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Friday, November 30, 2007

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle, imm.

This morning we saw an immature Bald Eagle fly over our lake, looked like one of the ones we saw yesterday. Have a nice weekend. Fill your feeders, snowstorm coming to the Northeast.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bald Eagle Morning

Early this morning, we had 3 Bald Eagles together, circling over our lake in front of our house. One was an adult like the one above, the other 2 were immatures. Wow!
Such a favorite bird, and one that got Lillian into birding years ago (before she met Don) when she spotted one from a hawk watch site, where she was participating in a hawk count.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


A flock of 75 Common Redpolls were feeding on the seeds of our birch trees this morning.
For photo of a Common Redpoll, click here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Brown Creeper

Near our house this morning was a Brown Creeper. We think this little bird takes the art of camouflage to a new level. Even when you're looking directly at it, it's hard to miss, it so perfectly blends in with its tree trunk environment. Brown Creepers have a curious way of moving. They creep by hitching their way up a tree trunk, using their tail as a prop. Then they fly down to the base of the next tree trunk, and hitch up again. They feed by probing under bark for insects and larvae with their long, downcurved bill. On rare occassions, we've had them come to our suet feeders. One of the ways we know they're around is by their high-pitched, "tsee" call. We always feel its a treat to spot them, such an inconspicuous little bird, but very interesting.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mom's a Ch.!!!

Ch. LLandian's Talkin' Bout My Girl (Chanel)

Chanel, Phoebe's Mom

Blogger Phoebe here today,

Lillian and Don are busy working on their book, so I have taken over the blog. I have a news flash, my mom, Chanel, won at a dog show yesterday and got her championship. Yeah, way to go mom!! You are now, officially, "Champion (Ch.) LLandian's Talkin' Bout My Girl."

To become a champion, you have to earn points at AKC (American Kennel Club) sanctioned dog shows. According to the AKC, a dog must get 15 points, including two majors (wins of three, four or five points) awarded by at least three different judges, to become an American Kennel Club "Champion of Record." The amount of points you get at a show is based on how many dogs of your breed are competing at that show. The more dogs that are entered, the more points you get if you win. As I said, in order for a dog to become an AKC Champion two of their wins must be major wins, this is a show that is a 3, 4, or 5 points in value. This rule is in place to make sure that every Champion has been chosen from a large cross section of the breed, making each Champion pretty close to the breed standard. As you can see it's not easy for a dog to achieve an AKC Champion of Record but a very rewarding one when it is achieved.

The Judge has the ultimate say, at a show, of what dogs win.
Spayed or neutered dogs are not eligible to compete in conformation classes at a dog show, because the purpose of a dog show is to evaluate breeding stock.

At a dog show, a judge examines each and every dog in the breed they are judging, and then gives awards according to how closely each dog compares to the judge's mental image of the "perfect" dog described in the breed's official standard. It is very important to understand here that one judge may have a different mental image of the perfect dog so, judging is subjective. Yes, there is a standard for each and every breed and the judge is very familiar with the standard. According to the AKC, the standard describes the characteristics that allow the breed to perform the function for which it was bred. These standards include specifications for structure, temperament and movement. We are Pembroke Welsh Corgis and are herding dogs so our breed standard says we should be....
"Low-set, strong, sturdily built and active, giving an impression of substance and stamina in a small space. .... Outlook bold, but kindly. Expression intelligent and interested.... Correct type, including general balance and outline, attractiveness of headpiece, intelligent outlook and correct temperament is of primary importance. Movement is especially important, particularly as viewed from the side. A dog with smooth and free gait has to be reasonably sound and must be highly regarded....."
To see the rest of our breed standard, click here.

My mom did her part to win by standing pretty in the ring, moving well and just being her usual charming self. As I told you many times before, I'm perfect. Now you can see where I get some of my perfection from— my perfect mom.
I love my Mom, she's my best friend. She lives with my breeder, Dianne, but sometimes she comes to stay with me, just for fun.
Until later, this is Blogger Phoebe signing off. Woof!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Irruptive Species: Common Redpolls

Common Redpoll

A flock of Common Redpolls flew over us on our morning walk. Reports of irruptive species are coming in from all over NH on the NHBirds listserv.... Pine Grosbeaks in Antrim, Nelson and Harrisville, Common Redpolls in Concord and Harrisville, Evening Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings in North Conway.
Maine has reoprts of Bohemian Waxwings, Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, and Pine Siskins. Massachusetts has Bohemian Waxwings, Evening Grosbeaks and Hoary Redpolls. As we said, keep looking, you could find irruptive species just about anywhere in the country this year.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pine Grosbeak, #179!

Pine Grosbeak, female, looked at

the Corgis, our Phoebe, left, and Chanel, her mother, right

After talking all last week about "irruptive species" and telling people to be on the lookout since this seems to be a banner year for them, we took our own advice. While planting the last of the tulips in the yard yesterday, I heard an unusual call coming from our tall maple tree next to our house. I rushed to get the pair of binos I keep in the car, which was nearby, looked up and saw a female Pine Grosbeak. She was giving conitinuous call notes, as is described on our Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs, eastern region, CDs, "tu-weet-wee" and "tu-weet." (Listen to disk 3, track 92, for those of you who have the CDs).

She then flew down to our Prairie Fire Crabapples and sat there, tamely watching me and 2 Corgis (who did not bark), our Phoebe, and her visiting mother, Chanel. I ran inside with the dogs to get Don to see the Pine Grosbeak. What a lovely bird. The most exciting part for us was, this was the first time we had ever seen that species on our own property! We added her to our "property bird list" as species number 179.

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

Purple Finch, Irruptive Species

Purple Finch, male

Purple Finch, female

Another bird feeder favorite that might be classified as an irruptive species is the Purple Finch. Purple Finches breed in parts of the upper eastern quadrant of the U.S., the West Coast and across the boreal forest. The eastern subspecies is somewhat brighter that the western subspecies. In years where there is a lack of winter food in their usual range, they "irrupt" and move to other areas, such as going deeply down into the eastern U.S. There are current reports that in November they, as well the other irruptive species, Pine Siskins and Red-breasted Nuthatches, are being see as far south as Alabama.
Do not confuse the Purple Finch with the more common House Finch. Both males are red, but the male Purple Finch has much less streaking on his sides and belly than the male House Finch. Female Purple Finches have a white eyebrow that helps distinguish them from female House Finches.
As we have said, this is shaping up to be a banner year for irruptive species. Keep looking this winter and if you see some, let us know in the comments section or email us.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Irruptive Species

Another on-the-short-list-for-cutest-birds, species that could be called an "irruptive species" is the Red-breasted Nuthatch, photo above. This diminuitive nuthatch makes a very nasal, high-pitched "meep-meep" call (try saying "meep-meep" while holding your nose and speaking in a high voice), that we get a kick out of. Once you learn it, you'll know when it's in your yard.
Red-breasted Nuthatches breed in spruce and fir forests in the West and more northern regions. When winter food is scarce, they make "irruptions" out of their usual areas and can come down into all of the U.S., even as far south as Florida! This being a good year for "irruptive species," don't be surprised if it shows up at your sunflower feeder. We saw one at our feeders yesterday.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007
P.S. If you don't want to try the holding your nose and making "meep-meep" noises thing, you can also hear what a Red-breasted Nuthatch sounds like by getting the Stokes Field Guide To Bird Songs CDs. You can even load them into your ipod, instructions here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Evening Grosbeaks, Irruptive Species

Evening Grosbeaks, female on left, male on right

If you haven't guessed by now, our theme of the week is "irrputive species," those usually more northern species of birds who "irrupt" in large scale movements and come down into the U.S. during winters when their seed and cone food supply is lacking. We have heard that this has been a poor year for the cone crop in Canada and there is anecdotal evidence that the Pinyon nut crop in California, Utah and Nevada completely failed this year.
We had Evening Grosbeaks flying overhead here yesterday in southern NH. Watch for these big "space cadet" looking finches with the very large beaks to potentially show up at feeders across much of the U.S. Sunflower is their favorite seed. They like large perches to accomodate their size, so tray feeders and feeders with wide ledges are ideal.
In the West, even Pinyon Jays, who rely on that Pinyon nut cone crop, may be forced out of their usual range. It's shaping up to be a very unusual year.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pine Grosbeak, Irruptive Species

As we mentioned in our last blog entry, Pine Grosbeaks are another "irruptive species," coming down into the upper U.S from their western montane and northern boreal breeding range, when there is a lack of winter food. Males have rosy red on their plumage, females and young birds have variable mustard-olive or russet on their plumage. They love crabapples and I photographed this one in winter in northern New Hampshire eating crabapples in a tree behind a fast food restaurant! We still don't have them on our property list here in southern NH, but we keep hoping. Some have been seen on mountain tops nearby. This is another species you can watch for in your yard this winter. Another good reason to plant crabapples in the spring.

Photo @ Lillian Stokes, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

Do You have Common Redpolls? Irruptive Species

We recently saw a flock of 12 Common Redpolls, cute little winter finches with red caps. These are an "irruptive" species and nest in the far north. In winters where there is a lack of seeds and nuts, they will come down into the U.S. in greater numbers. This is shaping up to be a good year for "irruptive species," because word has it, it's a poor mast (nuts and seeds) year up north. It's not so good here in New England either, there are few acorns and pine seeds. Look for many of these irruptive species, such as these Common Redpolls, to show up at your bird feeders. Keep feeders stocked with sunflower and thistle (Nyjer). Look closely among your goldfinches to pick them out. Photo above was taken at our feeders in '05. Here is a list of some irrputive species;

Pine Siskin
Common Redpoll
Pine Grosbeak
Evening Grosbeak
Red Crossbill
White-winged Crossbill

Let us know if you have Common Redpolls or any other of the Irruptive species on this list showing up in your yard. Reply to comment section below.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

Osprey Looking at You

I was looking through my Osprey file and came across this image of an Osprey in flight, looking directly at you. I had to share it. This also is a reminder that hawk migration is still going on. Broad-winged Hawks have long ago left New England, but Red-tailed Hawks, some accipiters and eagles, are still migrating. If you can, try looking this weekend for some migrating raptors. Good Birding.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tree Sparrows

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow, note the central breast dot

Newly arrived on our property are American Tree Sparrows. We enjoy their delicate good looks and their tinkling calls, as they roam the winter landscape. They breed across upper Canada and in Alaska and are seen in winter throughout much of the country. Their central breast dot stands out on their clear breast and notice their white wing bars and yellow lower mandible, good ID clues.
American Tree Sparrows eat weed seeds and come to our feeders for millet, cracked corn and other small seeds under the feeders. We often go out in our yard with our binoculars and look at the feeders and around our property at any sparrows we see, looking closely at these subtly colored birds. The reward is discovering and identifying the many species of sparrows in fall and winter. Try it, you may be surprised at how many species of sparrows can see at your own feeders.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Robin Migration Stop

We have had many American Robins migrating through our NH property. This recent robin is in our "Prairie Fire" crabapple tree. The migrating robins stop in because they love to eat the crabapples. Many people ask us about seeing robins now, or even later in the fall and winter. They wonder if the robins are too far north and not migrating properly. American Robins wander widely in winter and sometimes, they stay farther north, especially if they can still find food supplies, like these crabapples.
When the food supplies give out and more severe weather comes, the robins migrate farther south to places like Florida.
To see photos of wintering robins in Florida, where they eat the Palm trees fruits, click here.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bluebirds in Fall

We have had a flock of 12 Eastern Bluebirds visiting our "Bobolink Farm" property, here, in southern NH. They roam around then go to each of our bird houses and go inside, then land on the roof and just explore them. Our friends have called to say they are seeing bluebirds also.
This is typical behavior of bluebirds in fall. It does not mean they are nesting in the houses now. They're just exploring them so they know about potential nesting sites next spring. Sometimes bluebirds may also roost at night in the boxes during the fall or winter, if they're here. Bluebirds may or may not winter in New England, depending on the weather and available food resources. They mainly eat berries in winter.

It's encouraging for us to see bluebirds, since this past season was a disaster for bluebird nesting here. Last spring we had a pair of bluebirds that were thinking about nesting, then the terrible April cold weather and snowstorms arrived and the bluebirds disappeared and did not return.

So there is hope some of these roaming bluebirds may return next spring to nest here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Red-tailed Hawk, Same Time, Same Place

This morning there was a Red-tailed Hawk, sitting in the early golden light, in our tree in the middle of our big field, photo above. Funny thing is, we had a Red-tailed Hawk show up just about the same time last year, sitting in just about the same spot. We even had a Redtail juvenile show up in early Dec., one year, and sit in just about the same spot. Could this morning's bird be the same Redtail from last year? A likely possibility, since birds are creatures of habit. They often stop at the same places during their migration, just as we humans often stop at the same restaurants or motels on our travels. Known places are an advantage.
Several years ago, there was a Red-tailed Hawk released on our property as part of a fundraiser for a nearby raptor migration observatory. We called her "Chance" because she was given a second chance in life. She stayed around our area for the summer then disappeared in late fall, probably migrating, we thought. Could this redtail that appeared in the fall be her? We like to think so, but, who know.

Photo © Lillian Stokes, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow, 1st winter

White-crowned Sparrow, 1st winter

We still have many types of sparrows migrating through here in southern NH. If we look closely among the flocks of Juncos and White-throated Sparrows, we can spot White-crowned Sparrows, which are less common here. They breed across the far northern part of this continent and into the West and winter across much of the southern half of the U.S., but not so much in the Southeast. This beautiful, young, 1st winter White-crowned Sparrow was at our feeders recently. We love the subtle shades of cinnamon and beige on its plumage. You might ask, "where's the white crown?" Well this is a young bird and it will molt into its adult plumage by next spring and breeding time. Then it will have a black-and-white striped crown, like an adult.

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007