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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sound of Spring

This Red-winged Blackbird posed near the feeder. We love the "O-kaa-lee" songs of the Red-winged Blackbirds who are breeding around the marshy edge of our pond, it is such a sound of spring.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2006

Friday, April 28, 2006

B.O.D. (Bird of the Day), Eastern Towhee

Just about every morning we look at birds, even if it is just out our window over a cup of coffee. We record in our journal the birds we see, and anything else interesting going on. We have a little daily "award" called the B.O.D., or Bird Of the Day that we give to the most unusual or special bird we record that day. Today's B.O.D. award goes to the Eastern Towhee that showed up at our feeder. We were first alerted to it by its "che-wink" call note. It was at our feeder eating cracked corn. The bird we saw today was a male, who is black above with rufous sides. The above photo is of a female we photographed last year. The Eastern Towhee used to be considered one species with the Spotted Towhee of the West, and both were called Rufous-sided Towhee. They are now considered separate species and have separate names.

The reason we consider this a special bird is that Eastern Towhees are a species whose population is in decline throughout its range, particularly in New England where we live. That is because their habitat of shrubby edges or open woods with shrub understory is being lost due to development. So we were pleased to host a towhee today, whether it is just a migrant, or decides to stay and breed.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2006

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Migration Celebration

Migration has started all across North America. Billions of birds will be on the move from their wintering locations in the southern U. S., Central and South America. Braving sometimes disastrous weather, hoping refueling stops are available and breeding grounds still there, they travel above us, a vast avian treasure. It is up to us to insure their vital lands are protected and they survive. Look up, celebrate, and protect.

White Pelicans breed on lakes in the western parts of the U.S. and Canada

Short-earred Owls breed in the upper U.S. and in the vast, critical, Boreal Forest. 50% of the 700 species of birds that regularly occur in the U.S. and Canada rely on the Boreal for their survival.

Red Knots may soon become extinct if Horseshoe Crabs (whose eggs they eat for refueling food) in Delaware Bay aren't protected from overharvesting.

Ducks need their nesting grounds protected in the vast Prairie Pothole region of the U.S. and Canada, which can produce as much as 50% of the continental waterfowl population.

Spotted Sandpipers who breed on lakes and rivers across much of the U.S., need those shorelines protected.

And American Robins, who migrate through, and may stop to breed in your yard, need you to create good bird habitat on your own property and participate in local and national bird conservation, before even they become endangered.

All photos © Lillian Stokes, 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Red Mountain Majesty

Last night the final rays of the setting sun created this beauty. We cherish moments like this and appreciate the rich diversity of habitats that is Bobolink Farm: meadow, hayfields, pond, estuary, woodlands, marsh. We feel a sense of accomplishment that we have placed it under conservation easement, and encourage others to do the same on lands that they treasure.
Photo © Lillian Stokes

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sapsucker and Tulips

There is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker excavating a nest hole in the woods behind our new garden. We dig in the earth and listen to the tapping, excavation sounds of wood being chisled. We are excited to think we will witness the nesting life of this bird.

Tulips are bursting, their petals uncurled, pollen-laden anthers visible agains the dark throat. The yellow stigma stands at attention, waiting to be pollinated. The promise of reproduction is in the air.
All photos © Lillian Stokes, 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006


Crows are always visible as we look out over our home, Bobolink Farm. Crows are wary, wise, and curious. We appreciate them. Today we watched a Crow watch a Woodchuck, newly emerged from its hibernation den, as it walked along our stone wall. Bobolink Farm fronts on the Contoocook River. We learned that "Contoocook" is a Native American word meaning "where the crows are". How apt.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


(Click on photo for larger version)

(birdPod and the Radio shack #40-1441 speaker)

Note, update: As of January '07 birdPod has changed its name to birdJam, read our review, click HERE.

If you want to learn birds songs, such as the song of this Yellow Warbler, in a whole new super-fast way, get birdPod(birdJam). What is birdPod? birdPod (birdJam) is an ipod (Apple's digital music player) loaded with Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs CDs, (which contain the songs and calls of almost all North American Birds), plus the birdPod (birdJam) software.

Of course, you can also load the Stokes Field Guide To Bird Songs CDs onto an ipod and listen to them without getting the birdpod (birdJam) software. The Stokes songs would appear the way they are on the Stokes Field Guide To Bird Songs CDs, where they are essentially organized by phylogenetic order such as, Seabirds, Heronlike Birds, etc. You would just scroll to the name of the bird you wanted and listen to its songs and calls. This works well when you know the name of the bird you want to listen to.

What the birdpod (birdJam) software does is use the bird songs on the Stokes CDs and organizes them into playlists that group birds by things such as habitat or family, for example, "urban birds" or "forest birds." This is useful for both the learning of birds songs and the identification of birds in the field, especially if you don't know what bird is making the sound. If you were in an urban habitat, you could go to the playlist of "urban birds" and listen to the sounds until you came to the sound you were trying to identify. The birdPod (birdJam) software removes the spoken bird name announcement at the beginning of each track (which you don't need, since the written name of the bird appears in the ipod window) and it splits double tracks into single tracks for fast access.

The birdPod (birdJam) company says, "birdpod combines the best bird sound collection available, Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs, Eastern and Western Regions, with our birdPod software to create the ultimate bird song less than 15 seconds, you can find and listen to any of 650 species of North American Birds".

To access bird songs on the ipod, you just push the center white button then run your thumb or finger around the gray dial to quickly scroll up or down the bird lists. It just takes seconds to do this and is much faster than loading and unloading CDs in and out of a CD player and finding the right track. The ipod player is about the size of a deck of cards, shown above. You can listen through little ear phones or attach an external speaker, shown here, to broadcast the songs. You can even buy a device that lets you play your ipod through your car radio.

The blog, 10,000 Birds, had a review, calling it "Beautiful BirdPod.... birdPod is most assuredly both convenient and portable......The genius of the birdPod is not the iPod itself; that's Apple's masterwork of design. Nor have the manufacturers of the birdPod put together their own coast to coast compilation of bird calls. For that they turned to the highly regarded Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs, Eastern and Western Region. ......the birdPod looks to be a very useful tool for any birder attempting to expand his or her repetoire of North American bird calls."

Birdpod (birdJam) can be purchased from the birdPod website store as 3 options:
1. The ipod already loaded with the birdPod (birdJam) software plus the Stokes Field Guide To Bird Songs CDs.
2. The birdpod (birdJam) software and the Stokes Field Guide To Bird Songs CDs, (because you already own an ipod).
3. The birdPod (birdJam) software alone, (because you already own an ipod and the Stokes Field Guide To Bird Songs CDs).

You can also buy the Stokes Field Guide To Bird Songs CDs by themselves from and many other online retailers, and stores.

While writing this, we have been listening to our ipod play all the warbler songs — a great cheer up on a rainy New Hampshire day, and good practice for the coming warbler season. So get ready to increase your birding skills, learn bird songs on your iPod.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Spring rains are spreading across much of the East today and tomorrow. 'Tis the time for many amphibians to emerge from their winter hiding places and migrate to vernal ponds to breed.
When the air temperature remains above 40 degrees and rain begins in the afternoon and goes through the evening, Spotted Salamanders migrate at nightfall to ponds to breed and lay eggs. Sometimes hundreds, or even thousands, migrate in the course of one night. Go out with raincoats, binoculars, and flashlights and look for them crossing roads, marching down hillsides, and at the edges of the ponds.

The Bullfrog, above, took up residence in our cistern fountain last summer. Bullfrogs are found in ponds, lakes, and reservoirs. They are active year round in the South and from March to November in the North. Listen for the male's "jug-o-rum" call. For complete information on these and other amphibians nationwide see Stokes Guide To Amphibians and Reptiles by Tomas F. Tyning.

Amphibians need vernal ponds and water areas protected for their continued survival. So think of them when you celebrate Earth Day today.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Savannah Sparrow

(click on photo to see a larger version of photo)

On our morning walk, we saw a bird flush up out of the large hayfield at our home, Bobolink Farm, and land in a shrub. It turned out to be a Savannah Sparrow, the first one we've seen this year. A beautiful sparrow, Savannah's have a pale, cream-colored breast with fine brown streaking, and distinctive yellow on the front part of their eyebrow.

This was an exciting moment for us. When we see a grassland species of bird choose our property, it means we have good habitat for that species. Our goal at Bobolink Farm is to maintain a diversity of habitat for many species of birds, especially grassland species. Grasslands and hayfields are actually rare habitats in New England, which is mostly heavily wooded. So — welcome, Savannah Sparrow.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Here's Looking At You

Today an Osprey flew over the pond at Bobolink Farm and it was Wonderful! This was our first sping migrant Osprey. Hope it finds a good place to nest this year.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bobcats and Dreams

Here is a bobcat of the four wheeled, not four pawed, kind, creating the new long border. The area behind the barn at our home, Bobolink Farm, used to be a horse corral and had 3 feet of sand as its base. To create flower beds that will be 40 feet long and 12 feet wide, we have to dig out 2 feet of the sand and replace it with loam and compost — a job for a bobcat, not us.
We dream of summer images of hummingbirds and butterlies that will be attracted to the new gardens.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Moose Magic Moment

If we hadn't been sitting drinking our morning coffee and looking out over the pond with our binoculars at just the right time, we wouldn't have witnessed this magic moment — a mother and baby moose swimming across the cove.
As Don said recently, "the wonderful thing about Bobolink Farm is that you never know what's going to happen."
The moose were over 1200 ft. away, too far for most photography. I quickly grabbed my Canon Powershot A610 camera and held it up to the new "Stokes Birding Series" Sandpiper 65 mm Scope and snapped the photo.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Swallow Haiku

Blue wings in the sky,
Chirps filling the cool spring air —
Soaring Tree Swallows

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Happy Couple

Here are our pair of bluebirds, sitting on the nest box they have chosen. We think it's possible the female is the same female that nested here last summer, but it's very hard to tell. The bluebirds from last year, named "Buffy" and "Spot", bred in mid-July to August and both were molting, so they looked ratty and were not in their best colors. It is hard to know what they would look like now, in bright, fresh, breeding plumage.

The male is probably not Spot, named because he had a dark notch, creating a spot in his upper breast. His white extended in a large slash up into the red of his breast. This new male has no spot and the line between red and white is a smooth curve. Is the female Buffy? Buffy had a very pale head, without much blue on it, and a pale reddish breast with the white in a smooth line across the red. This female seems to have a notch of white extending into the red of her breast, although she has a pale head. Also, they have chosen a nest box that is not the same box they bred in last year, not unusual for bluebirds, but sometimes bluebirds use the same box.

So who is this happy couple? A different pair altogether? Is one of them a Spot and Buffy offspring from last year? Wish they could talk.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Garden Time

Yesterday we couldn't even get photos up on blogger, most likely because 1. We have a dial-up connection, 2. It was after 6 pm when possibly the most traffic occurs on blogger. So here is another try.
Yesterday we put in new garden beds. Don did lots of hard digging, laying boards for new beds, digging out sand and replacing it with good loam and compost, the basis for good garden beds. Daisy was the ever present supervisor. Lillian did digging, dividing perennials, and garden design for the new beds which will transform the area behind the barn at Bobolink Farm. There will be a gazebo built where she is now sitting, a long border of perennials, and 5 smaller beds. The overall theme will be gardens that attract birds and butterflies and that have pleasing combinations of plant materials that give color from early spring to frost. Lillian is working on the design of the beds that Don is digging out. Some favorite plants for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies that Lillian is thinking about using are:
Bee Balm
Verbena bonariensis

Monday, April 10, 2006

Home Again

After our long journey, we made it back to Bobolink Farm, our 45 acre NH property named in honor of the Bobolinks that nest in our large hayfield. The first thing we did was hang up our bird feeder. Greeting us were many birds. Each morning, over our cup of coffee, we write in our journal and keep a list of the birds and happenings. This morning there were a pair of Common Mergansers, 7 beautiful Common Goldeneye ducks, and a pair of Mallards on the pond. A Bald Eagle, then a Great Blue Heron, flew over. A pair of Eastern Phoebes were checking out our barn. That is where phoebes nested last year, we think this is the same pair. Robins, titmice, juncos, and a Pine Warbler were singing. At the feeders were chickadees, titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Red-winged Blackbirds, Downy Woodpeckers, juncos, Mourning Doves, Blue Jays, and Song Sparrows.

In the field, all heck was breaking loose. A pair of bluebirds was defending a nest box from many Tree Swallows who were all flying about and competing for our nest boxes. The bluebird female we recognized as "Buffy," our female from last year. But she was with a new male, not "Spot" from last year, but a big, handsome male with a lot of red on his breast. We named him, "Prince Charming" or "P.C." Last year's adventure of "Spot", "Buffy" and their abandoned young, "Baby Blue", is a story for another time.

From the north woods 8 Turkeys appeared and walked by the stone wall. A big male constantly displayed to the females, while a tree Swallow looked on. See the digiscoped photo taken from far away, I just held the camera to the scope.

Here in NH the daffodils are not even out yet, just the crocuses. It is the perfect time for gardening, and we are. We are adding to, and changing our gardens in some exciting new ways. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Greater Prairie-Chickens are courting! Amazing!

Some years ago we were lucky to witness the wonderful mating rituals that occur this time of year for Greater Prairie-Chickens. Here is the post,

The next stop was Charleston, IL where we stayed in this wonderful log home bed and breakfast called Osage Inn. We got up at 3:30 am the next morning to drive to the Prairie Ridge State Natural Area, a 3,500 acre site managed by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources. We had to be in a blind before sunrise so as not to disturb the Greater Prairie-Chickens who come to their display ground. Males come in at dawn and begin their "booming," an incredible haunting sound that is less like booming and more reminsicent of Native American flute-like music. They rapidly stamp their feet and inflate large orange sacks on the sides of their throats. They also make other noises, including a maniacal cackling that sounds like a cross between a Pied-billed Grebe, Barred Owl, and rubber ducky. When the females arrive, the males make whooping sounds. They have what is called a "lek" mating system. Males display, then females come on the display grounds and mate with the males, then go off to lay eggs and raise the young. The whole thing was one of the more spectacular avian events we have ever witnessed. Lillian took many, many photos, here are a few more.

We hope to show you additional photos at a later time. Tomorrow we return home to Bobolink Farm.

Brinkley, AR

After we left St. Mark's NWR, the weather reports were for severe thunderstorms and tornados throughout the Midwest in the area we were to travel through to reach IL and see Greater Prairie-Chickens. So we decided to try and stay below the storms. We thought, why not hang a left and travel to Brinkley, AR, land of the famous Ivory-billed Woodpecker reported sightings, wait until the storms pass, and then go to IL. It turned out to be a good plan, because the storms passed just north of us in Brinkley and did a lot of damage in TN and elsewhere.
Driving into Brinkley, AK.
The clerk in our hotel knew little about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, had no maps of the region, and had no idea where Bayou de View was, but sent us to Gene's Restaurant for information.
The sign outside Gene's says, Welcome to Brinkley and Gene's, "Home of the Ivory Bill Wood Pecker." Inside there are lots of paintings and posters of the bird,
and good country cooking, including hearty breakfasts and "theme" menu items such as the Ivory-billed burger and Ivory-billed brownie sundae. Gene's also sold t-shirts, postcards, and the waitress at the cash register gave us a map of the Cache River NWR and Bayou de View (where the original sightings were reported) and another map of Dagmar Wildlife Management Area, location of other sightings. A woman in line started to talk to us about the Ivory-bill, said she had seen those woodpeckers when she was younger, "they flew so beautiful." She pointed out areas to search on the map of Dagmar and told us to watch out for Cottonmouth snakes that were numerous, since the weather had turned warmer.
After breakfast we drove to the Rt. 17 bridge over the Bayou de View waterway. Much of the surrounding area is farm fields which lead right up to the narrow wooded area near the bridge.
Here is the view of the bridge. According to the story, Tim Gallagher and Bobby Harrison had canoed under the bridge, "paddled the length of the 'lake' south of 17, turned right into a narrow channel" and that is where they report they saw an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
This sign was at the boat landing at the base of the bridge, encouraging people to be on the lookout for Ivory-billed Woodpeckers.
The Cypress trees in the water at the base of the bridge were very dense. There are signs on the trees indicating this is a "Managed Access Area."
We then went to Dagmar Wildlife Management Area, a beautiful and accessible area with a nice gravel road and campsites. The woods rang with bird song and we saw White-throated Sparrows, Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers, Robins, Cowbirds, Cedar Waxwings, titmice, and heard a Barred Owl calling. The owl swooped across the road and landed, giving Lillian this photo op.

As we drove further in the road, we came to this beautiful overlook area with magnificent, large old trees. It gave us a sense of the majesty of what the original forests must have been like, a feeling of loss of the beauty that was gone, and an understanding of how precious little was left.
This Wood Duck flew down the open channel, probably it was nesting in one of the large cavities in the old trees. It was interesting to try and photograph birds in flight in this habitat. The density of the trees gave us an appreciation of the difficulty of seeing and photographing birds in this environment. Since this Wood Duck was in the open and flying up the channel, it was more photographable.
Unfortunately we had to leave and drive to IL, we had a reservation to see the Greater Prairie-Chickens the following day. But before we left town, we had to stop at this charming store, the Ivory-bill Nest (e-mail:, which is filled with all kinds of Ivory-billed Woodpecker gifts; hats, t-shirts, posters, license plates, earrings, paintings, Christmas ornaments, mugs, and much more.

Our favorite thing in the store was this wonderful mural painted on the floor. This is as close to an Ivory-billed Woodpecker as we got.