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Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Short-eared Owl, Wonderful Winter Owl!

Thinking about winter owls. Here's a Short-eared Owl I saw several years ago in Salisbury Beach, MA on Christmas day. What a gift! This wonderful owls breeds across all of Canada and AK and the uppermost part of the West, but winters across most of the U.S. in grasslands and open areas where they hunt voles and mice.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Happy National Bird Day!

Happy National Bird Day! Celebrate birds, protect birds, go birding, feed birds and most of all enjoy birds! I chose to show this Hairy Woodpecker at a feeder because that is the way the majority of Americans interact with birds.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Purple Sandpiper, winters in New England

Sweet Purple Sandpipers are a wintering sandpiper here in New England. They breed in the tundra and winter on the rocky Atlantic Coast. Some may migrate through Greenland and winter in Europe. Not very purple but beautiful to see against the ocean landscape.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Carolina Wren First Bird of 2020, What's Yours?

Carolina Wren was my first bird of 2020. Sign of the times and the warming climate as this species has been moving its range northward, also helped by bird feeders. What was your first bird of 2020?

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Our Christmas Bird Count 2019

 Don looking for the Tree Sparrow

 Eastern Towhee

 Cooper's Hawk

Belted Kingfisher

Northern Mockingbird

 Can you find the mockingbird?

An Eastern Towhee was our best bird yesterday when we participated in the Christmas Bird Count for the greater Concord, MA area which includes parts of 18 towns. Our section in Acton had good habitat and the towhee was found in a shrubby area near a pond. Other highlights were Belted Kingfisher, Cooper's Hawk, Bald Eagle, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Tree Sparrow (found in the wetland near Don) 2 Northern Flickers and Raven, considered less common here. For big numbers we had 58 Mallards and 142 Canada Geese. If you can find a big patch of Multiflora Rose (unfortunately an invasive) you can find a Northern Mockingbird and we found 2. Mockingbirds can form a winter territory around a good berry food source. Our Bald Eagle was seen while we were looking up searching the trees for a kinglet. You just never know where something will pop up, that's the fun! Temps started out below freezing and rose to the 40's, much better than today's sleet storm! We ended the day with 32 species and saw 457 birds for our small section of the total count area where last year they tallied 88 species and 52,501 birds (some of that number included an amazing count of over 20,000 robins). The countdown party is on Thursday so we will see what the numbers are for this year. There are always surprises. (Photos were taken just for records in the field with the canon SX 50 or cell phone, not for high quality portraits of the birds, I was too busy recording birds!)

Thursday, December 19, 2019

How to Help Bluebirds Survive Winter!

We have recently seen Eastern Bluebirds checking out some of their nesting boxes from this past breeding season. They even grab a snack of the dried mealworms if you offer it. They usually move on when the weather gets really bad.

Bluebirds may sometimes remain in some northern areas in winter, much to people's surprise. Here's some tips for bluebird enthusiasts, on how to help bluebirds survive in winter.

1. Bluebirds can roost together in bird houses to keep warm. Insulate your bird houses in winter by closing off all cracks, drainage holes, etc., with some sort of insulating material so less drafts and cold get into the bird house (open these in spring). Just always leave the entrance hole open. Face bird houses away from prevailing winter winds.

2. Bluebirds mainly eat fruit and berries in winter. Plant your property with an abundance of crabapples and native, berry-producing shrubs such as viburnums and hollies (like winterberry holly). Place these berry plantings in sunny, protected areas, blocked from winter winds. The bluebirds will have a warm place to eat and use less precious energy.

3. Some bluebirds will come to food such as, hulled sunflower, suet, dried mealworms, and some of the many "bluebird meal mixtures" or nuggets. Generally most bluebirds do not learn to do this. You can certainly try putting out these foods, but your best bet is to have lots of berries planted in your yard.

4. Bluebirds like water (may help with processing the berries) and will visit bird baths and heated bird baths. In general, when it is very severely cold, some people think it is a risk for birds to bathe. Holding off on the water, or placing sticks over the bird bath to only allow birds to drink, not bathe, may be a good idea in this situation. Many birds will eat snow in winter to get water.

Most bluebirds move out of the northernmost areas of their range in winter. Even ones that may linger eventually move on, once their berry sources are depleted or ice-covered. For bluebirds, and many birds, there is a trade-off of staying more north in order to be first to claim prime breeding territories, yet risking survival due to bad weather. Some of these tips may help them survive and you feel you're helping them. Bluebirds are truly beloved.

For more complete information see Stokes Bluebird Book.

For the very latest identification information and range maps on all three species of North American Bluebirds; Eastern Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird and Western Bluebird, see our new best-seller, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America and the new regional editions, The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern and The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Western Regions.