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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Shearwaters, Cool birds!

Great Shearwater

Cory's Shearwater

Have a fun weekend, go see some birds! If you take a whale watching trip or pelagic birding trip in the Atlantic you may see some cool birds such as, this Great Shearwater, left, or Cory's Shearwater, right. Stay safe if you are in hurricane Dorian's path!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Nighthawks are Migrating Now!

Common Nighthawk, female has buffy throat, no white tail band and smaller white primary band.

Common Nighthawk, male, has white throat, large white primary bars, white subterminal tail band.

Range map, Common Nighthawk. Orange is breeding, blue is wintering (

Carl, Francie, Don and Henry watching for nighthawks

The nighthawks flew until dusk.

Heirloom red and yellow Brandywine tomatoes, yum!

At our annual Common Nighthawk Watch party last night we saw 74 migrating Common Nighthawks from our deck which looks out over a small lake which is a dammed up section of a river corridor and nighthawks follow river corridors. Francie, Carl, us and ace hawk migration counter Henry, scanned the skies until nearly dark. The bad news for the nighthawks is not only are their populations dropping but some are headed to winter in Brazil where the Amazon forest is burning at a record rate right now. Huge amounts of fires have been set by farmers to clear land for business, encouraged by Brazil's president. No party would be good without delicious food such as heirloom Brandywine tomatoes from Rosaly's, greek pizza and stawberry rhubarb pie brought by Carl! Go look for nighthawks from 5:00 until dusk along river corridors.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Barn Swallow Migration Happening Now!

Barn Swallow 

Barn Swallow migration taking place here in NH, had a flock of 25 come through this morning. Each evening we are also seeing small flocks of swallows, mostly Barn and Tree, come through near dusk. And soon it will be Common Nighthawk migration time! We are lucky to live on a river corridor (which is dammed up to form a small lake in front of us) as these birds often follow these corridors as they migrate. Barn Swallows are a declining species so protect them if you have them nesting in your barn.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

A Three Vireo Day is a Good Day!

 Blue-headed Vireo
 Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo

It's a three Vireo morning. Blue-headed, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos all singing/calling next to our house. Already it's a good day! Look for Vireos in woodlands near you.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

10 Tips to Help Birds in Hot Weather

Birds need water to drink,

and bathe.

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

Orange halves are a refreshing treat in warm weather for this Gray Catbird.

An extra roof cools off the bird house above and 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.

The weather has been crazy, ranging from one extreme to another. Here in NH we just had 90 degree summer weather, now it has cooled off a little. Much more hot weather is coming as we go into summer. So when the temperature climbs, 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. You can also put out refreshing treats like cold orange halves which many birds, such as orioles and Gray Catbirds, will enjoy.

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 by adding a second roof for shade. 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, relax in a shady place, get out your binos and The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern or Western Region, watch your birds and have a cold beer or some Prosecco,,,aaahhh!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Going Cuckoo!

Black-billed Cuckoo

Black-billed Cuckoo

Here's a Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Black-billed Cuckoos are being seen now, they eat lots of caterpillars, are secretive and breed in forest habitats across much of the upper two-third of the U.S. from MT east and into southern Canada. Listen for their low pitched cu cu cu cu call. We saw one yesterday gleaning caterpillars at a forest edge. Tell them from the similar Yellow-billed Cuckoo by their black bill and red-eye ring. Yellow-billed Cuckoo has a yellow lower mandible and yellowish eye-ring and its breeding range extends across much of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. Look for them now!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Razorbill, cool seabird!

Photo of a Razorbill I took at Machias Seal Island, off the coast of Maine. This colonial seabird breeds off Maine and the east coast of Canada. You may see them if you go on a whale watch or pelagic birding trip in summer. Love this bird. Here's information on the pelagic birding trip to Machias Seal Island.

Monday, July 08, 2019

How To Help Orphaned Baby Bird

Lots of people ask us what to do because they have found a baby bird such as this American Robin fledgling above. If it is a healthy fledgling (fully feathered and can hop or flutter, such as the fledgling robin above) chances are the parents will care for it if you put it back where you found it and keep pets and humans away from the area.

If it is so young it has no feathers, few feathers, feathers in their sheaths, or still seems too young to hop about or fly, try first to put it back in the nest, if you can locate the nest. Or make a fake nest of a berry basket or margarine container and put it nearest where the original nest was. Watch quietly from a distance for an hour to see if the parents care for it.

If truly abandoned, or if it is injured, you need to get it to a licensed bird rehabilitator as soon as possible. It against the law to keep native baby birds. Licensed bird rehabiltators have special expertise to care for sick, injured and abandoned birds, which they care for with the goal to release them back into the wild.
To find a directory of licensed wildlife rehabilitators in your state click here:

You can also call your nearest audubon society or nature center and get the names of licensed bird rehabilitators near you.

Meanwhile, while caring for a baby bird while waiting to get it to a licensed bird rehabilitator, keep it in a warm, quiet place, such as a shoebox with ventilation holes, or a box or berry basket with soft kleenex as a nest. Here are tips on what to feed and how to care for it as emergency measures but take it to a licensed bird rehabilitator asap!

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Happy July 4th!!

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!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Butterfly Watching For Birders!

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 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.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

National Eagle Day!

It's National American Eagle Day. Here's a pair of Bald Eagles, may favorites, greeting each other.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Bobolink success!

The Bobolinks are breeding at Bobolink Farm, our NH home. Likely 4 breeding pairs. So happy we provide a safe grassland for them to breed in, with our farmer not mowing until August when the young are safely out of the nest.

Hermit Thrush Serenade, Beautiful!

Hermit Thrush

Thrush serenade. A Hermit Thrush was singing its beautiful song as we walked down the dirt road near our property, Bobolink Farm, in NH. Such a treat! Learn the various songs of the thrushes near you and prepare to be serenaded!

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Yellow-billed Cuckoo, secretive, cool bird!

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo was calling off our deck recently. Here is a link to their sounds
So cool to hear this rather secretive bird that hunts for caterpillars, especially tent caterpillars. Love the big, white tail spots. (Photos from another time).