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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Morning Coffee

Cedar Waxwing

This is where we sit each morning, weather permitting, and have our coffee. This morning Phoebe, our Corgi, was still sleepy and just snoozed behind us. It is a special time of day for us, and one we savor, because it's our time to tune into nature. We listen for all birds sounds we hear, and we identify them. We also look through our binoculars to see what's around and happening and there's always something new.

We watched the mist slowly rise off of our pond. The mountain beyond magically appeared through the mist. We wrote in our journal, as we always do. We saw some Yellow Warblers, who are early fall migrants. We heard a Wood Duck fly over and saw a number of other birds. What caught our eye was some Cedar Waxwings sitting in our dogwood tree pulling silk from a fall webworm nest. One was pulling, one was watching. Then they flew up into the pine tree above and we realized they were beginning to build a nest.

Here's a digiscoped image that shows the tail of one of the waxwings on the left, the yellow body of the other on the right. There was no better angle to view the nest, so we mainly saw them from underneath. There was much pulling of the dead fern and some pine needles in their attempts to get the material to stay in the crotch of some branches. They semed fairly ineffective, so it remains to be seen if they will actually proceed here. Sometimes birds just try on a potential nest site for size, then don't go through with it there.

Cedar Waxwings can be late nesters, breeding in August and even into Sept. They nest 4-50 feet high in the fork of a horizontal limb, well out from the trunk. Most building takes place in the morning. They will use string, twigs, yarn, rootlets, grass stems, paper, pine needles and line the nest with moss, grasses or caterpillar silk. They will often be seen taking material from other birds nests, and regularly use old webbing from tent caterpillar and fall webworm nests.

If we hadn't been sitting there, we would never have seen it. Nature is a constantly evolving drama, if you're there to witness it. Do you have a place in your yard where you can sit and watch the show??

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Arctic Tern

A few years ago we went out to Seavy Island, NH, to view and photograph the nesting tern colony there where there were about 2,500 pairs of state-endangered Common Terns and 9 pairs of state-threatened Arctic Terns. The state Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Progran and New Hampshire Audubon re-established the tern colony there in 1997, and work hard each year to protect and help the colony prosper. Biologists live on the island during the nesting season to monitor and study the terns and keep away gulls, who prey on the tern eggs.

It was a rare treat for us to visit there, and I photographed this beautiful Arctic Tern, looking ethereal as it hovered in the sea-misted light. We have seen these terns in Alaska, closer to their main breeding areas in arctic regions. Here, in NH they are at just about the southern limit of their breeding range. This tern is a famed long-distant migrant champ, flying sometimes 22,000 miles round trip each year, since they winter in the Antarctic region.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hummingbird Ride

This little male Ruby-throated Hummingbird surveys his kingdom from the top of our 'Great Blue Heron' weathervane. He watches our yard and tries to chase any other male hummingbirds from the feeders. We outwit him by placing feeders and hummingbird flowers throughout our property, some where he can't see them from his perch. Thus, other hummers can sneak in and enjoy.

Him sitting on a heron reminds us of the myth that "hummingbirds migrate by riding on the back of geese." Hummingbirds migrate on their own, flying high over mountains (we have seen them migrating while we have been standing on mountains hawk-watching) and they cross the Gulf of Mexico to their wintering areas.

Speaking of hummingbirds, we continue to get responses to our recent post asking "Are Hummingbird Numbers Down", click here.

Enjoy your weekend. Clean your hummingbird feeders often in this hot weather and enjoy the hummers.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Phoebe In Love

Hi there, it's blogger Phoebe reporting again. Well, I'm head over heels in love!

This big hunk o' burning love is named Scooter. Have I got good taste or what!! I fell for him the minute I laid eyes on him. Scooter is a tri-colored Corgi from Indiana, and he and his humans came to visit us recently.

I gave him my dynamite 'come hither' look,

and he couldn't resist me. Here we are hugging.

The humans started to notice what was going on, and I heard them muttering words like..

....."getting X rated",

and, "it's a good thing she's spayed" (whatever that means).

But what do they true love and I just whispered sweet nothings...

Then posed for the camera.
This is blogger Phoebe, signing off, until next time..."woof, woof".

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Butterfly Time

Right outside our office window is this lovely granite bird bath that's our bird spa, and flowers that attract butterfiles, including Purple Coneflower and the yellow Coreopsis, "Zagreb."

The Coreopsis is covered in little fluttering orange butterfiles that I'm watching now. It's a wonderful distraction from my work and a worthy blog topic.

Practically each flower has these "Pearl Crescent" butterfiles nectaring on it. What a treat to be look up from my computer and watch the butterflies.

We've written two books to help you attract and identify butterflies to your garden. 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.

Our Stokes Beginner's Guide to Butterflies has an easy key and beautiful photos to help you identify more than 100 butterflies, plus information on habitat needs, life cycle, food preferences of the butterflies and more. Both are available from, or can be ordered through your bookstore.

This time of year, when the birds are busy feeding nestlings and fledglings, is a more quiet time for birds. But the butterflies are just gearing up. We love to go out in the garden and take walks to see how may species we can find. Hope you get out and enjoy the butterflies and plant a butterfly garden.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Piping Plovers in NH

Piping Plover

The news from the NH Fish and Game Dept. regarding the Piping Plover population here, is that out of a few potential nests, only one was successful. The nest at Hampton Beach State Park successfully hatched the eggs on July 11th. NH Fish and Game is asking for any interested birders to come and help monitor and watch the young plovers, and protect them from the crowds on the beach. This is an extremely important plover family and one of the last chances NH has for increasing its Piping Plover populations. So, if you have any time to volunteer, just email
Samantha Niziolek,
smail slc3 (AT)
(when you email, use the correct "at" symbol in the email address).

The plovers will thank you.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Song Sparrow Spa

It's hot out here, that's why I'm panting




Where's the towel and the frozen daquiris?

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bobolink Bonanza

Bobolink male

Here at Bobolink Farm, our 45 acres NH property, we have a bumper crop of Bobolinks. We estimate we may have as many as 75 flying around our field right now, consisting of adults and young. Some are the ones that nested here, and some may have come in from other hayfileds that have been cut early, (they may have lost their nestlings because of this.) It's especially thrilling to see the Bobolinks here, because Bobolinks face declining populations in New England due to of loss of habitat. We're helping their populations because we provide them with good habitat. Most importantly, we do not let the farmer who hays our fields, cut the fields before the Bobolinks fledge the young out of their nests around mid-July. Usually our farmer cuts the fields at the end of August since, in addition to nesting Bobolinks, we have a nesting a American Bittern in the field.
We take our morning walk around the edge of the field and it's so beautiful to see the Bobolinks, making their lyrical "plinking" call notes, and settling in the grasses to feed. We get such a deep sense of satisfaction, knowing we are helping a species in trouble and maintaining this grassland habitat. Years ago, when New England was a booming farm economy, grasslands were prevalent. Now, much of New England has grown back to forest and it's rare to find big fields, especially ones that are not cut until the end of the summer.
The male Bobolinks will soon molt from their black-and-white breeding plumage and resemble the streaked, staw-colored females and young. The flocks will stay here until they depart in early fall, for their long migration to wintering areas in South America. We'll miss them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Garden Time

Here are some recent images of goings on at our Bobolink Farm. I love getting out early, wandering around the garden, and seeing the beautiful images created by the special morning light. The sun rises over the mountain and backlights the circle fountain garden.

I found a bumble bee still asleep in the dew-fresh cosmos flower

Looking back towards the barn and Prairifire crab apple trees

Our Phoebe, left, and her mom, Chanel, right, who was visiting for a play date, are happy campers.

There were 75 people who attended the dragonfly workshop over the weekend. Phoebe and Chanel are the Corgi welcoming committee. They're both such sweet, loving and friendly Corgis. They got lots of attention. We're just thrilled with Phobe's temperment (hint: if you want a Corgi with a good temperment, get one from a reputable Corgi Breeder.

Widow Skimmer, female

The course saw lots of dragon and damselflies including Widow Skimmers, Halloween and Calico Pennants, Blue Dashers, Common Blue Darners, Spangled Skimmers, Swamp Spreadwings, and lots more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cool Phoebe

Where's Phoebe? She's in the office, lying on the floor in front of the fan, in perfect Corgi lounging position — on her back, feet in the air. She has the coolest spot in the office. Where's Don and Lillian? Busy at work on their computers writing a special new field guide to all the birds.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wren City

We have two paris of House Wrens nesting right now at our home, Bobolink Farm. Yes, we know, wrens are an acquired taste. But, for entertainment value alone, we appreciate them. Their bubbly song rings through the garden when most other birds have stopped singing. One of our pair of wrens has fledgings who chatter from all over the garden. The other pair, pictured above, has young about to fledge and both parents are busy bringing food at a frenetic rate. When both arrive at once determined to squeeze into the entrance hole, you have a wren collison. One went in and the other fluttered to a nearby shrub waiting its turn. They keep us amused.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dragons and Damsels

Widow Skimmer dragonfly

Halloween Pennant dragonfly

Swamp Spreadwing damselfly

Skimming Bluet damselfly

Halloween Pennant, Ebony Jewelwing, Spangled Skimmer, American Emerald, Vivid Dancer, Ruby Meadowhawk, Spot-winged Glider, Eastern Amberwing, Dragonhunter - these are the wonderful names of dragonflies and damselflies, and they're yours to discover. All you need is access to dragonfly habitat - ponds, lakes, streams, fields, even your garden - and a pair of our Stokes brand close-focusing binoculars. When the birding slows down in mid-morning, that's the time the dragonfly watching picks up, for they are insects and need to warm their bodies before becoming active. Dragonsflies and damselflies eat other insects, so think of them as the flycatchers of the insect world.

This morning on our walk with the dogs (Phoebe's Mom is visiting), we saw the beautiful dragonflies and damselflies above, plus many more. Look for perched dragons and damsels on sunny days in protected areas such as pond edges and field edges. It's a little easier to identify them (and photograph them) when they're perched. Once you become familiar with them, you may be able to identify some on the wing.

This weekend a dragonfly workshop is being held at our Bobolink Farm. We have good dragonfly habitat of a large pond (which is a dammed up part of a river) with lots of emergent vegetation, large fields, woodland edges, and gardens. We have great fun looking for the dragons and damsels this time of year when so many are active.

You can learn all about dragonflies and damselflies in our Stokes Beginner's Guide To Dragonflies which has full color photos of all the common ones you'll encounter and a clever key in the front to help you easily identify them. So take a dragonfly walk this weekend and see what dragons and damsels you can find.

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Numbers

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Bee Balm

Thanks to all who responded to our recent question — are Ruby-throated Hummingbird numbers down this spring. About 65% of respondants thought hummingbird numbers were down, and most of those people were in the northeast quadrant of the country. (Several people from AZ reported numbers down, but they have other species of hummers there, not Rubythroats). In one case, a wild bird store owner in central Illinois indicated that 80% of her customers were reporting fewer hummers. Granted, this is not a scientific study by a long stretch. Possibly, even people who think numbers are down, are more motivated to respond than folks who think things are fine. However, it does make you wonder what is going on. Maybe we will ask the question again at the end of August, when there should be the greatest numbers of hummers around due to young hummers swelling the population.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Red-bellied Woodpecker excavating a nest in a dead tree

We recently had a violent thunderstorm (seems they are getting more frequent here, in NH) and lightening struck one of our big pine trees. We have to have it taken down, so an arborist/tree-cutting service came out to talk to us about having some tree work done. Near the lightening struck tree was a tall dead pine. He asked us if we wanted that taken down too. Our answer was no! It provides homes and feeding spots for woodpeckers. We decided to just trim some of the scrubby dead branches near the top of the dead tree and leave the bulk of the trunk.

It will make lovely condominiums for many birds. First, woodpeckers will live in it. They're called primary cavity nesters, because they excavate their own nest holes and are first to live in them. Then will come the secondary cavity nesters, such as titmice, nuthatches, bluebirds and Tree Swallows, who do not construct their own nests, but rely on the primary cavity nesters (or you putting up bird houses) to get a home.

If you want to attract more birds to your property, leave up, whenever possible, dead trees. They are a goldmine for the birds.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Lots of folks have responded to our last post questioning whether Ruby-throated Hummingbird numbers are down. If you would like to answer, you can post a comment on the blog entry right below this one.
Makes us wonder how global climate change will affect hummingbirds. Here, in NH, we had a very cold spring with some major snow storms. We lost our bluebirds. Many of our flowers were delayed in blooming, but now have caught up. We still see only one or two male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at our feeders, where ordinarily, we would have more hummers, including females. We'll see how August goes, when we see many hummers here on migration including males, females and immatures. We will keep you posted.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hummingbird Numbers Down ???

Several people have written us recently, expressing concern that they are seeing fewer Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in their yards, despite keeping the same number of feeders and conditions, etc. as previous years. Some of these folks are located in the upper midwest.

It's hard to estimate hummingbird numbers, since you often don't know if you are seeing the same or different hummers. Their numbers can also be influenced by such factors as, how many garden and wildflowers are in bloom (in which case they may temporarily leave your feeders), do you keep your feeders clean and filled, how consistently are you looking, etc.

Based on guestimates, we think we are seeing somewhat less hummingbirds in our yard now than in previous summers. We have a few males and, right now, are seeing no females, although we saw females earlier in the spring. We will be interested to see what numbers we see in August in our yard, because that is when hummers are beginning to migrate, and we usually see numbers of males, females, and immatures.

We did some very brief looking on the internet to see if there was any information about this. There are a number of websites devoted to hummingbirds. They focus on tracking migration, banding, answering questions, conserving hummingbirds, etc. We found nothing specific about Ruby-throated hummer numbers this spring and summer, although there may be info. out there.

So our question to you is, do your think you are seeing less, more, or the same numbers of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in your yard as in previous years? If you answer tell us what area of the country you are in. You can answer in the comment section by clicking on the "comment" link below. Or you can email us, click here.

Photos of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds © Lillian Stokes, 2007