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Thursday, October 30, 2008

American Robins in Crabapples

American Robin swallowing a crabapple

The American Robins are really chowing down right now on our Prairie Fire Crabapple trees. I got my big Canon 500 mm lens out and put a 2x teleconverter on it, essentially giving me a 1000 mm lens and went out to get some photos. Voila! here are two of my favorites.

I was thinking about photography tips to share with you while I was photographing the robins:

- For bird photography, it is often useful to get the biggest telephoto lens you can afford. It gets you a closer photograph of the bird because you have a more powerful lens. It also allows you to stand farther back from the bird at a distance that does not disturb the bird, so you actually get the photo. That was the case with these robins. I was back far enough that they happily went about their task of eating the berries. They did not fly away, as they would have if I were to move closer.

- Another tip is to move your body in relation to the bird to compose the scene better. These robins were in trees and were often obscured by the leaves. I had to sometimes move, granted with the big heavy lens, to get a better photo. I tried to move with a smooth tai-chi like action, so as not to scare the birds with a sudden fast movement. Birds will often spook and fly away if you move too fast.

Bird photography is tricky, but I find it immensely rewarding, especially when I get good photos that I can share with you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Junco snowbird

Dark-eyed Junco

As I am writing this, it just started lightly snowing here in southern NH. Too early! But it reminded me of Juncos, called "snowbirds" because they have "gray skies above, snow below" coloring. They also arrive on their wintering grounds throughout the U.S. in the fall and stay through the winter. Juncos eat weed seeds and seed on the ground under your bird feeders. We scatter mixed seed on the benches on our deck and the Juncos come right outside our window. It's OK with me for the snowbirds to arrive, just not the snow, at least, not now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Corgi Puppies!!

Hi there,
If you are reading this post you are probably very interested in Corgi puppies, which are very cute! Do not buy a puppy for Christmas, it is a bad idea, wait until things are calmer and you have done your research! We are Don and Lillian Stokes, famous bird authors of The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America and 32 other bird and nature books. If you like birds, buy this book.

We have two Pembroke Welsh Corgis, named Phoebe and Abby.
Phoebe, l., Abby, r.

Here is a post our Corgi, Phoebe, wrote about a litter of puppies, that included the puppy Abby, who we would later adopt, as well as the now famous Bubbles (GCH Llandian's Champagne on Ice) and Pearl (CH Llandian's Black Pearl). If you want to get a Corgi puppy, please get one from a reputable breeder, not a pet store. For a list of reputable breeders, click here. Also, you MUST take your Corgi puppy to dog school. Corgis are very smart and need a job and they will have you herded into a corner, feeding them treats all day, if you do not learn how to train them. They are loving, loyal, intelligent pets.

Phoebe and Bubbles

Blogger Phoebe here,
How about a break from Lillian talking about the birds/schmirds and hearing about me. Well, yesterday we had a puppy invasion. Not that I mind, I kinda like pupppies, after all I was once one also. My breeder, Dianne, came over with a new batch of 8-week-old puppies who are all my cousins (my mom's sister, Ella had a litter with Keiffer). So they're all perfect puppies, since they're related to me and you already know I'm perfect.

I decided to help train the puppies so Lillian could photograph them. This cutie is named Bubbles. She reminds me of me. I told her to listen to what Dianne said. I told her "Put your paws up on the pumpkin,

then stick your tongue out and look adorable." She has potential.

"Hello Laura, I'm your cousin Phoebe." Laura is a fluffy Corgi. They're just like other Corgis but they have longer fur.

Puppies are full of energy. Here Abby, (who we would later adopt), is talking to Pearl.

Trying to organize pupppies is kinda' like herding....well, herding puppies. Hey, herding puppies! That's what Corgis are, we're in the herding dog group. Corgis were bred to herd cattle.

Another cute fluffy named Phantom, who was kissing up to me. He's got the right idea.

I told him to look cute for the camera.

Here's Winston, Phantom's brother.

and here's my protege, Bubbles, with her tri-colored sister, Pearl.

Way to go girls. Your cousin Phoebe approves.
You can learn more about the puppies and their availability by contacting Dianne at her Llandian Corgi website, click here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

American Black Ducks

Saw these American Black Ducks on our Maine birding trip in a marsh near the coast. The female, with the darker bill, is on the right, male on the left. We also had American Black Ducks on the pond in front of our house a few days ago. American Black Ducks and other duck species are migrating now, so keep your binos handy and check lakes and coastal areas.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Robin Migrations

American Robin in flight

American Robin in our Zumi Crabapple tree this morning.

Prairie Fire Crabapples in this morning's frost.

We had migrating American Robins this morning here in NH, in our Zumi Crabapple tree, eating the crabapples. Robins leave their northern breeding areas in the fall, although some robins may stay quite far north, as long as their food supplies last. We have seen American Robins in NH in December when we have done the Christmas Bird Count.

People often write to us about their concerns that robins are too far north in the winter and have not migrated properly. Robins will wander farther south when the weather gets more extreme. The way you can help robins is to plant crabapples and other berry producing trees and shrubs to provide robins with food on their migrations and wintering areas.

Some of our favorite crabapples are:
- Zumi Crabapple
- Sargent Crabapple
- Donald Wyman Crabapple
- Prairie Fire Crabapple

To see a (CBC) map of American Robin's wintering areas go here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Coastal Birding, Maine

Don, looking out over the ocean for birds

While we were recently birding in Maine, trying to see the European Golden-Plover (with no luck), we stopped on the coast to see what birds were on the move. Lots of birds were.

Surf Scoters, adult males

Surf Scoters, those sea ducks with almost clown-like coloring (on the males) were migrating in long lines. They winter along both coasts.

Surf Scoter, flock

Common Loons

Common Loons make their way from inland northern lakes, where they nest, to coastal areas. The loon on the left in the above photo is changing from its breeding to non-breeding plumage.

Northern Gannet, adult

Northern Gannets are dramatic seabirds who can be seen moving along the eastern coastline during migration.

Double-crested Cormorants

Double-crested Cormorants were moving in long lines. They can be seen in a variety of water habitats, from inland to the sea.

One of the things we love about fall birding, is that so many species of birds are on the move. You can have fun looking for them at your bird feeder, or take a trip to lake or coastal areas as we did. There's always lots to look for.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Purple Finches

And at our feeders for the last few days, there have been several Purple Finches, the males just dripping raspberry. Love that color. Here they're feeding along with goldfinches.

Monday, October 20, 2008

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow, immature at our feeder

White-crowned Sparrow, adult

This lovely, immature, White-crowned Sparrow was at the feeder today, an unusual treat as we don't get many White-crowed Sparrows here in southern NH. This is a sparrow who breeds in the far north in tundra and also in alpine meadows and grasslands in parts of the West. They come here during their migration and they winter in much of the southern parts of the country and some of the West.
I love the subtle coloring of the immature, who has brown and grayish head stripes rather than the black and white stripes on the head of the adult. Look for them at your feeders.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are on the move

Red-bellied Woodpecker, male

Our Sugar Maple

The fall color is still peaking here. Many of the Red Maples have dropped their leaves, but the Sugar Maples are in their glory. We have many more Red Maples than Sugar Maples on our property. Above is our best Sugar Maple (which is surrounded by the Red Maples who have already dropped their leaves.) Photo was taken at the end of the day in the golden side light. We just go outside and ooh and ahh. It's a great time of year to be living in NH.

On the bird side of things, Palm Warblers, Juncos and White-throated Sparrows are migrating through. Yesterday we had two Red-bellied Woodpeckers here. They are very uncommon on our property and we have only seen them here a few times. Red-bellied Woodpeckers seem to be making an incursion into NH and other areas right now, with numerous reports from around the state ranging from coastal areas, northern areas and southern areas (we live in the southwest region of NH). Today there are several reports from Nova Scotia. It is believed that Red-bellied Woodpeckers are undergoing a range expansion to the north and west. They breed over much of the eastern half of the country and are thick in the Southeast, but have not been that common in the far upper Midwest, or northern New England or the Canadian Maritime Provinces. Maybe that is about to change.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

You Win Some, You.....

Yellow-rumped Warbler on the marsh.

Trail to Scarborough Marsh,

Don scanning from the bridge,

The marsh where the European Golden-Plover wasn't.

....loose some. We went to see the European Golden-Plover we mentioned on Monday's blog post and came up empty. Others tried to see it on Sunday and Monday with no luck. The last time it was seen was on Saturday afternoon. When we got to Scarborough Marsh later on Monday, there were no birders there, just a few walkers, painters, people excercising their dogs and no one with binoculars. Not a good sign. But we looked anyway and enjoyed the beautiful marsh. Chasing rare birds is always a gamble. As we said, you win some, you loose some.

Monday, October 13, 2008

European Golden-Plover

The news from New England is that a European Golden-Plover was discovered at Scarborough Marsh, Maine the end of last week by Robby Lambert and identified by Lysle Brinker. To see photos go here, here and here. This is a first record in the lower 48 states. It was seen until Sat. but not on Sun. For those still interested in looking for it, here are the directions from the NH.Birds listserve:

"To reach Scarborough Marsh take Rt. 9 off Rt. 1 in Scarborough. Rt. 9
is southwest of the marsh. About 1+ miles from Rt.1 you will see a
sign for ET on the left. Turn left onto the short dirt track and park
in the small parking lot. Cross the bridge over the river. As I
mentioned, the birds were seen well to the south of this dirt road
looking toward the distant railroad track. It's possible that the
parking lot will be full with hikers, bikers, birders. If that' the
case, it's easy to park along Rt. 9, just be careful of traffic.

We really want folks to honor the habitat and the many people who use
the ET for their own non-ornithological purposes. Please do
everything to protect habitat and honor the various uses of the marsh.

Good luck.

Peter Vickery"

The trek out onto the marsh is long, wet and muddy so bring waterproof footwear. Good Luck.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Boreal Chickadee irruption

This Black-capped Chickadee is a relative of the Boreal Chickadee

Yesterday we talked about Pine Siskins coming down from Canada this year. Now huge numbers of Boreal Chickadees, another northern species, have been seen in Quebec and they may be headed down into New England and other areas of the country. This information was just posted by Terry Bronson on the NH Birds listserve, where NH birders keep tabs on bird sightings.

"Germain Savard and Claudette Cormier report a huge irruption of
Boreal Chickadee is occurring at Saint-Fulgence (N48 26 33 W70 52 42)
in Quebec. Germain and Claudette report that "Today, October 8th, no
less than 2403 Boreal Chickadees passed in front of our house for a
grand total of 12,957 this autumn and the migration is not finished
yet!" The chickadees are going from east to west streaming on the
north side of the Saguenay River. They report that the chickadees
don't like to fly over large bodies of water.

Saint-Fulgence is about 215 km north of Quebec City on the north
shore of the Saguenay River about half way between Tadoussac and Lac
Saint-Jean. There have been no reports of Boreal Chickadees moving in
Ontario, but the magnitude of the Quebec irruption suggests that it
will spill over into southern Ontario and probably into bordering states.

Ron Pittaway and Jean Iron
Minden and Toronto ON"

Could it this irruption be related to the poor cone crop this year in the northern Boreal Forests? Boreal species of birds leave their breeding grounds and irrupt down into the U.S. when there is sparse food in winter. Boreal Chickadees look similar to Black-capped Chickadees but have brown caps and rusty sides. See a photo here. Lots to look forward to this winter. Keep your eyes out for Boreal Chickadees at your feeder.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pine Siskins already

Pine Siskin

A few day ago we saw 5 Pine Siskins here at Bobolink Farm, our NH home. They were hanging out with the goldfinches. We usually see siskins in late fall and in winter. Pine Siskins are northern finches that mainly breed in coniferous boreal forests. They leave Canada and northern areas and migrate down throughout the lower U.S. when their northern food source of conifer cone seeds is sparse. They then show up at bird feeders in the U.S.

An article by Ron Pittaway of the Ontarion Field Ornithologists has a forecast for winter finches saying "most siskins should leave the province (of Ontatio) this fall because the spruce cone crop is poor in the boreal forest."

So, will we see more Pine Siskins this year at bird feeders here in the U.S.? Stay tuned and tell us if they show up at your feeders.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Fall Bird Garden

Palm Warblers are migrating through. Note the yellow ("sat in mustard") undertail coverts, a handy clue to their ID

Our garden entrance. We grew the pumpkins.

Overlooking the view.

Scenes from our bird garden in fall.

Monday, October 06, 2008

NH Splendor

Fall colors in the White Mts. of NH

The grand Mt. Washington Hotel looks up at the now snow peaked, "presidential range" of mountains.

Here's photo from the balcony of the hotel looking up at famed, 6,288 ft. high, Mt. Washington.

Nearby Crawford Notch, had visitors,

including us!

Sun shone on our own home's glorious view that morning.

Took a ride up to New Hampshire's White Mountains yesterday to see the fall splendor. Truly spectacular. The mountains were aflame with color — reds. orange, burgundy, coral, yellows. The cloudy gray sky contrasting with the vibrant trees made it even more dramatic. It made us appreciate this state we live in. In just a few hours drive, we can see nature's grand parade of fall color. There were lots of other "leaf peeper's" about and we saw tour buses from other parts of the country, bringing in people to witness the color show.