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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Puffin Love

Who doesn't love Atlantic Puffins. This is the time of year they are breeding on rocky islands. We saw these on Machias Seal Island, only accessible by boat,


Saturday, July 10, 2021

American Goldfinch, Cool Finch Stuff


Cool finch stuff - This male American Goldfinch was recently sunbathing with spread feathers, on the head of an antique goose statue in my garden. When he then finished and preened, you can see his spread feathers and that just the tips of the body feathers are yellow. He's not in molt this time of year. The feathers usually overlap and he looks all yellow. The color is the result of the carotenoid pigments (from plant food) in the feather tips reflecting the yellow and ultraviolet light and absorbing light in the blue wavelengths. Memo to male goldfinches – eat your veggies! Female American Goldfinches prefer the brightest yellow males, the bright yellow a sign of the male's nutritional fitness and ability to get food. Knowing the amazing adaptations below the surface of this common finch adds to their mystery and the richness of your experience with them.

Friday, July 02, 2021

Living in a Deeper Current, the Power of Nature

A poet/nature lover friend said to me yesterday, “you’ve always been living in a deeper current.” I reflected on what that might mean for me. For example, I don’t just see goldfinches as pretty yellow feeder birds, I see the males now in full butter plumage doing amazing roller coaster flight displays accompanied by their (sounds like) “potato-chip” flight call over their territory, intent in the genetic survival race of producing more goldfinches. I see a composite flower as a big shopping mall. The petals (ray flowers) are the advertising budget to attract the pollinator shoppers to the hundreds of individual flowers encircled, which bloom from the outside in. I photograph and celebrate each full moon to embrace its energy and place myself outside to know the night creatures (fireflies, bullfrogs, bats, moths, foxes) at a time when our ancestors would have been sound asleep. I see nature as a connecting gateway for health, spirituality, and a bonding opportunity for humans who are now blinded to their destructive effect called climate change. Then there are the Red Crossbills who recruited me, but that’s a story for another day.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Luna Moth, Goddess of the Moon!

 Luna moth, goddess of the moon. I saw this beautiful moth last night on our porch because I went outside to close the car windows since it was raining. Named by Linnaeus in 1758 after the Roman moon goddess, Luna, because the moth’s hindwing spots reminded him of the moon. This one is a female, told by shape of antennae. She doesn’t eat, will live for a week, and mate. The long tails confuse the echolocation of predator bats. Very cool!

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Going Cuckoo


Cuckoos are secretive, eat lots of caterpillars and are mostly heard not seen. Black-billed Cuckoos breed in forest habitats across much of the upper two-thirds of the U.S. from MT east and into southern Canada. Listen for their low pitched cu cu cu cu call. Tell them from the similar Yellow-billed Cuckoo by their black bill and red-eye ring. Yellow-billed Cuckoo has a yellow lower mandible and yellowish eye-ring and its breeding range extends across much of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. Look for them now!

The Secret Lives of Red-eyed Vireos


Red-eyed Vireos are abundant in about the eastern two-thirds of the country and much of Canada. The male sings almost constantly, even after getting a mate.
From Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, Vol. 1,
"At some point, he will stop singing and you will notice an immediate change in the female's behavior. She begins to look in all directions, move about on the nest, and may even give one of her calls. In a minute or two, she flies off to meet the male and is either fed by him or feeds on her own. After about five minutes the male will be singing from the treetops again and, possibly without your even noticing, the female will have come back to the nest and resumed incubating. From this will be clear to you that the male's song is being closely listened to by the female and is a continual aural contact that helps the pair coordinate this phase of their lives." This is an intimate look into the secret life of Red-eyed Vireos. We wrote our behavior guides to create holistic birding, in which you go beyond mere identification and get a deeper appreciation and respect for the amazing lives of birds. (Always observe nests from a safe distance so as not to disturb birds.) Listen to the song of a Red-eyed Vireo here, I guarantee you will hear it if you are in their range.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

10 Tips Tips to Help Bids in Hot Weather!

Birds need water to drink,

and bathe.

"Hey, where's the towel and the frozen daiquiris?"

Orange halves are a refreshing treat in warm weather for this Gray Catbird.

An extra roof cools off the bird house above and below.

This baby American Robin cooled off the only way it knows how by panting. Birds have no sweat glands and so cool themselves by rapid respiration with their mouths open.
I used the mister setting on the hose to cool off the robin nest by misting the air and foliage above.

Hummingbird Feeder with shade roof.

The weather has been crazy, ranging from one extreme to another. Here in NH we just had 90-degree summer weather, now it has cooled off a little. Much more hot weather is coming as we go into summer. So when the temperature climbs, here are some tips to keep your feathered buddies cool:

1. Birdbaths, birdbaths, birdbaths! Birds need water to bathe and drink in hot weather so buy a birdbath. You can even use any wide flat container for a birdbath, such as the lid of a trash can or a large saucer that is used under a flowerpot.

2. Choose a birdbath that is shallow and has a non-slip surface. Small birds do not like to bathe in deeper water. You can add flat rocks to a birdbath that is too deep in order to create a shallow ledge for small birds to land on to drink and bathe.

3. Add a dripper, bubbler, or to your birdbath. The sound of moving water will be a magnet for the birds and alert them to the presence of a water source.

4. Keep the water in your birdbath cool by adding ice cubes several times a day, or refilling the birdbath with a hose. You can also put out refreshing treats like cold orange halves which many birds, such as orioles and Gray Catbirds, will enjoy.

5. Birds will feel safer if the birdbath is placed in a more open area so no predators can hide nearby. Provide a stake or branch placed in the ground near the birdbath, if no landing places exist near it, so birds have a place to wait their turn at the bath.

6. Air condition your birdhouses by adding a second roof for shade. We nail on a piece of plywood, using long nails and only nailing them partway into the original roof. This leaves an air space between the two roofs of about an inch. The second roof shades the first roof plus the airspace between the roofs acts as an insulator, keeping the birdhouse cooler. In some cases, we have just shaded the roof of a birdhouse with piece of cardboard.

7. Misters are coolers. Misters can be bought to attach to a birdbath or clip to shrubs near a bath. They spray a fine mist that birds can fly through, or rub against the wet shrubbery. Hummingbirds will often fly through misters or even a garden sprinkler.

8. Use a mister on a hose. Our hose has a mist setting on the nozzle. We have misted the foliage and area above a robin nest to cool off the babies in extreme heat.

9. Think Shade. Birds will seek out shady areas and lie low in the worst heat of the day. If you do not have shade on your property plant some shade trees and big shrubs. Place bird feeders in a shady area during summer.

10. Shade hummingbird feeders. Place them in shade. Some feeders, such as our Stokes Select Jubilee Hummingbird Feeder, pictured above, comes with its own shade/rain roof, including an ant moat on the roof. You can also buy baffle-type shields and hang them above a feeder. Don't forget to change your hummingbird nectar solution every 2 days in really hot weather.

And tips for you....

Stay out of the sun and heat in the middle of the day, wear a hat and sunscreen when you do go out, and, at the end of the day, after you have taken care of the birds, relax in a shady place, get out your binos and The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern or Western Region, watch your birds and have a cold beer, daiquiri, margarita, or some Prosecco,,,aaahhh!

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Gardening for Finches and Birds, Good for You, Good for Them!

American Goldfinch eating Purple Coneflower seeds

Plant Purple Coneflower, a perennial

Trumpet Honeysuckle vine, Lonicera sempervirens, attracts hummingbirds

Layers of perennials, shrubs, and trees provide diversity that attracts birds

Prairiefire Crabapples attract oriole to their blossoms and Pine Grosbeaks, robins, and waxwings to their fruits

Bee Balm attracts hummingbirds

Sunflowers attract many bird species to their seeds

American Goldfinches eat the seeds of many flowers such as this Salvia "Lady in Red"

Gardening for finches and other birds, plant now! Gardening is not only healthy for you, a bird-friendly habitat is good for the birds. Studies have shown that gardening can make you happier and healthier. Garden centers are brimming now with plants you can add to your garden to attract beautiful finches and other birds. American Goldfinches love Purple Coneflower seeds, sunflower seeds, and the seedheads of many flowers. Plant crabapple trees, like these Prairiefire crabapples to attract orioles with their blossoms and Pine Grosbeaks, robins, and waxwings with their fruit. Trumpet Honeysuckle vine, Lonicera sempervirens, and Bee Balm attract many hummingbirds. Add these to your garden and you will be rewarded all year with happy birds.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

It's #FemaleBirdDay, May 29-31. You can participate!

Off to a good start counting female birds for #FemaleBirdDayBird this weekend, any day from May 29-31. Female Eastern Bluebird hunts from our deck in rain, at feeders are a female Downy Woodpecker (she has white and black on the back of the head, no red patch), and female American Goldfinch on right. This event is to gain scientific knowledge of female birds, who are less studied than males. You can participate here by counting female birds, use ID clues and behavior,

Started by a group of scientists and birders associated with the National Audubon Society, The Galbatross Project wants you to focus solely on females as you bird under your local shelter-in-place rules. Challenge yourself to use behavior, vocalizations, and other sex-specific clues to ID species. Then tell us about the techniques you used." Submit your findings and the techniques you used to identify female birds, here

They say, "As birders and ornithologists, we assume that many female birds are duller, quieter, and less behaviorally complex and interesting than their counterparts. But recent science has exposed the myth behind this idea...for example, female birdsong is both common and critical in evolution. Recent fieldwork has shown this to be true in passerines like Cerulean Warblers. But we still have a lot of work left to do to change the skew in birding and ornithological practice. Part of that includes growing our literacy around female birds—and that’s where this event comes in."

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Bobolinks Have Returned here in NH!

Bobolinks have returned to "Bobolink Farm" our 23 acre NH property. We had one early passing through and now a male is singing all day long in our hayfield waiting for a mate. I love their bubbly song. More Bobolinks may join him. We do not let our farmer cut our big hayfield until the end of August when all the Bobolinks have safely fledged. Bobolinks nest in hayfields which are often cut in June, wiping out their nests, adding to the declining population trend of this species. Listen to their sound here,

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Tiger Swallowtails are Flying Now!!

Buy Now! Stokes Beginner's Guide to Butterflies

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies are on the wing now in NH. I have seen several in the last 2 days. This beautiful butterfly overwinters as a pupa and emerges in spring. Its larval food is aspens, black cherry, tulip tree, sweet bay. Attract adults to your garden with flowers such as verbena, blue salvia, buddleia, and more.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Birding and Brunch Great Idea!


Yellow Warbler
Scarle Tanager
Phil Brown and Lillian
Common Yellowthroat

Don with birding group

Had a great time Saturday at the traditional Birding and Breakfast event sponsored by the town conservation commission here in NH. We saw 50 species of birds on beautiful lands. Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats were some of the most plentiful at this wetland area, while a Scarlet Tanager sang in the nearby woods. I assisted leader Phil Brown of NH Audubon to teach intermediate and new birders with things like learning the myriad of bird songs (learn the common birds near you first), spotting birds, using binoculars correctly, and how keying in on shape first (not colors) will fast forward your birding skills to the next level. This is a great time of year to visit beautiful and diverse birding habitats, as well as plant your own property to attract birds. Enjoy it!

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Warbler Mania in NH Now!


Cape May Warbler

Yellow Warbler

American Redstart

Northern Parula

Cape May Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Warbler mania is going on in NH. Yesterday I saw many birds including Bay-breasted Warbler, Cape May Warbler (both spruce budworm specialists) American Redstart, lots of Northern Parulas, lots of Yellow Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, and more. This is prime time for warbler migration here so get out this weekend and look! (photos from other times except for the distant Cape May Warbler, I was in an area where the birds were very high in the trees and obscured by leaves)

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Evening Grosbeaks, where are they?

Where are the Evening Grosbeaks now? Evening Grosbeaks are part of this historic 2020-2021 superflight irruption of winter finches and have been seen in big numbers in various places. Evening Grosbeak populations may have been fueled by the large spruce budworm outbreaks in the eastern boreal forest, the outbreaks made larger by lack of spraying for budworm control due to the Covid pandemic. Evening Grosbeaks thrive on the budworms during breeding, and once the budworms went dormant for winter, the grosbeaks fled south with the other irruptive finches. In the fall, there were day counts of 100s to 1300+ Evening Grosbeaks moving southwest along the Great Lakes shorelines in Ontario. This Evening Grosbeak irruption was one of the largest in several decades, and birds in the eastern part of the country made it as far south as Florida and Arkansas.
See the eBird map for Evening Grosbeak from October 2020-May 2021. They are returning through about mid-May into June to their breeding ranges, so watch for them at your sunflower feeders.
Once considered rare east of the Rockies and Mississippi River, Evening Grosbeak’s expanded their range in the early 1900s into eastern North America. This was aided by the large-scale planting of Box Elder trees, a favorite food, which holds seeds through winter, allowing the grosbeaks to winter and even breed. The peak of wintering Evening Grosbeaks was the 1940s to the mid-1980s, with significant declines since. In 2016, an Evening Grosbeak population trend assessment revealed a continent-wide decline of 92% since 1970 – the steepest among all land birds in the U.S. and Canada. This led to the national listing of the species as Special Concern in Canada (COSEWIC 2016).
A multi-year study, by David Yeany at the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is using new Motus tag tracking technology to better understand the migration ecology, and perhaps the decline, of Evening Grosbeaks. The tracking information is beginning to link winter populations of Evening Grosbeaks to breeding areas with active spruce budworm outbreaks in the boreal forest. So stay tuned, keep your feeders filled with sunflower, and you may see the return flight.