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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Going Cuckoo!!

Going cuckoo. Both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos are being reported from multiple places in New England. I have had both from my condo deck here in MA in past years and had a Yellow-billed recently. Not easy to tell apart, learn the calls first you will hear them more than see them. Aptly named for their bill colors, Yellow-billed has a long tail with bold white tips, Black-billed has small whitish tips on the tail and also a red orbital ring around the eye. These are secretive, woodland birds who love to eat caterpillars. They winter in South America. Cool birds!!

Friday, May 20, 2022

Warbler Fallout, Now!

                                          Golden-winged Warbler
                                         Black-throated Green Warbler
                                                    Magnolia Warbler
                                                Bay-breasted Warbler
                                                Blackburnian Warbler
There's fallout on the NH coast now, get out if you can!! Someone just had 12 species from Church St. parking lot in 1/2 hour. Fallout is when migrating birds encounter weather conditions such as fog, high winds, storms, etc. which ground them. Photos are from another time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Yellow Warblers Arrived! Such Beauty!

Yellow Warbler male
                                            Yellow Warbler, female

The first bird I heard this morning as stepped out on the deck to put out the sunflower feeder was a beautiful Yellow Warbler. Birdsong is good for the soul.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022


Evening Grosbeak
Purple Finch
Just finished a looong working weekend with my coauthor to Stokes Guide to Finches of North America, Matthew A. Young, doing our best to bring you an awesome guide to all things finch!! Coming in 2023.


Friday, April 15, 2022

Pine Warblers Are Arriving!!

Yes, they eat suet. Pine Warbler on my suet feeder a few years ago. When some of the early migrants, like Pine Warbler, arrive there may not be a lot of insects around, especially if it is cold or bad weather. So they can take advantage of a high-calorie food source like suet. Welcome all the migrants with feeders well-feeders with suet and a variety of seeds, as well as hummingbird nectar and orange halves for the catbirds and orioles. The great migration push is beginning, embrace the wonder.


Tuesday, April 05, 2022

The Common Birds Still Excite!

 I get asked whether the common birds excite me anymore. The assumption is that only the rare is valued and thrilling and I am jaded to the ordinary. My answer is hell yes, I get as excited by the common and known birds as much as I did the day I first saw them. Rare birds are exotic, fun, and pulse-quickening. But I look at all birds as mini-miracle bundles of wonder, there to be focused on and cherished.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Greater Prairie-Chickens Booming!

We left at 3:30 a.m. to arrive predawn and stealthily crept through the chill darkness to wait at our blind. The faintest light appeared...slowly the males came...the dancing and the booming, reverberating-through-your-body, other-worldly sounds began. We were watching the lek mating rituals of Greater Prairie-Chickens.
Males gather and display at their mating grounds each spring. They rapidly stamp their feet and produce the booming sounds by inflating the orange air sacs on the sides of their neck, the sound comes from air passing through the syrinx and is amplified by the sacs, an extension of the esophagus. Males also make cackling and whooping noises. Females then arrive and decide which male to mate with, while the males compete for females. Females usually choose older, more experienced males with longer legs, larger eye combs, and the best territories within the lek. After mating the females nest and raise the young themselves.
This took place a number of years ago (when we were with our friends Gary and Diane Cole) at the Prairie Ridge Natural Area, Illinois, the only remaining place east of the Mississippi where Greater Prairie-Chickens, a declining species, can be found on their historical grounds.
You can listen to the sound of the Greater Prairie-chicken here