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Monday, June 25, 2012

Butterflies for Birders!



When the birding slows down look for butterflies! Here's a Monarch Butterfly. They lay their eggs on milkweed and their caterpillars feed on this plant.

Great Spangled Frittillary on Purple Coneflower

Close-up of Great Spangled Fritillary

American Lady Butterfly, told by the two eye spots on underside of the hindwing

Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies are unmistakable

Spicebush Swallowtails can be told from other big, dark swallowtails by their single row of prominent white dots inside the margin of their forewings.
The larvae of Spicebush Swallowtails feed on spicebush and sassafrass.

Pearl Crescent butterfly. Scores are feeding on white clover on our path so we keep the path mowed high to preserve the clover flowers for them.

Mourning Cloaks are widespread across much of North America. They are one of the few butterflies who overwinter as adults, finding protected places in log piles, nooks, or under loose bark, and when they emerge in the spring they look worn, as this butterfly does. They are one of the longest lived butterflies and some may live as long as 10 months. Mourning Cloaks feed on sap and fruit.
Our butterfly bushes will bloom soon and they're magnets for the butterflies. Here's a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly on one of them.

We've written two books to help you attract and identify butterflies.Stokes Beginner's Guide To Butterflies, has an easy ID key to help you quickly identify the butterflies you see by size and shape.


Stokes Butterfly Book gives you plans for a butterfly garden, lists and photos of butterfly plants, and chapters, with color photos, on the identification, behavior and caterpillars of common butterflies. Both are available at amazon.com and stores.

In the middle of the day, when birds become less active, a wonderful thing for birders to do is look for butterflies. Butterflies are colorful flying creatures, just like birds. The identification skills birders already have can be transferred to identifying butterflies. Look at butterflies through your binoculars, no need to catch them in a net.

The hot weather favors butterflies as they need to warm their bodies to fly. They need to get their body temperature up to 85 to 100 degrees Farenheit in order to fly well. Adult butterflies come to flowers for nectar, lay their eggs on special host plants, which can be unique to each species of butterfly. The eggs hatch, larva feed on the plant then turn into a pupa or crysalis from which the adult butterfly will emerge. A complete cycle or generation is called a brood, and butterfly species can go through from just one to as many as four broods per year, depending on the species and the number of warm months. Different butterflies are on the wing at different times during the summer, so you will continue to see new species.

There are about 17,000 species of butterflies in the world. In North America there are about 700 species but only a small fraction are common and likely to be seen by the average person.

When you see a butterfly watch it closely for several minutes. Observe how it flies, its size, shape, and the colors and patterns on its wings, both above and below.

Start by knowing the major families of butterflies that are distinctive. Below are some:

Swallowtails - are our largest butterflies and most have long tails coming off their hind wings.

Whites and Sulfurs - these are all medium-sized butterflies that are predominantly white or yellow.

Gossamer Wings - this group is easy to identify since it includes all of our smallest butterflies, such as the blues, coppers and hairstreaks, and metalmarks. The blues tend to be iridescent blue, coppers are often copper, hairstreaks often have hairlike tails on their hind wings, and metalmarks often have metallic spots on their wings.

Brush-footed Butterflies - this is a large and varied group of medium-sized, generally dark-colored butterflies with such strong and rapid flight they are hard to follow. Their is no one field characteristic, besides their flight, that makes them easy to identify as a group.

Satyrs - these are medium-sized butterflies that are almost all brown, often with darker eye-spots on their wings. They have a weak and bobbing flight and are often seen at woods edges or among grasses.

Skippers - are small butterflies whose flight is extremely rapid and erratic. They are mostly rich brown or orange-brown.

Enjoy the butterflies!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hot Weather Help for Birds: 10 Tips to Keep them Cool



Birds need water to drink,

and bathe.

"Hey, where's the towel and the frozen daquiris?"


An extra roof cools off the bird house below.


This baby American Robin cooled off the only way it knows how, by panting. Birds have no sweat glands and so cool themselves by rapid respiration with their mouths open


I used the mister setting on the hose to cool off the robin nest by misting the air and foliage above.

Hummingbird Feeder with shade roof

Hot weather is here and it's very hot in the East now and elsewhere. So here's some tips to keep your feathered buddies cool:

1. Bird baths, bird baths, bird baths! Birds need water to bath and drink in hot weather so buy a bird bath. You can even use any wide flat container for a bird bath, such as the lid of a trash can or a large saucer that it used under a flowerpot.

2. Choose a bird bath that is shallow and has a non-slip surface. Small birds do not like to bathe in deeper water. You can add flat rocks to a bird bath that is too deep in order to create a shallow ledge for small birds to land on to drink and bathe.

3. Add a dripper, bubbler or to your bird bath. The sound of moving water will be a magnet for the birds and alert them to the presence of a water source.

4. Keep the water in your bird bath cool by adding ice cubes several times a day, or refilling the bird bath with a hose.

5. Birds will feel safer if the bird bath is placed in a more open area so no predators can hide nearby. Provide a stake or branch placed in the ground near the bird bath, if no landing places exist near it, so birds have a place to wait their turn at the bath.

6. Air condition your bird houses. We nail on a piece of plywood, using long nails and only nailing them part way into the original roof. This leaves an air space between the two roofs of about an inch. The second roof shades the first roof plus the airspace between the roofs acts as an insulator, keeping the bird house cooler. In some cases we have just shaded the roof of a bird house with piece of cardboard.

7. Misters are coolers. Misters can be bought to attach to a bird bath, or clip to shrubs near a bath. They spray a fine mist that birds can fly though, or rub against the wet shrubbery. Hummingbirds will often fly through misters, or even a garden sprinkler.

8. Use a mister on a hose. Our hose has a mist setting on the nozzle. We have misted the foliage and area above a robin nest to cool off the babies in extreme heat.

9. Think Shade. Birds will seek out shady areas and lie low in the worst heat of the day. If you do not have shade on your property plant some shade trees and big shrubs. Place bird feeders in a shady area during summer.

10. Shade hummingbird feeders. Place them in shade. Some feeders, such as our Stokes Select Jubilee Hummingbird Feeder, pictured above, comes with its own shade/rain roof, including and ant moat on the roof. You can also buy baffle-type shields and hang them above a feeder. Don't forget to change your hummingbird nectar solution every 2 days in really hot weather.

And tips for you....

Stay out of the sun and heat in the middle of the day, wear a hat and sunscreen when you do go out, and at the end of the day, after you have taken care of the birds, have a cold beer or some Prosecco,,,aaahhh!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Look who's in the mealworm feeder


Mrs. Eastern Bluebird has brought her fledgling to the dried mealworm feeder. Baby is still begging, but soon will learn to feed itself. Oh, so cute!
Our bluebirds are a constant source of delight and entertainment for us. We give them good housing, the right habitat of open mowed lawns, and supplemental food. Win, win!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

No fighting!

Male Goldfinches in a squabble on a perch near the feeder. No fighting allowed, can't they read the sign?

Friday, June 01, 2012

Stokes Garden in Country Gardens Magazine

Our bird garden is featured in the summer issue of Country Gardens magazine, now on newsstands. Get your copy and learn all we share to help you attract birds.

Our 48 acre bird property in southern NH is named Bobolink Farm, here's a view from our deck.

We named our property after the Bobolinks who nest in our hayfields, which we do not cut until late summer so they can complete their breeding.

Everything is landscaped with an eye towards attracting birds. Here are the Prairie Fire crabapples in bloom. Their fruits attract Cedar Waxwings, robins, thrushes, bluebirds, vireos and more.

The article on our garden was produced by well-know garden writer, Tovah Martin and photographed by Rob Cardillo, one of the country's top garden photographers. Editor of Country Gardens, James Baggett also came on the shoot. We had lots of fun working with them all and the article is fabulous. It's titled "A Garden Takes Flight." Here Rob is standing on our deck to get an aerial view of our kitchen garden, and Don and James look on while Tovah is in the garden. There is a lot of work behind-the-scenes, including our getting the garden looking its best for the shoot. It rained for some of the time, but was misty at other times, so Rob was able to take photos.

Our kitchen garden has a hummingbird feeder hanging from the center planter. Pick veggies and enjoy the hummingbirds! We have many more tips for you to attract birds in the article.

We strive for good design and add plantings for the birds. I choose the plant material combinations, Don does much of the heavy work. 

A gazebo to the right has hummingbird feeders hanging from it, so we can enjoy them while sitting and overlooking this perennial border. A blue urn is a focal point.

We have many, many bird feeders, including offering unusual foods, like oranges for the Gray Catbirds.

 We have lots of bird houses and 15 breeding pairs of Tree Swallows, shown here, as well as Eastern Bluebirds. Enjoy the article!