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Friday, June 29, 2007

Bird Names

Northern Cardinal

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Palm Warbler, FL in winter

Someone just asked us how a bird got its name. Birds were named by the first early naturalist to discover them. Sometimes they were named because of where the naturalist saw them, even though it might be a habitat the bird was rarely found in. For example, the Palm Warbler breeds in northern spruce bogs and winters in the South where it feeds in grassy areas. Palms are not its preferred habitat, yet it was named the Palm Warbler.
Other birds are named after something that makes sense about them, such as the Yellow-rumped Warbler, with its obvious "butter butt."
The Cardinal was named for its red color, similar to the red color of the Cardinal, church official's robes. For more about bird names go here.

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Evening Grosbeaks Drinking

And then, after dining at our tray bird feeder, they washed it down with a drink. Glad we keep the bird bath available.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Evening Grosbeaks

Recently we had this Evening Grosbeak pair at our tray feeder, (female left, male right). Such dramatic birds, with their large, no-seed-is-too-big-to-crack bills, and striking, yellow plumage. They were once more common in New England, especially in the 1960's and 70's. We remember, years ago, when large flocks would descend in winter on our Massachusetts feeders and we could hardly keep up with stocking the feeders. They are now far less common, so it's a special treat to see them. Their breeding range is north of us (we are in southern NH). Wonder why this pair was here now, if they had nested, and, if so, where were their young? So many questions. If you attract birds, it draws you into their lives, and out of yours. That is a good thing.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Great Egret

This Great Egret is in breeding plumage, where it gets that amazing lime-green color on the area between its eye and the base of its bill, called the lores. Kinda like its courtship jewelry. During the non-breeding season it lacks the green. This is just about our largest white egret or heron. The only larger white heron in the U.S., is the white morph of the Great Blue Heron, called the "Great White Heron." The Great Egret breeds throughout much of the U.S. We see them occasionally on our pond in southern NH, but there are more of them on the NH coast, where they breed. Look for them in water areas near you and see if they are decked out in their breeding plumage.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Monday, June 25, 2007

John Deere Wren

Our friends had a House Wren nesting in this wonderful tractor weathervane sculpture Scott made. It was so cute! Every time it came in to feed the babies, it landed on the tractor seat. I couldn't resist the photo op.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, Endangered Species

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers only nest in a specific habitat of longleaf pines. Much destruction of that habitat has lead to them becoming an endangered species. We have had the fortunate opportunity to see them in several places in FL, such as the Babcock/ Webb Wildlife Management Area in Charlotte County, south FL where I photographed this bird.
Lisa Boig sent us this information and link to a slide show of photos of a biologist banding a Red-cockaded Woodpecker chick.
To see the photos of the chick, click here

"The Nature Center and the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary last week banded a Red-cockaded Woodpecker c at the preserve near Wakefield, Virginia. The banding is necessary to keep track of the population of this species of federally endangered birds.

At about 2,700 acres, Piney Grove Preserve harbors Virginia's only breeding population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and the northernmost population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in the United States.

Today it is estimated that there are about 6,000 groups of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers or 15,000 birds from Florida to Virginia and west to southeast Oklahoma and eastern Texas, representing about 1 percent of the woodpecker's original range."

One of the best ways we can support birds, is to help preserve their habitats.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


This little, male Ruby-throated Hummingbird comes to our feeder, only 5 ft. away from us, as we sit on the deck every day. We sit very still. We can hear his wings humming. Oh, it's so special. Put up a feeder and the thrill can be yours too.
We will be away for a few days and will get back to you as soon as we can. See you soon.


On the lighter side-

LS - "Phoebe, do you know there are ducks behind you?"
PS - "Don't bother me, I'm busy staring down the Red Squirrels at the bird feeder!"

Ah, Corgis, they love a job. Phoebe thinks her job is to keep track of the Red Squirrels at all times, and to chase them when she can. This morning she practically sat on mother duck and ducklings, she was so intently watching the Red Squirrels who were at the base of the bird feeder. Trouble is, the bird feeder is inside an electric stock fence, to keep the bears away from the feeder. Phoebe knows she cannot go inside the fence. So she sits and watches the Red Squirrels, hoping one will come outside the fence so she can chase it.

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

There Can Be Hope

On a less positive note, see the article below. You can help by helping preserve land and joining conservation organizations on the personal, local, state, federal and global levels. It makes us feel good that we bought the 23 acres of land next to us including the hayfield with nesting American Bitterns, Meadowlarks and Bobolinks, to save it from development. See above photo of the baby Bittern that was born on our land.
You can also enhance your yard for attracting birds and wildlife, no matter how small a parcel you have. If we all work together, there's hope.

New York, NY, June 14, 2007 - A new analysis by the National Audubon Society reveals
that populations of some of America’s most familiar and beloved birds have taken
a nosedive over the past forty years, with some down as much as 80 percent. The
dramatic declines are attributed to the loss of grasslands, healthy forests and
wetlands, and other critical habitats from multiple environmental threats such as
sprawl, energy development, and the spread of industrialized agriculture. The study
notes that these threats are now compounded by new and broader problems including
the escalating effects of global warming. In concert, they paint a challenging picture
for the future of many common species and send a serious warning about our increasing
toll on local habitats and the environment itself.

Species on Audubon’s list of 20 Common Birds in Decline have seen their populations
plummet at least 54 percent since 1967. The following are among those hardest hit:
• Northern Bobwhite populations are down 82 percent and have largely vanished from
northern parts of their range in Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and New England mainly
due to loss of suitable habitat to development, agricultural expansion and plantation-style
forestry practices.
• Evening Grosbeaks that range from mountains of the west to northern portions of
the east coast show population declines of nearly 78 percent amid increasing habitat
damage and loss from logging, mining, drilling and development.
• Northern Pintail populations in the continental U.S. are down nearly 78 percent
due to expanding agricultural activity in their prairie pothole breeding grounds.
• Greater Scaup populations that breed in Alaska, but winter in the Great Lakes
and along Atlantic to Pacific Coasts are being hard hit by global warming induced
melting of permafrost and invasion of formerly-southern species; populations are
down approximately 75 percent.
• Eastern Meadowlarks, down 71 percent, are declining as grasslands are lost to
industrialized agricultural practices. Increased demand for biofuel crops threatens
increased agricultural use of lands that are currently protected, making both Eastern
and Western Meadowlarks even more vulnerable.
• Common Terns, which nest on islands and forage for fish near ocean coasts, lakes
and rivers, are vulnerable to development, pollution and sea level rise from global
warming. Populations in unmanaged colonies have dropped as much as 70 percent, making
the species’ outlook increasingly dependent on targeted conservation efforts.
• Snow Buntings, which breed in Alaska and northern Canada, are suffering from the
loss of fragile tundra habitat as global warming alters and disrupts the Arctic’s
delicate ecological balance; populations are down 64 percent.
• Rufous Hummingbird populations have declined 58 percent as a result of the loss
of forest habitat to logging and development, in both their breeding range in the
Pacific Northwest and their wintering sites in Mexico.
• Whip-poor-wills, down 57 percent, are vulnerable to fragmentation and alteration
of their forest habitat from development and poor forest management practices.
• Little Blue Herons now number 150,000 in the U.S. and 110,000 in Mexico, down
54 percent in the U.S. Their decline is driven by wetland loss from development
and degradation of water quality, which limits their food supply.

Overall, agricultural and development pressures have driven grassland birds to some
of the worst declines, followed closely by shrub, wetland and forest-dependent species.
“Direct habitat loss continues to be a leading cause for concern,” said Audubon
Bird Conservation Director and analysis author, Greg Butcher, PhD. “But now we’re
seeing the added impact of large-scale environmental problems and policies.” Butcher
notes that global warming is damaging some key habitats and speeding the spread
of invasive species that spur further declines. Mounting demand for corn-based fuels
is expected to result in increased use of marginal farmland that currently serves
as important habitat. The fate of species such as Eastern Meadowlarks and Loggerhead
Shrikes could hinge on efforts to conserve these areas. “People who care about the
birds and about human quality of life need to get involved in habitat protection
at home, in pushing for better state and national protections and in making changes
in their daily routines,” Butcher adds.

Public response will shape the long-term outlook for the listed species. Unlike
WatchList birds, these Common Birds in Decline are not in immediate danger of extinction,
despite global populations as low as 500,000 for some species - the threshold for
a “common bird” designation. But even birds with significantly higher overall populations
are experiencing sharp declines, and with their populations down sharply, their
ecological roles are going unfilled and their ultimate fate is uncertain. Audubon
leaders hope the multiple threats to the birds people know will prompt individuals
to take multiple actions, both locally and directed toward state and national policies.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

American Woodcock

Another photo op while we were at Crane Creek/Magee marsh this spring, was this American Woodcock who was feeding right off the boardwalk. Woodcocks are famous for their early spring courtship flights, where, at dusk, they can up in a spiral to about 300 ft. feet, wings whirring, and at the pinnacle, give canary-like chirping. They then sail down to the ground, give their little, nasal "peent" call, then start the courtship display all over again. It's fairly easy to witness these flights, if you go in spring at dusk, to open fields in the Woodcocks breeding range.

What's more unusual, is seeing Woodcocks walking through the woods feeding. This Woodcock was walking around, rocking its body and stepping heavily. It is thought the vibrations from this may make earthworms, its main food, move in the soil, helping the Woodcock find them. A Woodcock's long bill has a flexible tip, which allows it to open the tip and grasp earthworms, without opening the whole bill, see top photo. Such camouflaged plumage makes it blend into the leaf litter, and those amazing, large, shoebutton eyes perched atop its head help it see potential predators while it's probing in the mud. What a cool bird, and we felt it was such a special treat to have seen it so closely!

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Snapping Turtle

When I was on the boardwalk watching warblers at Crane Creek, warbler guru Jon Dunn, who was there leading a group, came running up to me and told me to come quickly, there was a photo op. My first thought was that it must be some rare warbler. He led me down the boardwalk to where a number of birders and photographers were huddled. Then I saw this:

Snapping Turtles are impressive from any angle, and this one, possibly a female looking for a nest site, certainly was a show stopper. Enthusiastic observers tend to overestimate the size of snapping Turtles, but they do reach a length of 20 inches for their top shell and a weight of over 60 pounds.
Snappers are usually seen in the water, that's where we see them when we canoe on our pond and see their telltale snout sticking above the water. They leave the water only when moving to another pond, or egg-laying. Females venture from their ponds in spring, find a nest site, and deposit 20 to 30 (and sometime up to 80) ping pong like eggs. She then covers them, tamps down the earth, and returns to her pond.
Just goes to show, most birders are interested in all of nature.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

Winter Wren

I photographed this cute Winter Wren when we were at Crane Creek. It hoped quickly around the fallen logs like the energizer bunny on caffeine, but paused long enough a few times for a photo op. For such a small bird, Winter Wrens have one of the longest songs, it just seems to go on forever. We have one that nests in the damp hemolck forest across the street from us, and we always hear its lovely song.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Blogger Phoebe

Don't tell Lillian I'm at her computer doing my own blog entry. Enough about birds and the Stokes, there should be more about me!

Speaking of me, did you know I recently completed a course in doggie Advanced Obedience. Truth be told, it was really about training Lillian to know how to communicate better with me. I don't need any obedience training 'cuz I'm perfect.

My favorite spot is on the comfy green couch and my favorite hobby is chewing. I especially like raw hide chews, and marrow bones. I chew a lot 'cause I'm still young, only 10 months old.

My other favorite activity is prowling in the garden, looking for chipmunks and those pesky red squirrels, which I chase. Not birds, though. I'm smart enough to know that it would be a very bad idea if Lillian and Don caught me chasing birds.

Tasha Tudor moment here. She is that charming children's author that populates her books with lots of Corgi's, showing them smelling flowers, chasing butterflies, etc. Of course, note that she chose Corgis to illustrate, not other breeds, 'cuz we're so darn cute! Don't think just because we're cute we're pushovers. We're bred to be herding dogs. We can run very fast on our short legs and nip the heels of cattle to herd them. We're smart and strong-willed, but willing to be great companions to nice people. Upcoming Corgi events of note are, June 11-15, the Mayflower Pembroke Welsh Corgi Speciality dog show, where you can see Corgis from all over New England. My brother is a show dog and will be there. In Sept. 27-30 there is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America National Specialty show where Corgis from all across America compete. These are great events to go to if you are interested in learning more about Corgis.

Till later, this is,

Blogger Phoebe signing off, "Woof!"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Camo Killdeer

While we were at Crane Creek recently, there were so many other birds we saw besides the warblers. This Killdeer, go figure, choose to nest right next to the main path to the visitor's center.
Killdeer love to nest where there are rocks and pebbles that will camouflage their eggs, and the round rock edge next to the path must have been too irresistible, for she choose there for the nest. You can see the round stones are just about the size of the eggs, which blend in.

Trouble is, lots of people walk by there and Mrs. Killdeer would often go into her side-tilt distraction display where she would run a short distance, tilt to one side, drop her wing on that side, and spread her tail. In a more intense version, she would flutter and droop one wing, making it look like she had a broken wing. The function of this display is to lead potential predators away from the nest.

The personnel at the center finally put some trash bins alonside the nest to hide and protect it from the path and passersby and Mrs. Killdeer settled happily on her eggs.

Photos @ Lillian Stokes, 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007

Flower Power

On this rainy Monday, while we are hard at work inside on our Stokes National Field Guide to North American Birds, thought I'd show you what's in bloom in the gardens at "Bobolink Farm", our NH home. Iris Immortaily is blooming her head off, with at least 30 blooms on the plant. Such a beautiful white, with a blush of blue. Looks like an angel's petticoat. It's on our front path, so every time we walk to the car, we pass it. Put your best plants where you can enjoy them most.

Our wildflower area near the barn, has a small, yellow Ladies Slipper plant just covered in little sunshine shoes. This precious orchid came from New England Wildflower Society, which sells native wildflowers. We brought it with us when we moved from Mass. to NH, 5 years ago. Underplanted is twinkling, white Sweet Woodruff. Trivia fact, Donald W. Stokes middle name is Woodruff. We pick this herb and steep it in a bottle of Savignon Blanc wine, to make "May Wine" to serve at garden parties.

One of our long borders looks like a wildlfower meadow, full of yellow Doronicum, an antique plant I was given years ago, from a master plantswomen who cultivated the historic gardens in Concord, MA. This plant grew in the gardens of the Old Manse, home of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Emerson, near the Old North Bridge, site of the "shot heard round the world" that began the American Revolution. When it blooms I think of its history. One of the great things about being given plants from others gardeners is, it reminds you of them every time they bloom. With it is midnight blue Salvia "May Night." Peeking out in the background is our Borghese garden urn from Lunaform.

Photos, © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Friday, June 01, 2007

Boreal Forest Needs Help

Bay-breasted Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

For many of those beautiful little warblers that we all watch and enjoy on migration, the Boreal Forest is home. They survive the arduous migration from their wintering areas in Central and South America and wing it to the Boreal Forest stopping at places like Magee Marsh and your yard, to give us photo ops and gorgeous views of these little jewels.

The Canadian Boreal Forest is one of the last, great, forest ecosystems left on earth, covering 1.4 billion acres across much of Canada and into Alaska. It is the nesting ground for over 300 different species of birds, such as the above Bay-breasted Warbler and Magnolia Warbler, poster birds for the boreal. 82% of the global population of Bay-breasteds nest in the boreal and 74% of the Magnolia's North American population breeds there. Only 10% of the boreal is protected, with 30% slated for development by logging, energy and other interests.

Recent positive news from Jeff Wells, Senior Scientist for the Boreal Songbird Initiative
is that —

"North America's Great Bird Nursery-Canada's Boreal Forest-recently
received a boost from the world scientific community

Over 1,500 highly respected scientists from more than 50 countries
around the world called on Canadian government leaders to increase protection of Canada's Boreal Forest. In an open letter, the scientists identified the 1.4 billion acre Canadian Boreal Forest as one of the largest intact forest and wetland ecosystems remaining on earth.

However, the Boreal Forest is under increasing pressure from corporate
logging, mining and oil and gas operations and only 10% has been
protected to date, far less than what is scientifically recognized as necessary to sustain the ecosystem over time.

The scientists' letter recommends preserving a minimum of half of
Canada's Boreal Forest in protected areas while allowing only carefully
managed development on the rest, in accordance with the Boreal Forest
Conservation Framework, a plan already endorsed by Canadian conservation
groups, 25 Canadian First Nations, and more than 75 major businesses
with annual sales of $30 billion."

For more information go to this excellent website:
where you can learn about the boreal, its birds, and how you can help.

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007