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Monday, February 18, 2019

Downy vs. Hairy Woodpecker, can you tell the difference?

Downy Woodpecker, m. (left), Hairy Woodpecker, f. (right) on Stokes Select Four Cake Suet Buffet feeder.

Wow, look at the size difference. In this photo you can see the bars on the outer tail feathers of the Downy Woodpecker. This usually occurs on most subspecies of Downy Woodpecker except the "leucurus subspp (s.e. AK-. NE south to AZ-NM) may lack barring on tail." (from The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which contains information on all subspecies of birds, no other field guide does). The Hairy Woodpecker usually has white unbarred outer tail feathers (except in a few subspecies).

Friday, February 15, 2019

Common Redpolls are here!



Common Redpolls are beautiful winter finches that can be attracted to your feeders with Finch mixes, nyjer/thistle and hulled sunflower. Look for them as they are still being seen. Waiting for them to show up at our feeders in NH this year.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Great White Pelican Again, Will She Be Accepted 1st N.A. Record?


Great White Pelican adult female, left, American White Pelican, right
Great White Pelican
Great White Pelican adult female, left, American White Pelican, right

Amazingly the female Great White Pelican, a species from Africa, Asia and Europe, that first made an appearance at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel, FL Feb. 28, 2016 appeared back again there yesterday for the 3rd time in 4 years. Each time she has appeared it has been in February. She usually is seen in the company of American White Pelicans. The big question is, is she a wild or escaped bird? This bird was rejected as a new North American record by the Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee. This new sighting of the Great White Pelican could be resubmitted to the FOS committee and the case reopened.  So stay tuned.
There are interesting discussions about this taking place on the Florida Birding and Rarities FB Group. Researchers are also asking for information about any banded American White Pelicans the Great White Pelican is hanging out with.

There is interesting information about this bird. For starters, the evidence is that she is not an escaped bird from the U.S. A Great White Pelican expert,who keeps track of the Great White Pelicans in captivity in this country had done a survey of them just before this Great White Pelican first appeared in 2016 and said there were no escaped birds. Also Great White Pelicans in captivity are banded or microchipped and she has no bands.
There is also an informative research paper on The origin of out-of-range pelicans in Europe: Wild bird dispersals or zoo escapees? It found that a lot of the Great White Pelicans found in northern Europe are vagrants and not zoo escapees. Annual vagrancy patterns in Europe were well predicted for all three species (including Great White Pelican) then by population size indices, reproductive success and/or climatic components, which presumably influence survival and/or dispersal.
Wintering conditions such as the previous year's rainfall could effect the water conditions on the wintering grounds and then the ability of European Great White Pelicans to survive the winter in Africa and to come back to Europe the next spring.
Hopefully the FOS Records Committee will again consider this bird and consult further scientific input and other relevant information.
(Photos are from the 2016 and 2017 appearances.) See my other posts on this bird from the
2016 appearances stayed Feb. 28th to Mar. 3rd
2017 appearances here and here.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Spring in February, Cardinals Singing 60 degrees



Cardinals singing, Downy Woodpeckers drumming, nuthatches singing "were-wer-wer" 60 degrees, its spring in Feb.!! Riding the global climate change roller-coaster. The upside today.



Thursday, January 31, 2019

Bohemian Waxwings, Awesome Birds!

Bohemian Waxwings are being seen this winter in NH. Sometimes, the stars are aligned for a photographer. I went to northern NH several years ago to try and photograph Bohemian Waxwings. Where hundreds had been reported, I found only one, but what a cooperative bird!

Click, click, click. It posed, feeding on the crabapples, resting to digest them, looking about, even eating snow at one point, all the while oblivious to me and the other passers-by in the parking lot where it was.


If you want plumage drama, then this is the bird for you. What an exquisite contrast between the gray-brown, velvety, body feathers and the dramatic black, white and orange facial, wing and under tail markings, all finished with the yellow tail tip like an exclamation point! These graphic markings remind me of certain styles of japanese painting or designs on Native American pottery.

A huge advantage of digital photography is that you can enlarge and look closely at your photos and discover fascinating things about a bird, such as that the black mask is underlined with white.

You can notice what a small bill yet large gape this bird has. The black comes fairly far out the upper and under surface of the bill.

Waxwings (both Bohemian and Cedar) have appendages on the wing, like little, red candles.

Here's a close-up showing some of the waxy projections on this bird. The number of them varies with sex and age so that "1st-yr .females may have 0-5 waxy projections on wing and reduced yellow on tail; 1st-yr. male and older birds have 4 or more waxy projections.." From (The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, our new book.) 

This bird was agile in grasping onto the crabapples, then let go.

My camera caught this spread wing which shows at least 6 waxy projections which are the tips of the secondary feathers. How cool is that!

It's all about crabapples and eating them. Waxwings are big fruit eaters and usually wander in flocks, all the more eyes to find the berries. It's interesting this bird was alone. Many of the crabappple trees at this location were pretty stripped of berries, perhaps the flock had moved on.

The size of the crabapples mattered. Even though this bird could open it's mouth fairly wide, 


some of the apples seemed too big to swallow and we saw it toss some of them. Lesson for the bird gardener — plant crabapple trees in your yard that have small diameter apples. (We have Zumi and Sargent crabapples in our yard, which seem right for the birds.)

It's just amazing how wide that bill can open, reminds me of a snake swallowing prey. We also saw this bird eat snow, getting fluid to help process the fruits.

Bohemians are far northern birds, nesting in the boreal forests of mainly western North America (as well as the northern parts of Europe and Asia). When their prime food of berries is in short supply in winter they" irrupt" or wander widely (hence the name bohemian, i.e. gypsy-like) down into the northern areas of the U.S.



I was in heaven photographing this beautiful Bohemian Waxwing. Photography is not a zen moment as some people may think. It's fast, furious, demanding of all my skills and a rush when I think I am getting good photos. You never know if your subject bird will fly away so you have to keep clicking, moving your angle and big camera, as the bird moves in the tree, adjusting f-stop, ISO, exposure compensation, etc. You're grateful if you come away with half decent photos or thrilled, as in this case, when you get fascinating images of an extraordinary bird. I love it!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Pine Grosbeaks Visit, Wow!










Several years ago we had two female Pine Grosbeaks (the males are mostly red) hanging out in our "Prairie Fire" crabapple trees chowing down. I was amazed how many apples they ate and they seemed to continuously eat for most of the afternoon, like a kid going through the Halloween candy. They were really very tame, not at all bothered by us or the Corgis who ran under the trees. The hardest part of photographing them was to get a clear show through the tangle of apple branches and also to every get a photo of them without applesauce covering their bill!
This is a more northern species who usually is found throughout Canada and up into AK and parts of the West. In irruptive years, such as this one, when so many northern species come down into the U.S. due to lack of food in their usual area, Pine Grosbeaks can join the exodus. Pine Grosbeaks are now being reported from numerous locations around our state of NH.
Thus far we have had these irruptive species visit our yard; Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls, Purple Finches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, White-winged Crossbills, and now, Pine Grosbeaks.
We try hard to landscape our property for the birds, using lots of berry and food producing shrubs and trees. It pays off when we get to see such a beautiful species.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Feeding Bluebirds in Winter, How You Can Help

Eastern Bluebird male
Eastern Bluebird female at Stokes Select Suet feeder



What do Eastern Bluebirds do in extreme cold? They sit on their feet to keep them warm and chow down on high calorie foods like suet at our Stokes Select Double Capacity Suet Feeder that will give them the energy they need to make it through the night. Such a treat to see these bluebirds up close. You can provide for them at your feeders by offering suet and hulled sunflower.