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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Week

We have a new look to our blog. It's still the same Stokes Birding Blog and none of the content has changed.

Funny thing, some Wild Turkeys showed up at our bird feeder this morning. They ate the bird seed on the ground that was dropped from the hanging feeders. We suggested they lay low until after Thurs.

Pine Siskins are coming to the feeders. The bottom bird is a Pine Siskin, streaked brown with a hint of yellow along the wing, the ones above are American Goldfinches in their winter plumage. I caught this fun shot of a chickadee in flight coming into the feeder. Keep your feeders filled for the birds to feast this Thanksgiving week, and enjoy watching the birds.

Our new 11 week old puppy, Abby, is being socialized by our frined, Peggy. Thanks Peggy!

Here's a quote from one of our favorite puppy training books, The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete,

"By socialization we mean two things: first the positive adjustment a puppy makes to the many aspects of her life, whether to other dogs, people, places, or objects; second, what we do to foster this. A puppy is extremely sensitive to socializing experiences between three and twelve weeks of age, when their effects are permanent for better or worse....since domestic dogs are expected to behave in ways that are socially acceptable to humans, a puppy needs plenty of human contact and exposure to all sorts of common everyday things. This lays the foundation for a positive attitude toward new people and new experiences and teaches the puppy that human beings and their world are part of his pack."

The trick is to expose our puppy to new people and things in a positive way and not in a way that overwhelms or frightens the puppy. We have had lots of people over to meet her. We have shown her many things in her environment, such as vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, trucks, etc. We have taken her for car rides and walked around town holding her in our arms (we don't put her on the ground until she has had all her immunization shots so she won't be exposed to potential germs from other dogs.)

We make sure to also give attention to our Corgi, Phoebe.

We go for lots of walks with the two dogs, Abby gets used to following the pack.

Here's Abby meeting our friends Scott and Kim. Thanks Scott and Kim! Lots of holding and touching by a wide of variety of people, assure that Abby will accept and not be afraid of people.

Abby and Phoebe play wonderfully. They do chase games and mock fighting games, never hurting one another. Here Abby is tugging at Phoebe's ruff.

Phoebe puts her head over Abby's neck. They can play for half an hour at a time like this.
When Phoebe was a pup, she spent lots of time with her own mother, Chanel, who would play gently with Phoebe. Now Phoebe is showing Abby how to play the same way. You can see more photos of Phoebe and Abby on our new Stokes Garden Blog, click here.

This is a busy week, we'll have a big family Thanksgiving at our house and we'll be busy baking pies, getting ready, minding puppies, having fun. We are thankful for the joy of birds and most importantly, for our wonderful family.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving holiday. We're taking the rest of the week off and will see you next Monday.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mourning Dove declines?

Mourning Doves

We're hearing from folks around NH that some of them think Mourning Dove numbers are down right now. We haven't seen any Mourning Doves at our feeders for quite a while. In winter MODOs (abbreviation for Mourning Dove) form flocks that drift about a given area as food sources change. These flocks may remain fairly stable in menbership through winter and even have a fixed social hierarchy. Are any of you seeing a drop in Mourning Dove numbers, or not?

Other birds being seen in NH are a Snowy Owl, a few lingering warblers, Northern Harriers and White-winged Crossbills. For the last few days we have had flocks of White-winged Crossbills fly over our house. Watch for them to show up in other areas of the country.

On the puppy front, we made it through 3 nights with her sleeping through the night without a sound. We're working on leash training, house-training, coming when called, and socialization by meeting lots of our friends. She and Phoebe played lots yesterday and wore one another out. A tired puppy is a happy puppy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A New Puppy

Our new Pembroke Welsh Corgi, "Abby"

Who runs surprisingly well as she tries to keep up with our Corgi, Phoebe. Big dog, little dog.

We're getting Abby used to our "armchair birding", part of our birding lifestyle.

Abby appropriately kissed up to Phoebe, who is the top dog.

Equal petting helps cut down on jealousy.

Abby is a kissing puppy, soooo cute.

What? Yes, we just got a new Corgi puppy. Remember the Corgi litter that was "just visiting" us. We couldn't help but want one. Her name is "Abby" and she is an 11 week old Pembroke Welsh Corgi. She has the sweet, calm, loving and playful temperment that our Corgi Phoebe has. So we think they'll be a good match for one another. Already they play together, Phoebe being gentle and playing at puppy speed. It's lots of work but great fun. Last night Abby successfully made it through the night in her little crate she sleeps in, without a peep.
Excuse us if we are not as consistent with our posts on the blog for the next several weeks while we adjust to having a new puppy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bald Eagle on TV

We saw a wonderful TV program on the Bald Eagle last night, part of the Nature TV series on PBS. It will be repeated during the week, so check your local PBS stations for the time.
It was titled, American Eagle and featured the lives and behavior of several Bald Eagle nesting pairs in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. Excellent and compelling footage of eagles courting, nest-building, family life, sibling rivalry, catching prey, flight antics, etc. Having had our own PBS TV (Stokes Birds At Home) show for several years, for which we were the videographers, we appreciate the skill, time and effort it took to get such magnificent video of the eagles.
You can see a preview of the eagle TV show here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Armchair Birding

Armchair birding is part of a birding life. Recently we decided to rearrange some of our furniture and plunk ourselves in front of our big window so we could do more birding in the morning while having coffee. We keep binoculars, spotting scope, field guides and our bird journal handy. We love it! It enables us to do birding before going to work, or when the weather is terrible and we can't go out. It's amazing what you can see if you just keep your binos handy and look out your window at your bird feeders and beyond. Armchair birding is now part of our birding life, maybe it can be part of yours too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Last night the moon rose over the mountian of our view. My 500 mm Canon lens was already set-up on the tripod and I couldn't resist taking this photo of the moon. "Chance favors the prepared photographer."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Property Bird #186 White-winged Crossbill

Yesterday we were outside in the garden and heard and saw a small flock of White-winged Crossbills fly overhead. The call was the confirmation of the ID, as the flock was distant and flew over quickly, before we could run and get our binos. We had read that White-winged Crossbills were being seen and heard by other birders in NH, so we were alert to their possibility and had even been listening to our Stokes Field Guide To Bird Songs CDs to refresh our memories as to what their calls sound like. The preparation paid off, we were able to add them to our property list.
As the saying goes, "chance favors the prepared mind."
Sorry I did not get a photo, but you can see one here.

Other rare birds of note from the region:
People in NH and MA along the coast are seeing Cave Swallows. Cave Swallows breed in FL and the southwest. Cave Swallows are showing up with increasing frequency in the Northeast in the fall. It is thought these birds are from the southwestern breeding population.

A super-rarity, if confirmed, showed up on Mon. at Moonstone Beach, RI. This bird is thought to be a possible Small-billed Elaenia (which would be a first North American Record) or a White-crested Elaenia (which would be a second North American record — one showed up in Texas last Feb.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Waterfowl Survey NH

This weekend we went birding and participated in a waterfowl survey of southwestern NH, organized by Phil Brown of NH Audubon. Several birders went out and censused the various ponds and lakes in the area to find ducks and other waterfowl. We found one Canada Goose,

and lots of Hooded Mergansers,

who always seemd to be swimming away from us. This male has his crest raised like a fan.

The scenery was so beautiful, with clouds reflected in the water,

and the last of the fall leaves, the oaks, floating on the surface.

Finding the ducks and waterfowl required lots and lots of scanning across the water with our spotting scope. We used our Stokes Birding Series Sandpiper 15-45x65mm angled scope.

This is what I saw through the scope, tiny far away dots.

"Hey, Don I found some Hooded Mergansers."

Don was scanning with his binoculars. The orange hat is a precaution, so we would be spotted by any hunters that might be about.

Part of the fun was seeing the ducks, the other part of the fun was just getting out, on this crisp day and soaking up the beauty of the late fall landscape. That's what birding can do for you.

Our list of birds:
17 Black Ducks
1 Canada Goose
18 Hooded Mergansers
1 Double-crested Cormorant

We also saw a Great Blue Heron, a Belted Kingfisher and a large flock of Pine Siskins.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Snow Bunting Flock

More birds on the move in NH are Snow Buntings. A large flock of 300 was recently seen by birders at Hampton Beach State park. Here is a photo I took of them on the NH coast a few years ago. These small birds breed in Alaska and the Artic and winter in lower Canada and across much of the U.S. they stay in large flocks in winter, feeding on the ground on weed seeds.
I love the dramatic black-and-white pattern on their wings. Hopefully their presence does not mean we will have the real "s" (I don't want to say the first word of their name so not to jinx the weather) anytime soon.
Other birds being seen in NH now are:
Snowy Owl
Horned Larks
Rusty Blackbirds
Golden Eagle
Rufous Hummingbird, male, seen at a feeder in Plaistow
Snow Goose
Pine Grosbeaks
and even a few lingering warblers, such as Blackpoll, Prairie, Palm, Nashville and Black-throated Green

Get out there with your binoculars to do some birding this weekend, who knows what you'll see.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Hooded Mergansers, female on right, male on left

Male with his "hood" raised

We keep a spotting scope set-up right next to our living room window, so we can be birding and looking out over our pond, even when inside. We're seeing migrating Hooded Mergansers on our pond right now. These spunky little ducks dive down and eat fish. We have even had them nest in a bird house that is supposed to be for an owl, but Mrs. Hoodie Merganser didn't know that.
Other migrants being seen in central and southern NH by birders right now are White-winged Crossbills. Click here for photo. We haven't seen any yet but we'll keep looking. Learn their calls as a good way to identify a distant flock in flight.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Birding for Kids

We love to encourage kids to get involved in birding activities. Kids who are interested and informed about birds become the conservation leaders of tomorrow. Here are a few tips and resources about birding for kids (click on the red links for more information.) Even small children can be introduced to birding. Make sure and lower spotting scopes to their height so they can see the birds.

Our Stokes Beginner's Guide To Birds covers the 100 most common birds in the east or west and is organized by color of the bird so even children who cannot yet read, can look up a bird they see. The newly published, Young Birders Guide by Bill Thompson, III, is also a wonderful resource. Older kids who are already into birding should have one of the many full size birding field guides.

Kids should have appropriate sized binoculars, with smaller more compact binoculars given to smaller kids, and

full-sized binoculars for older kids.

The Young Birders part of the American Birding Association website is an excellent resource for kids age 10-18. They have a Young Birder of the Year Contest with prizes in categories for keeping a field notebook, bird illustration, bird writing and bird photography. They also have kid's birding camps and kid's scholarships to those camps and other birding activities. A Bird's-Eye View bimonthly newsletter is edited and written by young birders, (only $10 for 6 issues).

Most importantly, you can help spark an interest by taking a kid birding, whether it's your own kid, a grandchild, neice, nephew or just a friend.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Birds in flight

The American Museum of Natural History in New York, has an exhibit called "On Feathered Wings: Birds In flight, A Spectacular Photography Exhibition" through May 25, 2009. This is an exhibition of over 30 striking photographs featuring dramatic images of birds in flight. Over the course of six years, four photographers—Richard Ettlinger, David G. Hemmings, Miguel Lasa, and Jim Neiger—patiently spent countless hours waiting to capture just the right moment. See some of the photos here.

My favorite type of bird photography is photographing birds in flight. Above are a few of my photos of Roseate Spoonbills, taken at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, FL.

How do photographers get such photos? Here's what you need:

- High speed digital cameras like the Canon 1D Mark II or III, which a lot of professional bird photographers use. For most flight photos you need to have a 500th of a second shutter speed, at least.

- A good flight lens such as the Canon 300 mm IS which is light enough to hand hold. Or the Canon 500 mm or 600 mm IS lens. If you have those, you need a good tripod since they are heavy. A few strong photographers can actually hand hold the 500 mm lens. If you are using a tripod you lack some mobility, so you need a good location such as that at Ding Darling where a lot of birds fly in, in a predictible flight route.

- Good situations for photographing birds in flight, such as open areas of water or shoreline, or open land where you see birds coming from a distance and can get on them early with your autofocus.

- Sometimes there are set-ups photographers use, such as putting up a fake owl statue on a pole, which attracts migrating raptors to a specific target. They come close to check-out the "owl."

- Good eye-hand coordination and fast reflexes.

- A willingness to practice lots and take lots and lots of photos, only some of which will turn out. (At least with digital you are not paying for film.)

- Excellent knowledge of your camera so you have the right photo setting for each situation.

- A strong motivation and desire to take flight photos.

- The expertise and programs to process your digital photo to make it look its best. Most use Adobe Photoshop.

My advice is even if you don't have all or some of the above, try anyway. You might find it fun and addictive like I do.

By the way, you probably know this but, my photographs on this blog (as well as the photographs taken by other bloggers on their blogs) are copyright and are not allowed to be used in any way by other people, without the permission of the person who took the photograph. Thanks.