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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Birding Happenings

Chestnut-sided Warbler

New Jersey Audubon has a big event this weekend -
"Celebrate Spring at the Grand Opening of New Jersey Audubon’s Hoffman Center for Conservation and Environmental Education on Saturday and Sunday May 1 and 2, 10 am to 4 pm, at the Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, 11 Hardscrabble Road, Bernardsville. This free, two-day family event features something for everyone -- music and entertainment; hands-on nature activities; live animal demonstrations; and displays from local organizations, all surrounded by 276 acres of scenic woodland, field and floodplain habitat supporting some 200 species of wildlife ready for you to explore. Stop by the registration table and pick up an Event Program that will guide you through the May Days activities.
For more information: Mike Anderson, Director of Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, (908) 766-5787 or Lillian Armstrong, New Jersey Audubon Communications Liaison (609) 861-1608, ext. 22.©

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

FOY (first of the year) Hummingbird arrived!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, male.

Yesterday we saw our first hummingbird here at Bobolink Farm our 48 acre NH property. How exciting, and fairly early, as hummingbird don't usually show up here until May. I peered out the window at 6:15 am and there he was, drinking the nectar from our hummingbird feeder.

What a long journey he must have made, all the way from Central America, across the Gulf of Mexico, to here. In the past we have stood on the coast of FL, looking out over the ocean and had hummingbirds come into view, whizzing over our heads making landfall. Just wow, knowing something that tiny had just flown about 500 miles across the gulf.

It's always so thrilling to get hummingbirds back here. We put out lots of hummingbird feeders, plant the gardens with mucho hummingbird flowers, such as Bee Balm, Salvia "Lady in Red" and Trumpet Honeysuckle vine, then enjoy the magic all summer long.

Monday, April 26, 2010

House Wren

Uh-oh, a House Wren returned from migration last night. Just when we though the competition for nesting boxes couldn't get more fierce, this little bird shows up. That's OK, we have a solution. We always keep some bird houses in reserve. When House Wrens arrive, we put up some more bird houses, to keep them happy and away from the other birds. We also use some boxes that have a smaller ( 1 1/4 inch) diameter hole, unlike most of our bird houses that have a 1 1/2 inch diameter hole. House Wrens can use the smaller hole.
Keeping all the birds happy is a juggling act.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Orchard Oriole feeding

Orchard Orioles are arriving from migration now. We saw this one on the FL coast near Tampa, at birding hotspot Ft. De Soto. There they have planted mulberry trees and the newly arrived migrants, who just flew across the Gulf of Mexico, land and feast on the berries. To attract orioles to your yard, plant fruiting trees and shrubs, and put out orange halves. Some orioles (not all, there are individual preferences) will also come to oriole nectar feeders which are like hummingbird feeders, but orange and larger

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher female, the male lacks the rufous color.

On our morning walk with the Corgis, we were having fun birding by ear, that is, recognizing all the birds we heard by their songs and calls. We both can hear the songs equally well. Interestingly, Don tunes into the low pitched sounds, such as a Ruffed Grouse drumming, more than I do. I am more likely to immediately pick up on the higher pitched sounds, such as the song of the Blackburnian Warbler, more than he does. Sometimes I wonder whether this is a male-female thing, or just our individual differences.
All of a sudden we heard a rattling noise — the sound of a Belted Kingfisher! These fascinating birds nest on our pond and it was nice to realize they were back.

Happy Earth Day, hope you get outside and enjoy the birds!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Visit with Duncraft

Duncraft headquarters

Don with Shelby and Mike Dunn

We had a fun day yesterday visiting with fellow New Hampshire residents, Mike and his daughter, Shelby Dunn-Kimball, at Duncraft. Duncraft is a very successful catalog and online retailer and manufacturer of wild bird feeding products and is dedicated to "world class" customer service. They are also big into social media. Since 1971 Mike has been the CEO of Duncraft, a company started by his father Gil in 1952. Shelby is the Marketing Director. It was great to see the father-daughter team of Mike and Shelby now involved in the family business. If you're into bird feeding you undoubtedly have seen the Duncraft catalog of fine products, many of of which are made at the Duncraft facility. They carry a large and interesting variety, including some of our Stokes Select feeders. After we chatted and toured their facility we had lunch.

I'm a shopper and I like Painted Buntings

They have a retail store as part of their facility and I couldn't resist stopping there before we left. I wanted to get some hummingbird-themed gifts for my sister's birthday. Shopper that I am, I also bought a new bat house and a Painted Bunting garden ornament. I cannot resist anything with a Painted Bunting on it; it's my favorite bird (and on the cover of our new national field guide coming in Oct.). I was impressed that the lady who ran the store knew that the range of Painted Buntings was mainly in the southeastern and south central regions of the country, not everyone knows that.

What we like about Duncraft is that they, like we, have a passion for birds and commitment to excellence in their business. Keep up the good work Duncraft!

And here's our Cardinal video, of footage we had taken, (the cardinal is on the Duncraft logo) to celebrate the birds.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Feeder Friday; Mockingbird Problems

Northern Mockingbirds defend a nesting territory from other mockingbirds and sometimes other bird species.

They mimic the sounds of other birds and their song is a continual stream of other birds' sounds, each sound usually repeated 3 or more times.

Several people just wrote to us about mockingbird problems. One person has mockingbirds chasing off bluebirds from mealworms. The other person has mockingbirds chasing off smaller birds from the bird feeders. Here is some information and some answers to these problems

Mockingbirds sing to defend a rather small nesting territory, of about one to two acres, in spring. Both male and female Mockingbirds will defend their nesting territory. The male sings during the day and sometimes even at night, and when he gets a mate he generally quiets down and sings a lot less. Mockingirds will incorporate into their song imitations of other bird’s songs. Many people enjoy the song of Mockingbirds. If they are singing at night and it is bothersome, some people try foam rubber earplugs from the drugstore, they work well, or a white noise machine, etc.

Mockingbirds are native birds and are protected by law so it is illegal to harm them or harm their nests while they are constructing them or have eggs or young in the nest. They incubate their eggs for 12-13 days and the babies are in the nest for 10-13 days then fledge and leave the nest and do not return to the nest. They will be fed for a little while longer by the parents before they become independent.

If a feeder is in the area of their territory they may drive other birds off the feeder. Generally Mockingbirds do not eat seed but will eat fruit, mealworms, raisins, insects. If you have a feeder in their territory and they are disturbing the other feeder birds here are some strategies,

- You may have to move the feeders until they are not in the Mockingbirds territory (experiment and keep moving them away until you pass that magic point that is their territory line). If you have a small property the Mockingbirds territory may encompass too much of it for this strategy to work so...

- You may have to have several feeders spread around widely over your property on the theory the Mockingbird can only be chasing at one feeder at a time, leaving the other feeder open for the birds.

- You may have to try feeders that it is difficult for the mockingbird to land on or eat from such as ones with a cage, or ones that birds have to hover in front of before they enter, etc.

- You might also try suet feeders that are encased in a larger cage so chickadees can enter but the cage would prevent the larger birds from entering, or suet feeders that birds have to cling to from underneath.

If you have found any other solutions we'd like to hear from you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush, side view.

Hermit Thrush, back view.

A newly arrived Hermit Thrush was giving calls in the evening, here in NH, last night. We get lots of Hermit Thrushes, both migrating through and nesting, because we have the wooded habitat they like. The reddish tail of the Hermit Thrush is a great ID clue and helpful in telling it apart from other thrushes.
The songs of thrushes are one of the more beautiful bird sounds. Sometimes we will be serenaded in the evenings here by several Hermit Thrushes singing on territories, as well as a Wood Thrush. Hermit Thrushes breed in the Northeast, upper parts of the Midwest, much of the West and Canada. They winter along the Pacific Coast and much of the southern part of the country.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Migrants here in NH

Things are popping, migrants arriving, oh so fun!!! Each day we can't wait to find out what new bird we'll see here. No sooner had I alerted other people to be on the look-out for Broad-winged Hawks, when two days ago, a Broad-winged Hawk flew right over our heads while we were walking the Corgis in our big field. The Broad-winged was flapping a lot, and looked very different than the soaring Broad-wings one sees on fall migration. Spring migrants are in a hurry to get to their breeding grounds, hoping to arrive and claim a nesting territory before rivals show up.

Our first Yellow-rumped Warblers, came through yesterday, we saw 5. The males looked so beautiful in their bright spring plumage. We were first alerted to their presence by their song, a rather weak musical trill. Get to know that, because you're going to see a lot of Yellow-rumped Warblers this spring, they're such a common migrant. Look for that yellow patch on their sides, on both male and female, as you don't always see their yellow rump. To learn warbler songs, get our popular Stokes Field Guide To Bird Songs CDs (comes in eastern and western editions.) Play then in your car, or on your ipod, and listen to the warbler songs. We often do this as a way of tuning up our ears each spring.

We also saw 2 Pine Warbler males, singing, of all things, in pine trees! If you hear a musical trill on one pitch coming from the top of a pine, look up, it could be a Pine Warbler. These beautiful birds breed on our property, as we have many pine trees. If you want to learn warblers, see our Stokes Field Guide To Warblers book, in which we cover identifying all North American Warblers with beautiful full color photos. We invented a special color tab system making it possible to ID any warbler easily, really! Click here for the link to amazon. By the way, if you go to the link, you can see inside pages of the book!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Blue-headed Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo

Yesterday we had a Blue-headed Vireo in our yard singing, the first we have seen this spring. I was first alerted to it by it's song, then I could see it high in the maple tree. It was backlit by the sun at first, so I studied it's shape. This is a big-headed, broad-necked bird with a relatively short tail, and a rather thick bill that is slightly hooked, as seen on the last photo. Look how short and small, compared to the size of the bird, the tail looks on the last photo. I thought about how these shape clues said vireo to me and helped me immediately know it from other birds, such as warblers.
Shape matters and can be an enormous help in bird identification. In our new Stokes Field Guide To Birds Of North America, coming out this fall, we will have a new way of incorporating shape into your birding.
I so enjoyed watching this one lone vireo, an early migrant, pausing for a moment in our yard, then making its way northward to its breeding grounds, wherever that may be. Safe journey.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Black-tailed Gull

This Black-tailed Gull will appear in the gull section of our new Stokes Field Guide To The Birds Of North America, coming this fall. I photographed it on Nov. 22, 2005 at Lake Champlain. This is an East Asian species that only very rarely has shown up in the U.S. One of the things I am very excited about is that over 500 of my best photos will be in our new guide, and I will get to share them with you.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Chipping Sparrow FOY (first of year)

For this Stokes Feeder Friday, I wanted to share this video we took. This morning we had a Chipping Sparrow, FOY, first we've seen of the year. It just returned from migration. Welcome back! Here's a video of a Chipping Sparrow eating mixed seeds, especially millet, from our platform feeder. Chipping Sparrows like to eat from the ground, or platforms.
What I like about Chipping Sparrows is that they breed, happily, and often unobtrusively, in suburban areas, or open woodlands throughout much of the country. Their song is a uniform trill, listen for it. The rusty cap and black eye-stripe are good ID clues. We once saw a Chipping Sparrow nest, a little grass cup in a shrub, that had a lining of fine copper wire, most unusual! Look for Chipping Sparrows in your own yard, now, or soon to arrive.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Winter Wren

Is this a candidate for the cutest bird? I think so. Winter Wrens are pocket-sized balls of feathers with super-sized songs that are so long they seem to go on forever.
We were recently walking the Corgis on a path in deep Hemlock woods that had a small pond, when we heard this melodic, bubbling, energetic, trilling, very long song, which we knew was unmistakably the sound of a Winter Wren. This is the spot and the habitat where we have heard Winter Wrens for years.
This species has just been split into two species (one mostly in the East and one in the West) by the AOU checklist committee. Stay tuned for what their agreed upon common names will be.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Spring Snapshot

Here's a spring snapshot of what is happening on our property now. Our pair of bluebirds are valiantly defending their nest box from the onslaught of Tree Swallows who are also looking for nest boxes. So far, the bluebirds are holding their own. She is nest building.

Our planters on our deck with mini daffodils and hyacinths. I always plant hyacinths because they are one of the first flowers I remember, as a child, from my grandmother's garden. She had a fragrant walkway of them and they were an inspiration to start my own gardening.

Abby, our Pembroke Welsh Corgi, now 1 1/2 years old. She looks more and more like her father Keiffer. She loves to run and is a great mover. She and Phoebe, our other Corgi (and her cousin), chase each other for hours.

Phoebe, the queen. She loves to watch us from a favorite perch, here high on our rocks. Note the black smear on her left lower cheek. She has rolled in something we would think is disgusting, probably now uncovered since the snow melted, but from a canine point of view, it's perfume. Time to get out the hose and clean her off.

It's a wonderful time of year here, my favorite, with so much happening and so much about to happen.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker arrival

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, male, the female looks similar but has a white chin and throat.

Migrant birds are continuing to arrive here in southern NH. We had a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker arrive here in late afternoon. We were alerted to it by on of it's more striking calls, which we've described as "like the music in the shower scene in the movie Psycho." This sapsucker also makes a drumming sound of a short burst then irregular beats, a descending catlike mew, and other calls.

Sapsuckers make a line of horizontal holes in the bark of a tree trunk, then drink the sap from the wells. Guess who also drinks from those wells? Ruby-throated Hummingbirds do. Early migrating Rubythroats take advantage of this sugar source, available before flowers, their usual source of nectar, have bloomed.

A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has bred for several years in a row, in the woods behind our barn. We're looking forward to seeing it breed this year. What spring migrants are you seeing arrive in your area?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Feeder Friday; Attracting Orioles

Baltimore Oriole

Most orioles do
not winter in the
United States, but return during the breeding season. There are 8 species of orioles that breed in the United States. The two most widespread species are the Baltimore Oriole and Orchard Oriole in the East and the Bullock's Oriole (above, left) in the West. Orioles can be attracted to your backyard with food and nesting materials.

Orioles often eat fruit and can be attracted with orange halves placed on platform feeders, a deck railing, or nailed to a tree. It is important to have the oranges available just as the orioles arrive, which is around April 1st in the South and April 15th to May 1st in the northern half of the country. Some orioles seem to be more attracted to oranges when they first return from their wintering areas but switch to an insect diet soon after. Other orioles seem to eat oranges throughout their breeding season.
baor120 picture

Orchard Oriole, left, Baltimore Oriole, right

Orioles also may use special sugar water feeders because sugar water is similar to the flower nectar on which orioles naturally feed. Some oriole sugar water feeders are colored orange and have large perches to accommodate the birds. Orioles may also use hummingbird feeders. Fill the feeders with a solution of either 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water or 1 part white sugar to 6 parts water; both seem to attract orioles. Boil the solution for 1-2 minutes, then cool. Change the solution every 2 days in hot weather.

In addition to fruit and sugar water, orioles can be attracted to grape jelly and mealworms. Offer the jelly in a small dish placed on a platform. Mealworms can be placed in a small container, but make sure it has straight sides that are high enough (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches), enough so that the mealworms cannot climb out. Mealworms are found in pet stores and wild bird stores. Many orioles feed the mealworms to their nestlings, who require a good protein source.

Orioles weave nests of natural plant fibers and will also use lengths of string cut into 8-12 inch pieces. You can put the string in a wire suet basket, drape it over shrubs, or lay it in the open where orioles will see it. Orioles nest in trees in suburban areas, parks, forest edges, and along rivers.

Enjoy your orioles this breeding season.To learn much more about attracting and enjoying orioles, see our Stokes Oriole Book.