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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bald Eagle, adult

Speaking of Bald Eagles, as we did yesterday, this morning there was an adult Bald Eagle sitting in a tree by the cove in front of our house. What a thrill for us. Bald Eagles are one of those high interest birds, that elicit oohs and ahhs from people, when you mention them. This is the third Bald Eagle to visit our pond in 2 days. As we explained, Bald Eagles visit us this time of year when the ice breaks up, even though they do not nest here.
Often, in our cove, there are otters with fish, or the otters leave fish remnants on the ice, and the Bald Eagles may try and steal a fish from the otter, or eat the bits of fish. Bald Eagles are scavengers and their main diet is fish. Sometines they eat ducks, and right now we have many ducks in our cove. The eagles can dive on a duck, until it is exhausted, then eat it. So the ducks are nervous, but not so nervous they leave.
P.S. On our morning walk we hear an Eastern Phoebe, so they have arrived!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ducks, Eagles, Otter

Common Mergansers just arrived

The males have the dark green heads, the female's heads are brown.

Two eagles arrived in the mist

These are young eagles have not attained the all white head and tail of the adult plumage. (Digiscoped in fog, through my window, from more than 1000 feet away, so apologies for the mistly blurry images, but I thought it was worth capturing something.)

The eagles were watching an otter, hoping to steal a fish from it. (Photo also digiscoped from a great distance, but with more sunlight.)

Over the weekend we had quite a show of ducks plus 2 eagles. The ice in the cove in front of our house finally opened up, so it is only half ice. The ducks, eagles and an otter moved right in. We saw 32 Common Mergansers, 2 Hooded Mergansere, 4 Wood Ducks, 4 Black Ducks and 3 Mallards. This morning we saw the 2 eagles sitting about 20 feet away from the otter. We think they are waiting for the otter to catch fish and then they will try and steal it. We have seem them do this before. The otter gets a fish, comes up on the ice to eat it, then the eagles drive it off, then get the fish. These eagles are subadults (young) and do not have their full adult plumage yet. That takes about 4 years.

I had to digiscope the eagles from a great distance, in very poor light, it was the only way I could capture the moment. No one digiscopes like this, because the resulting image is so blurry. I am the only one I know who tries things like this. But in an odd sort of way, I like the misty, blurry, ghost-like images, that kinda capture the feel of what it was like to look though my scope into the private world of 2 young eagles waiting in the fog, hoping to snatch a fish from an otter.

Speaking of digiscoping done right, our friend Mike McDowell, master digiscoper of Mike's Birding and Digiscoping Blog, had to move his blog to a new address due to a nightmare experience with his server. You can find his new blog, with his gorgeous digiscoped images, here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Waiting for Phoebes

We are waiting for our Eastern Phoebes to arrive. Even though we still have snow here in spots, spring is approaching and the weather will be in the 50's tomorrow. Phoebes are due to arrive any day now. One of the most fun things about this time of year, is that it is so full of expectations for us. So many birds will be migrating and arrive in the next 2 months. We have opened our barn doors (phoebes have nested there the past 4 years), and put out the welcome mat.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

White-breasted Nuthatch

We've been hearing White-breasted Nuthatches singing their, "wer-wer-wer-wer" song. Not the most musical or exciting sound, but it accomplishes their purpose, to define a nesting territory (of about 25-45 acres) and attract a mate.

Years ago when we first started our publisheing career, we wrote 3 volumes of Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, which documented the lives and behavior of 25 species in each volume. We would research all that was published, then spend many hours in the field following and watching all the behavior of each species. We saw White-breasted Nuthatches do some fascinating behavior, including sweeping the entrance around their nest hole with crushed insects or bits of fur. It has been suggested that this leaves a scent that deters squirrels and other mammal predators from the nest.

Nuthatches store bits of food under bark. We once saw a nuthatch come to near its nest hole and store food under the bark. A second nuthatch who was on the same tree, saw it coming, went and hid on the backside of the tree, and when it was gone, went around to the front of the tree and stole the bit of food!

Birds are always doing fascinating behavior, which you can see, if you take the time to look.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Winter Finches

Recent photo of goldfinches at the feeder during the last snowstorm. The finches are beginning to change color from their drab winter plumage to the yellow of spring. Some people stop feeding birds during this time. But it is a time when almost all of the winter food — seeds, berries, etc. are depleted, so it's a hard time for birds. We feed birds all year so it avoids this problem. Plus, we get the fun of seeing birds bring their young to the feeders in spring and summer.

Friday, March 20, 2009

State of The Birds

Bobolink, a species in decline

Roseate Tern, as federally endangered species

Many of you have now seen the State of the Birds report that just came out. Here is some information from it:
"Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today released the first ever comprehensive report on bird populations in the United States, showing that nearly a third of the nation's 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species, and other threats.

At the same time, the report highlights examples, including many species of waterfowl, where habitat restoration and conservation have reversed previous declines, offering hope that it is not too late to take action to save declining populations.
The report is available at

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinated creation of the new report as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, which includes partners from American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Geological Survey."

We urge to read the report on their excellent website. Here are a few more quotes from the sections on specific habitats and how birds of those habitats are doing:

Grasslands -
"Of 46 grassland-breeding birds, 48% are species of conservation concern, including 4 with populations that are federally endangered. Eight of twelve sparrow species are listed as of conservation concern. Of the 42 grassland species with sufficient monitoring data, 23 are declining significantly.
Some of the American landscape’s most iconic birds are showing steep declines. Eastern and Western meadowlarks, Bobolinks, Short-eared Owls, and Northern Bobwhites have declined by 38–77% since 1968." (We are pleased that our own 45 acre farm, here in NH, still has nesting Bobolinks.)

Coasts -
"Of 173 bird species that use coastal habitats at any time of year, 53 are species of conservation concern and 14 are federally listed as endangered or threatened. Fourteen of twenty-seven shorebird species that primarily use coastal habitats have declined.
Federally listed as endangered: Brown Pelican, Wood Stork, (California) Clapper Rail, (Light-footed) Clapper Rail, Whooping Crane, (California) Least Tern, Roseate Tern, (Cape Sable) Seaside Sparrow. Threatened: Spectacled Eider, Steller’s Eider, Piping Plover, Snowy Plover, Marbled Murrelet."

Instead of feeling hopeless, we like that fact they have included a fine section on

What You Can Do

Here are a few things they include:

"The simple things you do every day, from the cup of coffee you drink in the morning to the lights you turn on at night, all have an effect on birds. Our everyday activities impact birds and their habitats. Human activity can deplete their food supplies, create new dangers for them to face, and present them with many challenges.

If we want to protect the birds around us and preserve their future, we need to begin to conduct our lives with consciousness about how our actions affect the world around us—not only the people, but the wildlife, the air, the water, and the land. Below are a few things you can do to help ensure healthy bird populations for future generations.

Drink shade-grown coffee. Coffee produced from shade-loving varieties means wintering habitat can be preserved for key migrant species such as the Cerulean Warbler. Many coffee companies now provide a range of coffee products that are shade-grown and friendly for birds. Ask your local grocery or coffee shop to stock a shade-grown alternative.

Reduce your use of pesticides. Not only can they be toxic to birds, but they kill the insects that birds eat. Weed instead of spraying! If you must use pesticides, look for biopesticide alternatives. Prevent pests from entering your home by replacing worn weather stripping and screens, and filling in gaps in floors and around windows and plumbing fixtures.

Keep your cat indoors. Even well-fed, cats kill birds. Keep cats inside. Not only will the birds be safer, your cat will be healthier and safer, too.

Plan your yard for diversity. Instead of a lawn with no benefit to wildlife, plant a mixture of native grasses, flowers, and shrubs. Use native species—birds like these best and they are best adapted to where you live. Your state or local native
plant society can help you choose species that will work best for you.

Prevent window strikes. Hundreds of millions of birds die each year as a result of hitting windows on every type of building. To reduce night lighting that interferes with migration, ask your office or apartment building manager to turn off exterior and interior lights during spring and fall migration. Place bird feeders within three feet of your windows. Break up the reflections of habitat in your windows by covering the outside of them with taut screens or window film.

Donate your old binoculars to conservation. If you have any old birding equipment just lying around, not being used, you can help our long-distance migrants and rare Latin American endemics by donating your old gear to biologists across the hemisphere through the Birders Exchange program or the Optics for Tropics program.

Reduce your carbon footprint. Do your part to help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels that cause global warming. Use an electric lawnmower; carpool, bicycle, or use public transport when possible; turn off lights when not in use; use low energy bulbs and Energy Star-rated appliances; call your power company and ask if you can buy your energy from renewable sources. Help organizations purchase conservation areas and forests that provide valuable habitat for birds, and helps lower atmospheric CO² levels.

Take action for birds and familiarize yourself with contemporary bird conservation issues. Knowing the issues will help you let your elected officials know which policy and programs can help bird conservation.

Participate in volunteer monitoring activities that help to document the status and trends of bird populations. There are many opportunities in this area, depending on your level of interest, ability to commit time, and level of expertise in bird identification.

Join a bird conservation organization. As individuals, there is only so much we can do for birds. But as a part of an organization with the expertise, broad reach, and partnership capacity of organization, you can make a difference for wild birds and their habitats locally, nationally, and internationally."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More Bluebirds!

Eastern Bluebird, male

What is it that makes people love bluebirds? We certainly are enamoured with them, wrote a book about them, and have had them nest on our properties just about every year since 1990.

Here's a poem from our Stokes Bluebird Book,

"Come along with me, my love
And we will roam the sky;
We'll fly across the meadows,
And soar O'er mountains high.

We'll drink of streams' pure waters;
chase butterflies and bees;
And when we tire of this myu love,
We'l rest in shady trees.

then we will search in earnest,
Eash nook and cranny wide;
Where we can raise our family
Together, side by side.

there it is, myh dearest love.
Well, goodness! Bless my soul!
Just waiting there for us, dear one,
Our house upon a pole.

A kind and careful craftsman
Has built it strong and true;
Do enter into it, my love,
And I will follow you.

by Katherine M. Braun
"Bluebird Honeymoon"

Now is the time to clean out your bluebird houses and have them ready for returning bluebirds. Some bluebirds migrate south and others may remain in northern areas. In early spring bluebirds return to their nesting areas and look for a suitable nesting cavity or bird house. So be ready!
For instructions, from one of our DIY TV shows, on how to build your own bluebird house click here.

For more information, see our Stokes Bluebird Book. This is the complete guide to attracting and enjoying bluebirds. Fully illustrated with more than 80 beautiful full-color photographs of bluebirds.

Includes complete information on putting up bluebird houses, starting a bluebird trail, monitoring bluebird houses, dealing with competitors, protection from predators, landscaping for bluebirds, and bluebird feeders.

Covers all three species of North American bluebirds with identification photos, range maps, breeding behavior, and complete life histories.

Make your own bluebird house. Instructions for building a bluebird house include detailed plans and directions for assembly. Also included are lists of bluebird societies and sources of bluebird supplies. 96 pages. 8 1/2 x 11 inches. Available at, or can be ordered through your local bookstore.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009



Here's our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This is the view from our house, of our 45 acre New Hampshire property that we call "Bobolink Farm" named after the Bobolinks that nest in our hayfields. I photographed this after a rainstorm. We often see rainbows on our property.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Fee-Bee" Chickadee

This morning 2 Black-capped Chickadees each sang their "fee-bee" (a clear, whistled, 2-part sound) song from some distance apart. Many people mistake this sound for the song of the Eastern Phoebe. It is not. Eastern Phoebes make a squeaky, raspy 2-part song that sounds nothing like that of the Black-capped Chickadee. Phoebes have not yet returned from migration to here in NH.

Male chickadees sing at this time of year to attract a mate and define their territory. Chickadees are in a flock of about 6-10 or more birds in the winter that has a fixed winter territory. In spring, the flock breaks up and only the most dominant pair in the flock gets to breed in the winter territory area. The other chickadees have to go elsewhere and find their own territory. So chickadee wars will continue into spring.

Chickadees nest in tree cavities and also bird houses. We have many bird houses up on our property, maybe a chickadee will choose one, we hope.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Snow Cardinal

I took this photo during the last snow storm from inside the house. Mr. Cardinal did land, despite the goldfinch's protesting and the goldfinch took off. Taking high speed photos at feeders is very interesting, because you often inadvertently capture cool photos of birds in flight.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Toe Feeding

Did you ever watch the way chickadees feed? This Black-capped Chickadee takes a sunflower seed from our feeder, then goes to a branch, holds the sunflower between its toes and cracks open the seed. This is a typical chickadee feeding technique for larger seeds. Tufted Titmice do this also. These birds can't hull the seed in their bill as can birds such as finches and cardinals. Watching different bird's feeding behavior is one of the fun things you can do at your feeder.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Garden Dreams

We're busy people. I haven't had time to get a blog post together today, so I'm using a photo of our garden that was recently submitted to a magazine. The water fountain in the middle attracts many birds.
I constantly think about plans for the garden this spring and how I will change it. I also am ordering many seeds from garden catalogs. We're having a snow storm today so it's especially nice to look at garden photos and be reminded of what's ahead.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Blue Jays need calcium

About Blue Jays eating paint off our house - turns out another of our friends (Phoebe and Abby's breeder), who lives in our town, also said she had Blue Jays eating paint off of her house. Both of us have light colored paint on our houses.
Thanks to one of the readers of our blog for, click this link about why the Blue Jays do it.
Turns out Blue Jays need lots of calcium, maybe more than most birds. So they eat paint, which has some calcium in it. Blue Jays in the northeast are especially prone to this behavior because the soils in the northeast lack calcium.
One trick to deter them from your house, is to offer them egg shells (cooked for 20 min in a 250 degrees oven to make them safe). I will explore other sources of calcium. Any ideas?
See you Monday (we don't blog on weekends).

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

How Rude

Woa, Blue Jay being rude to Mr. Cardinal during the snow storm. That's why we have multiple feeders placed at several spots around our property. Mr. Cardinal went to another feeder that was minus Blue Jays. There is inter- and intra-species aggression at feeders, especially when there is severe weather and more birds depend on the feeders. It's serious business for them.

Blue Jays are a mixed bag. We think they're quite handsome, but yes, they can drive other birds away from feeders, although not all the time. On the plus side, Blue Jays are some of the first to warn of a Sharp-shinned Hawk approaching, which benefits other species of feeder birds.

About strange things Blue Jays do:

- I just heard a Blue Jay giving a Broad-winged Hawk call as it approached the feeders. I know it was no Broad-winged Hawk, as any Broadwing in it's right mind is still in South American right now. We have heard jays do this many times, not just imitating Broad-winged Hawk calls, but the calls of other hawks as well.

- Blue Jays are eating paint off of our house. Every time I try and get a photo of it, they fly away. Yes, that is very strange, but we have heard of this before, a long time ago in Massachusetts when we lived there. Have you every heard of this?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Nor'easter Snow Storm in New England

Here's what it looks like now in NH. We have 11 inches of snow and it's still coming down. They are saying this is the biggest storm of the season for much of New England. Puppy Abby is just about buried. She loves jumping around in the snow.
Gotta go shovel out the bird feeders. More later.

The birds will really be dependent on the feeders today. Glad Mr. Cardinal came in early to feed. Look at the snow on that big beak.

People often ask about the feeders and seed in the photos. This is the Stokes Select Large Hopper feeder, with suet holders, filled with a mixture of Stokes Select Cardinal Songbird blend of seed. Part of the proceeds from our seed and feeders is donated to bird conservation.

Oh, Oh, this Red-winged Black bird picked a bad day to arrive back from migration. Glad we could provide breakfast. This is the first Redwing we have seen. He gets bonus points since he's a sign of spring!!