Wah Restaurant (VT)
Hooded Merganser - 10
Common Merganser - 40+
Great Blue Heron - 1 roadside
Bald Eagle* - 3 (2i, 1a) observed from Herrick's Cove
Northern Harrier - 1 at Herrick's Cove + 1 at Great Meadow ~3 pm
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1 Walpole
Cooper's Hawk - 2
American Kestrel - 1 at Great Meadow
Peregrine Falcon* - pair at Springfield, VT ledges
Belted Kingfisher* - 1 at Herrick's Cove
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Hairy Woodpecker - 2
Eastern Phoebe - 1 found by Ken Klapper at Great Meadow
Common Raven - 3
Black-capped Chickadee - 1 excavating nest hole at Herrick's Cove
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Eastern Bluebird - 5+ in a few places
Song Sparrow - 20+ on the ground at once at Herrick's Cove alone
White-throated Sparrow - Great Meadow
Friday, March 26, 2010
Do you feed bluebirds, and if so, what do your bluebirds eat??
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Eastern Phoebe nest in the rafters of our barn. The sheet metal acts as a baffle to prevent the Red Squirrel from reaching the nest.
We just saw the first Eastern Phoebe arrive on our property. Perhaps this is the same phoebe, that has nested in the same spot, in our bard for at least the last 4 years, (it's always amazing when that happens), we hope so. The barn doors are open for it. The nesting spot is surrounded by a several pieces of sheet metal, put up several years ago, which prevents the naughty Red Squirrel from eating the eggs out of the nest, as it once did.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I was sitting in my Leonard Lee Rue photo blind at the edge of our pond/lake (actually a dammed up section of river), waiting a long time for the Common Mergansers to swim within camera range, my feet getting cold in the chilly, raw weather. The mergansers and other ducks were far off, and did not come into the cove at all.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
and hit the button just as he left. Thanks to my Canon 1D Mark IV, with it's fast 10 frames per second speed, for the flight photo.
and took a moment to preen and scratch. Can you believe the way he has his foot coming up behind his wing to scratch the back of his head? Maybe he does yoga.
We have a pair of Eastern Bluebirds checking out our bird houses. The male sings and defends the territory. The other day, there was a distant male singing, so "our" male sang even more and vigilantly went from perch to perch, not minding me, and I was able to get the above photos. A second female showed up and landed near our pair. The two females fought and fell to the ground, while the male looked on and watched. The second female then flew away. Rivalry for mates and nesting spots is at an intense level now. Our pair has not chosen a box yet. They better decide soon, as Tree Swallows will arrive in large numbers and compete with the bluebirds for nest boxes.
Step 1. Choose a nest box that is made of wood, has no perch, and has a 1 1/2-inch-diameter hole for Eastern and Western Bluebirds. For Mountain Bluebirds choose a nest box with a 1 9/16-inch-diameter hole (Western Bluebirds will also use this box in areas where the two species overlap). The box should preferably have drainage holes in the bottom and ventilation holes at the top of the sides. The diameter of the floor should be approximately 4 by 4 inches for Eastern Bluebirds and 5 by 5 inches for Mountain and Western Bluebirds.
Step 2. Place the box in open, mowed habitat at least 100 feet from brushy wooded areas. Good areas are large lawns, open fields, farmland, pastureland, and parks. If you do not have this type of habitat then you might work with a friend who does have the right habitat and establish a bluebird trail there. Mount the nest box about 4 to 5 feet high on a metal pole, facing any direction. You can also use a garden U-post. Use a baffle, or place a 4-foot length of 4-inch-diameter PVC pipe on the pole or post which will keep predators from climbing to the box. Make sure and put a cap on the top of the PVC pipe to prevent bluebirds from entering it. A "trail" consists of several boxes placed 100 yards apart. Put boxes up by early spring, before nesting starts.
Monday, March 22, 2010
1 Northern Harrier, male
7 Ring-necked Ducks
20 Common Mergansers
7 Green-winged Teal
8 Black Ducks
2 Hooded Mergansers
3 Song Sparrows
3 Northern Flickers
1 Purple Finch
When viewed from behind, the black on the trailing edge of the underside of the wings of a Pileated in flight, as here, may seem less conspicuous.
Yesterday we went to see the Lord God Bird documentary film (USA, 2008, 91 min.) made by NH producer George Butler at a film festival here in NH. This is a documentary on the search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Butler and his crew spent two years in the swamps of the southeastern U.S. interviewing ornithologists, birders, hunters and others and "wasn't out to convince anyone of the ivory-bills existence," so the film interviews people with opposing viewpoints. As of now, (to our knowledge) there has not been any definitive photo obtained that has been widely accepted by scientists as proof of the continued existence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker today.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Lots of activity here at the bird feeders, with migrants arriving and other birds, such as Tree Sparrows, about to leave. Tree Sparrows, unlike their name, like shrubby field areas, not heavily treed habitat. They visit our feeders all winter and soon will return to their breeding grounds north of the tree line in arctic areas. Right now they are singing, a warm-up for them and a delight for us!
- Common Grackles migrate out of the northern parts of their range in winter, and travel in large, noisy flocks, often with other blackbirds such as Red-winged Blackbirds. During the breeding season, the male flies with his tail held in a "V" shape. Common Grackles nest in colonies or singly.
- Common Grackles are found in many habitats, such as agricultural fields, city parks, feedlots, suburban areas, forest edges and marshes.
- Grackles walk around the ground, looking for food and will eat a very wide variety of items, including crops, especially corn, grain, insects, bird’s eggs, mice, frogs, acorns, and fruit. They like all kinds of bird seeds, especially cracked corn, and will descend on feeders sometimes in numbers, eat large quantities of seed, and may discourage the small birds from feeding.
- Grackles can easily eat from many kinds of bird feeders, such as tube feeders, platform feeders and hoppers, as well as eating seed off the ground, so do not use these if you want to discourage grackles or add the types of feeders grackles cannot feed from.
- One of the very best ways to keep grackles off bird seed and reserve the seed for smaller birds such as chickadees, titmice, finches, nuthatches, etc., is to use tube feeders surrounded by a cage. The distance from the side of the cage to the tube must be far enough to deter grackles. The Stokes Select Squirrel-Proof Feeder (available from retailers and online, note a percentage of profits goes to bird conservation) is an excellent way to discourage grackles (as well as squirrels!) from seed. Grackles are too large to fit through the holes in the cage, but smaller birds can easily enter and feed from the tube. We used several of our Stokes Select Squirrel-Proof feeders to prevent grackles from seed, when we lived in FL and had flocks of wintering grackles visiting our yard. We use these feeders here in NH when grackles are here, to make sure the smaller birds have seed.
- If you use suet, put it in the kind of suet holder where the suet can only be accessed from below, requiring a bird to hover or cling upside down, something grackles do not like to do.
Note: If you have not put up birdhouses, or cleaned out your old ones, now is the time! Bluebirds and others are actively looking for boxes.
Have a good weekend.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Saturday, March 06, 2010
There are lots of raptors on Sanibel. Nesting Ospreys are abundant with well over 100 nests this year. The female Osprey remains at the nest during most of breeding, with the male bringing in food - the fish he captures. I love the sound of her constant calling.