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Monday, July 16, 2018

Go For The Gold! Attracting Goldfinches!

American Goldfinch, male, eating Purple Coneflower seeds

American Goldfinch with fledgling

Fledgling getting fed

This is the time of year our American Goldfinches are in their brightest colors. They flock to our Purple Coneflower when it starts to go to seed. Above is one very enterprising fledgling goldfinch who landed on the Purple Coneflower, begged from its father, and was rewarded with coneflower seeds fed by its dad.

American Goldfinches are late nesters. When the young have left the nest they will continue to be fed by their parents for a variable amount of time, which can be up to a month. Listen for their distinctive "chipee, chipee, chipee" calls. Eventually they will learn to feed themselves and we will see young goldfinches helping themselves to the seeds of coneflower and some of the other flowers in our garden. Purple Coneflower is such an attractive plant. We enjoy the flowers and then the goldfinches relish the seeds — win-win!

We plant our extensive gardens with many plants and flowers to attract birds. In late summer goldfinches eat the seeds of Purple Coneflower, Verbena bonariensis, rudbeckias, and sunflowers. Later they will feast on the seed heads of Joe-Pye Weed and asters.

Gardening Tip: To attract more birds leave up the seed heads of your flowers! This will attract finches and sparrows such as Chipping, Song, White-troated, and White-crowned Sparrows. Enjoy!!

Goldfinches also come to special finch feeders filled with Nyjer/thistle as well as sunflower feeders. In winter they lose their bright yellow color and turn a drab brown, molting back to bright yellow in spring.

For more ideas on bird-friendly plants see our Stokes Bird Gardening Book.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Happy 4th of July, Red, White and Blue Birds!

Happy 4th of July!!! Red, White and Blue Birds


Northern Cardinal

Great Egret

Indigo Bunting


Eastern Bluebird, male

Flowers from our garden

Here are some red, white and blue birds plus an Eastern Bluebird, male, that gets our vote for most patriotic bird as he has the combined colors in his plumage. Happy Fourth of July! Hope you have a great holiday and see some red, white and blue birds!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Eastern Kingbirds are too (two) tyrannical!


Eastern Kingbirds nest on the pond by our home.


They are large, dark flycatchers, note the white tip to their tail.


Mrs. Kingbird was incubating eggs in her nest built in a Buttonbush, right over the water.

While canoeing on our pond recently we came across nesting Eastern Kingbirds. They had built their nest in a Buttonbush shrub at the very edge of the water. Canoeists and fishermen passed by all day and the birds did not seem to mind. Kingbirds are cool birds and we love that several pairs nest on the pond in front of our home.

Eastern Kingbirds are large flycatchers, darting out from perches to catch insects. They breed in open areas, often near water, across the East and much of the West. Kingbirds have a territory of about an acre and will chase out larger birds, with the kingbirds diving at their back and chasing them much farther than the territorial boundary. We see this all the time. You don't want to mess with a kingbird, if you're another bird. The scientific name of Eastern Kingbird is Tyrannus tyrannus, so the joke goes that kingbirds are too tyrannical (two tyrannical).
Look for them when you go swimming, or boating this summer.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Happy Father's Day!

Hairy Woodpecker male, feeding his fledgling.

Happy Father's Day to all you Dads!
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Butterflies for Birders, Learn More!

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. Check with your local nature society to see which butterfly plants are not invasive in your area. Here's a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly on butterfly bush.


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.


When the birding is slow, and it's the middle of the day, 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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Provide for Breeding Birds!

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, female, comes frequently to feeder, she may be breeding nearby.

Hairy Woodpecker, male (right) taking hulled sunflower back to his nest to feed young. Mr. Cardinal comes for a seed and feeds Mrs. Cardinal as part of courtship and breeding.

Cosy pair of Gray Catbirds, who love the oranges! We have 2 pairs of nesting Catbirds.

View of part of the hayfield.

We have Bobolinks nesting in our fields and make sure our farmer does not hay the field until late August, after all the Bobolinks have fledged.

We have 15 nesting pairs of Tree Swallows in the bird houses we provide. That's great, as this is a declining species near us.

Lots going on here at Bobolink Farm, our NH home. We feel like bird farmers. Breeding birds are everywhere, with many taking advantage of the habitat we have created, our bird feeders and bird houses. It's a great time of year to sit on our deck and watch the show around us. So many baby birds in the works. It gives us great pleasure to know we are helping so many birds, especially since many of these birds, such as Bobolinks, continue to have population declines due to lack of suitable habitat.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Can't Get Enough of Them!

Beautiful Rose-breasted Grosbeak, male, at our feeder

The shape of the red bib of the male can vary, 

making it possible to individually identify them.


Female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are more subtly colored.

Here's another example of a female.

Here's a 1st-winter male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. He looks much like the female but with a variable rosy wash on the breast. The 1st-winter female looks much like the adult female.

Can one get enough of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks? I think not. We celebrate their arrival each spring. They're strikingly gorgeous. We're lucky because we have them visiting our feeders regularly. They must be nesting nearby, although we do not know exactly where. Maybe they will bring the fledglings to the feeder as they have done in the past.
The male's plumage is so striking with the dramatic red on the white breast. One of the things we look at is the red bib of red on the male. It is a slightly different shape for each bird, making it possible to often recognize individuals. The female is not as knock-your-socks-off brilliantly colored as the male. Then again, he does not have to sit on the nest, as she does, a sitting duck for any predator. So, for her, it's much better to have subtle, more camouflaged colors. The young male Rose-breasted Grosbeak at first looks like the adult female but with a rosy wash on his breast. Eventually he will acquire the plumage of the adult male.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks breed in the upper quadrant of the eastern half of the U.S. and much of Canada and winter south of the U.S., so many people may see them during migration in many parts of the country. Attract them to your feeders with black oil sunflower seed, in the shell or shell less, their favorite. Make sure that feeders have a ledge or wide enough perching area for them to land. Enjoy your weekend, hope you see some Rose-breasted Grosbeaks!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Beautiful Migrants Headed Your Way!

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Red-eyed Vireo

Prothonotary Warbler

Hooded Warbler

Scarlet Tanager, female

Scarlet Tanager, female

Orchard Oriole, female

Happiness is... a Gumbo Limbo tree loaded with fruits at the Sanibel Lighthouse park if you are hungry migrants such as these. These migrants depend on finding food when they arrive in SW FL after crossing the Gulf of Mexico. The fact that Sanibel's code is to keep native vegetation on its properties insures there will be fruit and insects available for migrants and helps conserve these birds. Think of helping both migrant and resident birds on your property by planting plenty of native trees and shrubs. You will be rewarded with the sight of beautiful avian jewels and the birds will thank you. Soon these migrants will be arriving near you! Enjoy them by keeping your binos handy and getting our The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region or Western Region.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Beautiful Black-necked Stilts are Breeding!

Black-necked Stile, male


Black-necked Stilt, female

The Black-necked Stilts are nesting at the Bailey Tract on Sanibel, FL. The female (brown back) took a break from incubating to feed and the male sat on the nest, then the female returned and resumed incubating. These beautiful shorebirds breed in the shallow water of marshes, ponds, fields, and impoundments in coastal areas of some of the eastern half of the country and in some coastal and inland areas of the western half of the country. Even though there are plans to fill in one of the ponds in the Bailey Tract to create more marsh, we hope it it after these wonderful birds are through breeding.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Orchard Oriole Migrants, Nice!

Orchard Oriole, male

Orchard Oriole, male

New migrant yesterday was this beautiful male Orchard Oriole at the Sanibel lighthouse park. On it's way to its breeding range in much of the eastern part of the U.S.except the very upper East. Such a treat, as where I live in NH, it would be rare to see one.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Migrant Warblers, Here they Come and How to Help Them

Black-and-white Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler

Palm Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Migrant Black-and-white Warbler, often thought of as the upside down warbler because of its habit of foraging upside down on tree limbs and trunks (don't try this at home). Palm Warbler with a nice lunch and female Prairie Warbler preening after crossing the Gulf of Mexico. These migrants find a big welcome at the Sanibel lighthouse park, which has ample native vegetation for food and cover. Sanibel's policy is to landscape public places with native vegetation and for homeowner's to keep native vegetation on their property! So, if you want to attract birds to your property and provide for migrants coming though, landscape with native vegetation!!