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Monday, December 24, 2018

Sunday, December 16, 2018

CBC 2018 Peterborough, Hancock NH

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Brown Creeper

Where were all the birds? Our greater Peterborough, NH CBC yesterday had expected species and some puzzles, such as where were the Blue Jays (we had just 1 in our section), robins (we had 0 in our section) juncos (we had 0 in our section) and goldfinches (low numbers)? This was the talk of the countdown party at our house, where participants got together to tally up the numbers. In this area there is a real lack of fruit, such as crab apples and it is not a big year for acorns. Also there was a population boom of Grey Squirrels this year (many were road killed in fall) and the remaining ones stripped all the crab apples that did fruit leaving little for robins and other fruit eating birds. So some species that depend on these foods have just left the area and gone to..... maybe your area?? There were also frigid temps in Nov. and there is snow cover perhaps prompting other birds to move on. On the plus side there are still good numbers of chickadees and a number of Bald Eagles were sighted. A few of the unusual finds were the Sharp-shinned Hawk at our feeder (the only one of the count), a Northern Shrike, and 2 Pine Grosbeaks found by Phil Brown and Ken Klapper. Evening Grosbeaks were all in one big flock of over 40 birds with just one lone individual found elsewhere. The countdown party was lots of fun and a good opportunity for the awesome birders in this area to connect.

Monday, December 10, 2018

How To Protect Feeder Birds From Hawks

Sharp-shinned Hawk, juvenile.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, juvenile.

Bush piles can provide birds a place to hide.

Place brush piles near your feeders.

Sharp-shinned Hawks can frequent bird feeders, diving at the birds. Don wrote this Haiku poem about it one such incident.

A Sharp-shinned Hawk
Stoops into the feeders, making
The cold day colder.

It was a chilling event for the birds, who, in addition to getting food in winter weather, always have to be on the lookout for hawks which could spell instant death for them. We watched with anxiety as the birds dove for cover in the brush pile we created near the feeder. They also sought cover in the rhododendrons we planted nearby.

On the other hand we are always excited to see a hawk. Sharpshins are quick, fierce, and agile flyers, able to zip through the trees undetected. As watchers of nature we try not to make too much of a morale judgement about the hawk. As we say, Sharp-shins are not mean, they're just hungry. They have to eat too. In addition to Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper's Hawks are one of the other main predators of feeder birds. Cooper's looks like a slightly larger version of Sharp-shinned Hawks. These both are in the Accipiter group of hawks.

Here are some tips to giving your feeder birds protection from the hawks.

1. A good brush pile is worth its weight in gold. Construct one near the feeders (about 8 or more feet away). Construct it out of cut sapling trees in a tepee fashion and add other brush and branches. Leave enough space and nooks and crannies for birds to dive into, but not too much open space so it's not protective.

2. Put other cover near feeders, or move feeders near cover. Evergreen shrubs and trees can make excellent cover. We use rhododendron clumps, arborvitae, hemlocks, and more. A good use of your old Christmas tree is to place it near the feeders. If the feeders face south and the evergreens are behind the feeders, even better. The birds can go into the evergreens and warm up and be protected from cold winds.

3. You can also use dense woody shrubs and vines for cover. In addition to the brush pile and evergreens near the feeders, we have lots of berry producing shrubs like Winterberry Holly, Highbush Cranberry Viburnum, Swamp Dogwood, Chokeberry and a few vines climbing up them. This feeds the birds, provides cover and even potential nesting spots.

4. Take comfort in the fact that the hawks do not stay around forever. Usually, after a while, the birds have so wised up to the hawks presence, it looses its advantage of surprise and it will move on.