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Friday, September 28, 2007

Hummingbirds Still Here, Are Yours?

Do you still have hummingbirds in your area of the country? You can respond to us in the comments section of this blog entry below or send us an email.

We still have hummingbirds here in southern New Hampshire. This photo was taken several days ago. This looks like a fat hummingbird but its not. It's just a Ruby-throated Hummingbird drinking nectar from our Salvia coccinea "Lady in Red" annual plant early in the cool morning, so the hummer is a little cold and fluffed up. As of this morning we still have humingbirds drinking from the salvia.

Hummingbirds have been here all week. This is a little unusual, since last year we saw our last hummingbird on Sept. 13th. Then again, the weather has been unseasonably warm here.
Interestingly, most of the hummers we have been seeing have only been coming to the salvia and ignoring the feeders. Many of these are young humingbirds and it makes us wonder if they are just not familiar with feeders yet.

So glad we planted the salvia. We keep singing its praises. Salvia coccinea Lady in Red is an annual, available from nurseries in the spring as 6 packs. Or you can grown your own from seed, available from such sources as Burpee Seed Co.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Finch Feast

Our American Goldfinches are feasting on thistle seed in our Stokes Select Finch Screen Feeder and they're a treat for our eyes. Finches love to feed as a flock so the feeder accomodates many of them, since they can cling to the screen and feed in any direction, including upside down. This feeder hangs right outside our office window so we get to watch the comings and goings of the finches all day long. Our line of Stokes Select Feeders are personally field tested by us to make sure they successfullly attract birds. The reason we have the feeders is that we care about helping people enjoy and appreciate birds and feeding the birds is a great place for them to start. A portion of the proceeds from our line of feeders is donated to bird habitat and conservation. You can find our Stokes Select Feeders and seed at many retail establishments across the country. To locate a store near you go here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bird Migration Past the Moon

Last night, while listening for migrating birds, I photographed this beautiful full moon with my 500 mm Canon lens. What a sight. You can seen the moon's geography and all the craters.

Here's a close up of some of the craters, formed by collisons with asteroids, comets and meteroites. Some of the craters are hundreds of miles across. Some of the darker areas are the moon's maria or seas. They're not really seas, as early astronomer's thought, but low lying plains. The moon is about 238,900 miles from earth and the same side of the moon is always facing earth.

American Robin

Yellow-rumped Warbler

A cool thing to do this time of year is to go out and listen and look for migrating birds. You can often see them migrating past the moon. On a good migration night you may see about one bird every several minutes. Watch the moon with your binoculars or a spotting scope. You may see a shadow of a bird flying across the moon. You can't always tell the exact species of birds, but you can tell if it is a large bird, like a robin, or a smaller bird like a warbler. Most birds migrate alone at night. They often emit special migration flight calls. So go out tonight and watch the moon and look and listen for birds. Even if you don't see any birds, you can enjoy the moon's geography.

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Agility Dog Phoebe

Hi there,
It's blogger Phoebe again. Time to do some bragging about me. Enough about all this birds schmirds stuff. I just graduated from doggie Advanced Agility class. Dog Agility is a fun sport for dogs of all sizes. I get to run fast, which I love, and go over jumps, up ramps, through tunnels and I get rewarded with treats and hugs.

My teacher and my doggie Mom and Dad, Lillian and Don, think I have great potential and that I'm a natural at agility. Of course, I already know that because, as I told you before, I'm perfect.

Here's the agility course. It has many obstacles that we have to do in a different order each time. The jumps are set high or low depending on a dog's height. People think we shorter dogs can't jump.

But see, we can sail through the tire, just as well as the big dogs.

Here I am tearing up the ramp of the big A frame, which is quite high. Good thing I'm not afraid of heights.

Here I am emerging from the tunnel. I just love those tunnels. Lillian or Don run through the course with me (I'm much faster than they are) and point and tell me which obstacle to go through, then I do, cuz I'm so smart.

Check out my awesome jumping form, plus check out my poofy white bloomers. We Corgis have a monopoly on the cute doggie butt category.

If you'd like to have more doggie fun, tell your owners to take you to a dog agility class near you, you'll both have a great time.

If you're a Pembroke Welsh Corgi owner or fan, you can also have fun by attending the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America National Specialty show held in Warwick, RI, all this week and though the weekend.

Friday, September 21, 2007

And More Hummers

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird again was at our "Salvia Lady in Red" plants. Consider planting this winner annual plant next year in your garden. The migrating hummers will thank you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hummingbird Migration

We had a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at our Salvia "Lady in Red" plant early this morning. There was a lot of interest in early summer when we asked the question on our blog, are Ruby-throated Hummingbird numbers down? More people thought numbers were down than up. Now that the hummingbird season is drawing to a close, we can say we've seen more hummers since the young have fledged. We usually see the maximum numbers of hummers in mid to end of August when males, females and the young are all still here.

We haven't seen any male hummers since about Aug. 25th. Now we are seeing female and juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbirds still migrating through "Bobolink Farm," our property in southern NH. Keep your hummingbird feeders up for a while longer, it will not deter the hummingbirds from migrating. Their migration urges are instinctual. We always keep some planters of Salvia "Lady in Red" on our deck, where they are protected from frost. The hummers love it and stop there for refueling.

There is a an interesting research website called New England Hummers that is tracking the populations and spring and fall migrations of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in New England. So for all of you that have hummingbirds, you can participate by entering your sightings of hummingbirds here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

More Hawks Again

Some of the hawk-watchers at Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory, scanning the skies in different directions to find hawks. Don is in the middle in the tan shirt.

During a lunch break, Phoebe, our Corgi, meets a Golden Retriever.

Broad-winged Hawks, in a "kettle," a group of Broadwings rising on a thermal of warm air, their preferred mode of transport to their wintering grounds in Central and South America.

Phoebe is helping Lillian spot the kettles.

Don and our friend David (in green), scanning the skies. We were treated to several sightings of Bald Eagles, so majestic as they passed over our heads.

Don, Lillian and Lance, the official hawk counter on Pack Monadnock, who is hired by New Hampshire Audubon Society.

On Sat. our own property we looked for hawks as a cold front came through. The high winds of the front brought the hawks low and we saw 351 hawks over our own hayfield. Sunday we went back to Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory for another great raptor show and saw many more hawks. It has been a very good hawk migration season here in southern New England and there may still be more hawks to come. So keep looking up and go to a hawk watch site near you. Above are some photos from yesterday. For more tips on identifying hawks in flight go here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hawks Again


The View off the hawk-watch site of Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory

We were hawk-watching yesterday at Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory in NH, and again this morning and have seen fabulous hawks. Hawk-watching is one of our favorite activities. When we've spent the day up on the mountain staring into the blue sky, watching hundreds of hawks circling above, then come down off the mountain, we feel a part of ourselves is still up there in the sky soaring with the hawks. It's addictive. Below are some photos from the two days.

American Kestrels flew right by our heads

Lillian scanning for hawks

Broad-winged Hawks coming off a thermal

During the noontime hours yesterday, the hawks were rising so high on the thermals, we felt we were missing many and Don and another hawk-watcher were on their backs, scanning high up hoping to find the hawks.

Broad-winged Hawk flapping

Mostly Broadwings soar with their wings open and look for rising thermals of hot air to give them lift.

Groups of elementary school children, who were studying raptors as part of their curriculum, came each day to see the hawks. They were lucky that many hawks were flying and were thrilled to get some close views.

Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory is operated by New Hampshire Audubon Society, who raffled off one of our signed Stokes Field Guide To Birds to anyone who became a member that day. Here are the winners.

Broadwings up high can look tiny in your binoculars.

Another group of students from Antioch New England College also came up with their teachers. Don is giving them hawk-watching tips and helping them spot the birds. What a wonderful opportunity it is to share information and get students excited about the hawks. Hopefully some of them will get addicted too and turn into hawk conservationists in the future.

1,487 Hawks at Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory

Yesterday we saw 1,487 Hawks at Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory. 1,352 of them were Broad-winged Hawks. After a slow start, the majority of the Broad-winged numbers were seen in the afternoon. Some were close and we had nice views. Other Broadwings in distant "kettles" looked like pepper flakes, just like in the photo above. There were many Broadwings still in the air at 5:00 pm., looking for lift. Many of them will spend the night nearby in southern N.H. This morning many of those hawks will begin migrating again, and will be seen from the southern New England hawk watch sites such as Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory and Mt. Watatic.
More photos and info to come.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Gone Hawk-watching!

We're going hawk-watching. Today could be a good day. If you have a chance, go out with your binos and look up at the sky. See our post yesterday for tips on watching hawks.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hawk-watching Tips

Broad-winged Hawk, adult. Has thick, black-and-white tail bands.

The hawks are coming! The hawks are coming! We're entering prime hawk migration time for birders in the northern and eastern half of the U.S. The weather here in NH today is cold, cloudy and very windy. Some hawks, such as Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, Merlins and American Kestrels, will move under these conditions, but Broad-winged Hawks, an abundant migrant, migrate by using rising thermals. Tomorrow's weather conditions of clear and sunny, with mild northwest winds, should produce ideal conditions for Broad-winged Hawk migration. Most of the northeast hawk-watch sites have seen low number of Broadwings so far this fall, except one site on Mt. Philo, VT near Burlington. Monday, Sept. 10th, when most of the rest of New England was rainy, they had over 3,000 Broad-winged Hawks pass them. There are still many more hawks to migrate out of New England, so plan on looking.

Here are some tips for watching hawks:

1. Prime Broad-winged Hawk migration in the North is Sept. 11 to 25, in the South (TX) it is Sept. 25th to Oct. 10.

2. Prime Sharp-shinned Hawk migration in the Northeast is Sept. 1 to Oct. 10, in the Mid-Atlantic States it is Sept. 10 to Oct. 20, in the West it is Sept. 11 to Oct. 31.

3. Hawks usually move most under sunny skies with mild northwest, north or northeast winds. Broad-winged Hawks require thermals to move.

4. Go hawk-watching at one of the many "official" hawk-watch sites here. Or find your own by going to a hill, mountain, or tall structure available to you that has good views to the north, because that is the direction the hawks are coming from.

5. Bring binoculars that are at 8 power, or even 10 power if you have them. Scan slowly back and forth across the sky at different heights to find the hawks. Most hawks will be fairly far away and some may look like specs. Learn hawk shapes at a distance to identify them.

6. Here's a brief look at the most common hawks you will see:

Broad-winged Hawk, adult

Broad-winged Hawk, juvenile

* Broad-winged Hawks. These are medium-sized hawks, 16" long, with broad wings, and soar together in groups. Look for the broad black-and-white tail bands seen on the adults, usually visible even at a distance. Juvenile Broad-winged Hawks have thin tail bands and dark streaking that is usually heaviest on the sides of the breast.

* Sharp-shinned Hawks. These are small, about Blue Jay-sized, 12" long, hawks in the accipiter group. They migrate mostly singly with flap-flap-flap glide flight and have short rounded wings and a somewhat long tail that has a squared end.

* Cooper's Hawks. These are extremely similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks, and are a tricky ID challenge, but are somewhat larger, 17" long, with a longer, rounded tail and larger, longer head and similar flight pattern.

* American Kestrels. These are a type of falcon. They are smaller than a Sharp-shinned Hawk, about 10 1/2" long, with pointed wings and a long tail and fly mainly with continuous flapping.

* Merlins. Very similar to a Kestrel but darker and larger, about 12" long. Has broad, pointed wings and a somewhat shorter tail than a Kestrel. Flies swiftly and strongly. See yesterday's blog entry for details on Merlin vs. Kestrel ID.

* Turkey Vultures. Very large, about 27" long, all black birds that constantly soar with their wings held in a V.

7. Keep track of your numbers and turn them in to your local bird or hawk-watching oganization.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Merlins and Kestrels

American Kestrel, male

American Kestrel, female

Lillian, watching the Kestrels and Merlins



Don watching the flying falcons

The weather here is socked in with fog and drizzle. We walked out on our hayfield, which was recently cut and baled, the nesting Bobolinks and American Bittern having safely fledged. We birded the area and saw 4 American Kestrels, some hunting from the hay bales, and 2 Merlins flying around the field. These hawks were not migrating much due to the inclement weather. What a treat to see these falcons. At one point a Merlin was chasing 2 Kestrels. It's a nice warm up to the hawk-watching spectacle to come. We think Thursday will be a good hawk-watching day in the Northeast because a front is coming through on Wed. Thursday will be clear and sunny with mild northwest winds, just the conditions hawks like for migration.

We ID many flying hawks by their shapes first, since you often cannot see colors or markings on hawks at a distance. The backlit Merlin photo wonderfully shows its shape: the moderately long, strongly-tapered wings; the broad head and short neck; a relatively short tail.

Compare the Merlin shape to the Kestrel shape. Note that the American Kestrel has long, narrow, pointed and strongly tapered wings and a long tail. In general, the greatest width of the wing on a Kestrel will be shorter than the length of its tail (measured from the base of its wings to the tip of the tail), and on a Merlin, the greatest width of the wing will approximately be greater than the length of its tail. Merlin vs. Kestrel is an ID challenge for birders when hawk-watching. These clues will help.

Plan on going hawk-watching Thursday if you can. It's a good bet you'll see some hawks. Go to one of the many official hawk-watch sites, or just find any high spot, of ground, or a building, where you have a clear view of the northwest and scan the sky. Hawks will fly from early to late, but most are seen between about 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Think Hawk-watching!

Broad-winged Hawk

A "kettle" of migrating Broad-winged Hawks. The larger birds are Turkey Vultures.

Hawk-watching season is now starting. We're closely watching the weather and will drop everything and go birding to watch migrating hawks soon, when we think they're most likely to move. Then you'll see a "gone hawk watching" sign on our blog.

The big excitement is, we're hoping to see large numbers of Broad-winged Hawks who traditionally migrate in mid-Sept., usually between Sept. 11- 25th, in the northen part of the eastern half of the country, from the Midwest to New England. Broadwings migrate in big groups by rising up on thermals with wings spread — we call this a "kettle" of hawks. The Broadwings then tuck their wings when they're at the top of a thermal and "peel off"— glide down to the next thermal. It's sort of like getting elevator rides and an energy efficient means of moving to their distant wintering grounds. Many other hawks migrate during this time also, but not in the large groups and big numbers of Broadwings.

Broadwings eat mainly amphibians and reptiles so, when the weather turns colder and their food source disappears, the Broadwings head out of here for warmer climates. They actually migrate all the way down the U.S., to Central America and South America, their wintering areas.

Birders will be at all the major hawk-watching sites in the eastern half of the country, from Hawk Ridge, Duluth, MN, to Cape May, NJ, to watch the Broadwings and other hawks migrate.

We'll take you hawk-watching with us at our site, Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory, in southern NH, during the next week.