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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tree Swallow fledging

We have 15 pairs of Tree Swallows nesting here, in NH, and now some have young fledgling young from their boxes. When Tree Swallow young leave their box they can fly and feed themselves. However, for the first few days they may land on the nest boxes of other Tree Swallows and try and beg on last meal from any adult they see, including their parents, basically creating a lot of chaos.
That is what is happening here. A newly fledged Tree Swallow has landed at the entry to the nest box of a pair that have their own young still in the nest. The fledged Tree Swallow is at the entrance hole, blocking the way. It is browner than the adults, has a lighter bill and they have a vague wash of darker color on their upper breasts. Its mouth is open, hoping for a tasty morsel.
The adults who have the box want no part of this youngster and it soon left and flew to another box and tried the same trick with no luck.
After fledging the Tree Swallows join with adults into large flocks and make their way to coastal and other water habitats and feed. They make their way down the coast, eating Bayberries and, in the South, Wax Myrtle berries in winter. They also eat insects.
In Florida, in winter, we have seen flocks of thousands of Tree Swallows, moving around, staying there until their spring migration north. We always wonder as we look at one of the birds in the flock, if it was born here, at Bobolink Farm, our NH home. We like to think so.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rose-breasted Grosbeak again!

Can one get enough of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks? I think not. They are strikingly gorgeous. We're lucky because we have this male, and also a female, visiting the feeders regularly. They must be nesting nearby, although we do not know where. Maybe they will bring the fledglings to the feeder.
One of the things we look at is the bib of red on the male. It is a slightly different shape for each bird, making it possible to often recognize individuals.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks breed in the upper quadrant of the eastern half of the U.S. and much of Canada and winter south of the U.S., so people can see them in migration.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Hairy Woodpecker, Dad, feeding his fledgling offspring at our feeder.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Kingbirds plus ID tips

Eastern Kingbird breeds across much of the eastern 2/3 of the U.S. and Canada

Western Kingbird breeds in the western half of the country

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, juv.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, female. They breed mainly in the south-central area of the U.S. but can wander far.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher is rare and breeds in Cent. and S. America and is a vagrant to anywhere in North America, mostly to eastern North America.

They have really long tails!

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in flight

Eastern Kingbirds breed on our pond here in NH, building their nest in the Buttonwood shrubs at the edge of the water. These big flycatchers sit on perches and fly out to catch insects in the air. We love to bring our binos in our canoe or kayaks and watch the kingbirds flying out over the water. Known for their fierce personality, they were given the scientific name, Tyrannus tyrannus, hence the joke that they are too (two) tyrannical.

If you live in the West, you will see their relative the Western Kingbird, which has a gray head and back and yellow on the belly. Amazingly, we once had a Western Kingbird show up on our property here in southwest, NH, way out of it's range, but they are know to wander far and wide.

Here are our Identification Tips to Kingbird Species ID, from page 477 of our new, best-selling, "The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America"

"Kingbirds are fairly large flycatchers that belong to the genus Tyrannus. Most have rather large thick bills and medium-length tails, and they tend to perch conspicuously as they look for insects. Two species, the Fork-tailed and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, have extremely long tails; four species, Tropical, Couch's, Cassin's, and Western Kingbirds, are similarly colored, with grayish heads and bright yellow bellies; the remaining three species, Thick-billed, Gray, and Eastern Kingbirds are mostly dark gray above and white below. In this group, look closely at the length and thickness of the bill and the patterns of colors on the breast and belly.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


NH has lots of Common Loons and we just can't get enough of them. They breed on many of the lakes in the NH region. Tonight we are speaking at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness, NH where loons are a favorite bird. We are doing a talk and book signing for our new filed guide, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. I will be showing many of my images from the guide, including many of NH's birds, including loons! We will see some of you there.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Smile for Today :)

This is our Corgi Abby. She is making us smile today, and everyday. Does your dog make you smile?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

What's Up at Bobolink Farm

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, female, comes frequently to feeder, she may be breeding nearby.

Hairy Woodpecker, male (right) taking hulled sunflower back to his nest to feed young. Mr. Cardinal comes for a seed and feeds Mrs. Cardinal as part of courtship and breeding.

Cosy pair of Gray Catbirds, who love the oranges! We have 3 pairs of nesting Catbirds

Lots going on here at Bobolink Farm, our NH home of 48 acres. Breeding birds are everywhere, with many taking advantage of our bird feeders. It's a great time of year to sit on our deck and watch the show around us. So many baby birds in the works.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Poor Mrs. Robin

American Robin incubating on her nest over our front door.

A robin built a nest over our front door. She sat on the eggs for over a week. Today we did not see robins around at all, so we looked in the nest with a mirror. There are no eggs in the nest. A predator got them. Poor Mrs. Robin.

Ouch. We feed bad for the robins because they lost their eggs. The eggs were just about to hatch. We had gotten used to looking at the robin incubating over our door and we would quietly enter so as to disturb her as little as possible. Sometimes we would just use the back door. We looked forward to seeing the babies raised. We have seen much predation on birds' nests in all our years of watching and writing books about birds. The experience doesn't get any easier and we still feel angst when we see it.

It's hard to know what got the eggs, as we did not see the thief. Best guess is that it was a Blue Jay for we have seen them hanging around the yard and robins chasing them. But many things raid birds nests including, Chipmunks, Red Squirrels, Raccoons, snakes, crows and more.
There is about a 50% mortality on nests for birds who build open cups and a slightly less percentage for birds who nest in bird houses.

The one consolation is that we know the robins will build a new nest right away (in a new spot) and try again, and again, and again. Chances are they will be successful. The urge to reproduce is strong and that's what keeps bird populations going.