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Friday, October 29, 2010

Winging our way to book-signings

Broad-winged Hawk, Juv.

Tonight, Oct. 29th, 7 pm, we will be doing a talk and book signing at
NH Audubon Society, McLane Center Concord, NH, for more info 603-224-9909. See some of your there!

Tomorrow, Oct. 30th, Sat. at 5 pm we will be doing a book signing at Cape May, NJ Autumn Weekend for birders, at the Grande Hotel. For more info, 609-861-0700.

These are the fun parts of being an author. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pine Siskins are coming to feeders near you

We have had 50 Pine Siskins here in NH, recently, with standing room only at our bird feeder. This action photo I took captures them from all angles. These are small, heavily streaked little birds with yellow edges on their folded wing feathers and at the base of their primaries. It's exciting to see so many of them here in our yard.

Pine Siskins are a type of finch. They breed in more northern areas of North America and in the western mountains and come down, or "irrupt" in winter to feeders across the country, especially when there is a lack of seeds in their usual range. So some winters you will see lots at your feeders, in other winters you may have none. What will this winter be like? Are these 50 siskins a prelude of things to come?

Siskins love to feed as a flock, so choose feeders with lots of perching room and use hulled sunflower (shown in our feeder), thistle (nyjer) or finch mixes to attract them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review of: The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America

Great comments and reviews keep coming. Here's another nice review of The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which touts the user-friendly aspects of our new guide, making the guide good for beginning birders as well as intermediate and advanced birders.

"The authors, well known among the birding community, are back with another “must have” book. The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America is one of the best reference guides to come along in years. The Stokes have taken the best features of all of the guides available and incorporated them into this new volume. Everything about this book is user friendly. The birds are grouped in the standard groups found in most books, but the groupings are broken down into smaller sets to help readers narrow the field a bit while searching for “their” bird. The Table of Contents is color coded and the bottoms of the corresponding pages are colored as well. For example, if a reader thinks the bird darting about the field is some sort of swallow, then by looking at the Table of Contents he would find that Larks, Martins and Swallows are found starting on page 509 which is color coded in violet. This makes it easy to get to the correct pages before the bird is gone! However, if the birder is fairly sure the bird is a swallow, there is a quick index on the front flap for easy referencing. A quick glance there and the reader would find that swallows are found on pages 513-520.

On each page there are multiple color photographs of the same bird in different seasons, maturity levels or in motion giving birders a better chance of identifying their mystery bird. In fact, there are 3,400 photographs showing birds from several different angles. Below the photographs are the standard bird facts-habitat, song, body shape and flight patterns. Unlike some guides that have the range maps in the back, this volume has a small range map on the same page with the bird listing as well as a list of subspecies and hybrids that have developed. But, let’s get back to our mystery bird. After reading the helpful identification tips for swallows at the beginning of this section, the reader might well glance over a few pages before finding on page 519, that the bird is a Barn Swallow, but a juvenile, explaining why the back lacks the iridescent bluish black of the adult and why the tail is not as obviously forked as one would expect from a swallow.

.... it is one of the best organized and handy bird guides to come along in several years." Caryn St. Clair,

Monday, October 25, 2010

Today is official publication date, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, yeah!

Yeah! Today is the official date that The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America will be in all the stores. Look for it in retailers, your local bookstore, nature and bird stores and online stores all across the country.

This took six long years to write. During that time we were always thinking about how to make this a wonderful field guide for you, so you could learn to identify, enjoy and appreciate the vast and beautiful panorama of the birdlife of North America. Signing books, as we are doing here at the ABA conference, is one of the more rewarding aspects of being an author. With each and every copy we sign, we hope you will get years of enjoyment out of our guide.

The first magic moment when we opened the box. We were thrilled when we saw the superb quality of those 3,400 stunning photos of birds in the guide.

Stacked on our kitchen counter, and now it's on the bookstore shelves.

We give more photos and text for the more challenging or hard-to-identify species, because that is what birders want and need.

To see a beautiful Slide Show of some of Lillian's best photos from our new guide, go HERE.

We sincerely thank all of you who have so far gotten our guide and for the wonderful comments and reviews. We hope to see some of you at our upcoming talks and book signings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

White-headed Junco, Speckled Robin, what is this??? Leucistic Birds

House Sparrow, female, leucistic

We often get people sending us bird photos to identify, and nothing mystifies people more than seeing birds with strange white blotches. These are leucistic birds, normal species that are missing some of the pigment in their feathers. I photographed this female House Sparrow in GA.

House Sparrow, female, leucistic

House Sparrow, female, leucistic

This leucistic Dark-eyed Junco photo was sent to us by Dianne Connolly of NH.

The white blotches make an interesting pattern on its head, neck and throat.

This amazing photo of a leucistic American Robin against snow was sent to us by Bud Marschner,

of Fairbanks, AK. Bud is one of the wonderful photographers in our new Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America.

Leucisim in birds, is a genetic mutation that prevents pigment, especially melanin, from being deposited in a normal way on a bird's feathers. Usually the leucistic areas are noticeable on birds with black or brown feathers, as in the above cases. Leucistic birds may have white splotches, or look paler or bleached. This is different than albino birds. Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents the production of melanin in a bird's body. Albino birds usually appear all white with a pink eye. Scientists are still working out what these two conditions are and how they affect birds.

Birds with leucisim or albinism may have a harder time in the wild, as they may be more visible to predators and not as attractive to a potential mate.

Leucisim is very rare in birds. Thus, when 3 people living in neighboring towns in NH reported leucistic juncos to us on about the same day, we found this very interesting.

If you see a strange looking bird with whitish areas in its plumage and you cannot identify it in your field guide, look very carefully at its size and shape and what other birds it is hanging out with. Our new field guide begins each species account with a thorough description of that bird's shape. If your mystery bird looks exactly like a robin or junco or other known species, but with weird white areas in its plumage, then it may be a leucistic bird.

Friday, October 22, 2010

ID-ing Sparrows At Your Bird Feeder

White-throated Sparrows, Zonotrichia albicollis, come in two morphs. One morph has brown head stripes, as here;

the other morph has black-and-white head stripes, as here. There is much individual variation. They all have white throats and are very common at many feeders in winter.

White-crowned Sparrows, Zonotrichia leucophrys, in their first winter have rufous brown head stripes

and no white throat.

The dramatic adult White-crowned Sparrow has beautiful black head stripes and a white central crown stripe.

White-throated Sparrows are migrating and coming to bird feeders across much of the country now. Somewhat less common here in NH, White-crowned Sparrows are also migrating and coming to feeders. Both these species winter across much of the country and you may have them at your bird feeders all winter. We recently had 5 first-winter White-crowned Sparrows at our feeder amongst the many, many White-throated Sparrows.

These sparrows love to feed on the ground on millet or seed mixes containing millet. We make a special sparrow feeder by building a big brush pile and sprinkling the seed in front and under the pile. It's a sparrow magnet and provides perching spots and cover from predators. The big bonus for us is that we get to see lots of fall sparrows.

If you live in the far western part of the country, you will get lovely Golden-crowned Sparrows visiting your bird feeders. They have a golden forecrown, surrounded on the front and sides by black or brown.

All these sparrow species are in the genus Zonotrichia. In yesterday's post we discussed the characteristics of the sparrows in the Melospiza genus as stated in our new The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. In our guide, p. 656, we discuss the Zonotrichia genus and say these are "large deep-bellied, broad-necked sparrows with a fairly small conical bill, rounded crown and fairly long, slightly notched tail." In addition to White-throated, Golden and White-crowned Sparrows, the Zonotrichia genus includes Harris's Sparrows.

Tip: Look at these sparrows through your binoculars at your bird feeder and learn the characteristics of the shape of each genus. You will get better at ID-ing them and it will set you up to learn the sparrows in other genera.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sparrow ID, Melospiza Sparrows

Lincoln's Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii

Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia

Swamp Sparrow, Melospiza georgiana

Swamp Sparrow, Melospiza georgiana

Sparrow ID can be challenging, to say the least. At the Dead Creek WMA in VT, we saw this lovely Swamp Sparrow, hanging out appropriately, in a swampy area at the edge of the water. Birds are often habitat dependent and thus the Swamp Sparrow's name.

This is a subtly beautiful sparrow with a strongly marked face, russet wash along flanks and reddish-brown on crown, wings and tail.

Swamp Sparrows are in the genus Melospiza, along with Song and Lincoln's Sparrows. In our new The Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America, in addition to individual thorough species accounts with multiple photos per species, we have colored boxes where we give helpful Identification Tips and an overview for many of the bird families. Look for these in our field guide.

For Sparrows, in the new Stokes guide p. 656, we say,

"Sparrows are small birds with short conical bills and varied-length tails. They are birds of primarily grasslands, fields, and open edges, where they feed mostly on seeds and some insects. Most are brownish with streaked backs, and they can look quite similar. Fortunately there are several large genera that have subtle but distinctive shapes. Becoming familiar with these shapes can help you place an individual sparrow into one of these groups, or genera; then you can look for plumage clues to complete your identification.

Species ID: There are 12 genera of sparrows in North America. Only 5 have 3 or more species, and these are the ones that are most useful to know to use in this generic approach.

* Melospiza: Medium-sized to large sparows with rather average proportions: they are slightly deep-bellied and have a medium-sized bill, rounded crown, and fairly long rounded tail. These sparrows are easily seen in brushy areas and marshes; when flused or curious they tend to fly up to higher perches for long periods and give short alarm calls. Some (Song Sparrow) come regularly to bird feeders. Includes Song, Lincoln's, and Swamp.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wings on Wednesday: Mallards

I photographed these two, lovely, male Mallards recently at Dead Creek, WMA, VT. They look like synchronized planes in an air show. This photo shows off the blue speculum of their wings outlined, in front and back, in white and their white tails, both helpful ID clues in flight.

There were hundreds of Mallards and other ducks there, as well as hundreds of Snow Geese (too far away to photograph). Waterfowl are migrating now. Places like this give migrating ducks and geese a highly important resting and refueling place on their journey south.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Too Funny, Corgis ID Birds with The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America

"What did you say they looked like?... This is the page, I think,"

"Yup, Gryff - I think those are Turkeys outside!"

"I agree, Rugby, that picture looks just like them."

Our new The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America has all kinds of fans, we're learning. These funny photos of Pembroke Welsh Corgis using the guide, complete with quotes, was sent to us by Susan Peitricola of VT.

We cracked up when we saw these photos and, being Corgi owners ourselves, we know it's not easy to get such photos (Corgis are very smart dogs, and cookie bribery is usually involved).

Even funnier is the page they're turned to, page 68, the Wild Turkey page (with Lillian's photo of the three Turkeys). It just so happens that recently, our own Corgi, Abby, saw some Wild Turkeys in our field. Corgis are herding dogs and, although Abby has never been trained in herding, she ran down the hill and in no time had herded those Turkeys into a tight little ball. She then proudly ran back to us. Too funny times two.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The most beautiful birds slide show, from The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America

Roseate Spoonbill © Lillian Stokes

Painted Bunting © Lillian Stokes

Hi All,
Our publisher has put together a gorgeous slide show of some of the most beautiful bird photos, by Lillian, that appear in our new The Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America. You're going to love it.

To view the slideshow, click HERE.

Our field guide is now shipping to stores throughout the country and already available in some places. By Oct. 25th, it will be available in all stores nationwide.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Red-bellied Woodpecker, red leaves

We had this gorgeous male Red-bellied Woodpecker visit our feeder a few days ago. This is not a common woodpecker species here in southwestern NH. We are at the upper end of it's breeding range, although it has occurred north of here in winter.

Keeping with the red theme, the Red Maple leaves are peaking now in their most vibrant fall colors. We walk around oooh-ing and aaah-ing.

Red Maples, lit like glowing embers, spill reflections on the pond we live on. It's peak leaf peeking, soon to be over. There's nothing like the fall colors in New England. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stokes Appearances and Book Signings, for The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America

Hi All,

Here's an updated list of our book signings for our new The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. And we continue to get rave reviews, here's what people are saying,

"[It] is a strong candidate for the title of best field guide ever," National Audubon Society magazine online

"One of the most comprehensive and informational field guides available to birders... if you desire the most recent identification tips, updated range maps, key behavioral information and clues, detailed descriptions of songs plus some of the best bird photography out there, then this is the field guide to get," Mike McDowell, The Digiscoper Blog

And 5 star reviews from,
"the Stokeses have done what I did not think was possible: blow me away with a field guide to the birds", Tom Young,
"This newest guide is the most comprehensive of all," Jane Alexander

From blog readers,
"Thank you both for the outstanding field guide! The photos are numerous and absolutely beautiful... I could go on and on," Kevin


Dec. 9th, Thurs. evening Massachusetts Audubon Society, Drumlin Farm, Lincoln MA, talk and book signing 7pm

January 26th, Wed. evening, Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Titusville, FL, Keynote Speakers and book signing

Feb. 4th, Fri., 1 pm Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge Center, Sanibel, FL talk and book signing

Feb. 17th, Thurs., 7 pm Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society, Community Center, Sanibel Island, FL talk and book signing

March 5th, Sat. Massachusetts Audubon Birders Meeting, Bentley University, Waltham, MA

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Don and Lillian Stokes at ABA signing Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America

Here we are signing books at the ABA Conference

We had a great time doing a talk and book signing at the American Birding Association Conference last week in RI. It was so rewarding to hear such nice comments on our new The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America from the ABA birders and just about all of them bought the book! We also saw Jeff Gordon, ABA's brand new president. He's a great guy and there's a bright future for ABA with him at the helm.

photo by Lynn Barber

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Review, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, in Audubon Magazine online

New! Here's another wonderful review of The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America from National Audubon Magazine online. "I haven't been able to put it down" says reviewer Wayne Mones.
"The new Stokes guide ... should put to rest any remnants of the debate over photos versus illustrations... the key to any guide, photographic or illustrated, is in the quality of the images and in having enough of them to show the birds in their diagnostic plumages and postures. The new Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America fulfills this requirement in spades... [It] is a strong candidate for the title of best field guide ever... The text is, perhaps the most expansive of any one-volume North American guide in print...since it arrived in my home, I haven't been able to put it down."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Stokes book-signings The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America

Hi all,

We will be doing a keynote talk and book-signing at the American Birding Association
conference in RI tonight.

Talks and book signings

Oct. 21st Thurs. 7:30 pm Menotomy Bird Club, Arlington Library, Arlington MA, talk book signing

Oct. 29th, Friday, 7 pm at NH Audubon Society, McLane Center Concord, NH, talk and book signing

Oct. 30th, Sat. 5 pm Cape May Bird Observatory Autumn Weekend, Cape May, NJ, book signing

Nov. 6th, Sat. 1:30 pm at Mass. Audubon Society, Joppa Flats Center, Newburyport, MA, sponsored by Bird Watcher's Supply & Gift and Nature Shop at Joppa Flats, talk, book signing

Nov. 13th, Sat. 4 pm, Harris Center for Conservation Education, Hancock, NH, talk, book signing and reception. Sponsored by Toadstool Bookstore, Peterborough, NH

Nov. 14th, Sun. 1-4 pm. Wild Birds Unlimited, Saratoga Springs, NY (Nancy Castillo and Lois Gershwin owners) book signing

Nov. 18th, Thurs. 7 pm Tin Mountain Conservation Center, Albany NH, sponsored by White Birch Booksellers, talk and book signing.

Dec. 9th, Thurs. evening Massachusetts Audubon Society, Drumlin Farm, Lincoln MA, talk and book signing

January 26th, Wed. evening, Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Titusville, FL, Keynote Speakers and book signing

Feb. 4th, Fri. 4 pm Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge Center, bookstore, talk and book signing

Feb. 17th, Thurs., 7 pm Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society, Community Center, Sanibel Island, FL talk and book signing

Hope to see some of you at these!

shipping to bookstores and retailers throughout the country. It is now available on and will soon be available in many places. By Oct. 25th it will be available everywhere nationwide.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Black Skimmers

My photos of Black Skimmers (top photo from introduction, bottom photo from Black Skimmer species account) are from our new field guide which is
Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?

Have a great weekend.
Hawks should be flying once the storms leave New England.