Search This Blog

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Moon Magic Full Moon

Moon magic last night. While tonight is the peak full moon, I took his last night because there will be a storm here in MA tonight. This is called the Cold Moon, because of the season. Other Native American names for this moon are, Drift Clearing Moon (Cree), Frost Exploding Trees Moon (Cree) (love it!), Moon of the Popping Trees (Oglala), Hoar Frost Moon (Cree), Snow Moon (Haida, Cherokee), and Winter Maker Moon (Western Abenaki). This moon sits above the earth for the longest period of time. I always try and photograph the full moon when it is visible to me and embrace its magic. We all share the moon, celebrate it. (Nikon P950 camera)


Tuesday, December 07, 2021

European Goldfinch Magic!


The finches keep calling me. Yesterday morning it was raining. I am in MA, and, on a hunch, I checked Massbird to see what was around. A European Goldfinch was being discussed. What!! I was just close to writing the chapter on European Goldfinch in my new book, with co-author Matthew A. Young, Stokes Guide to Finches of North America. I looked up the sighting’s map, and next to the area it was being seen, the road sign said Lillian Rd. No way, you can't make this stuff up. Was this to be one of those special finch moments I keep having, like the Montague Magic moment I had when I met Matt for the first time, Red Crossbills descended on us, and, as I drove away, the road sign said Lillian's Way?
I loaded the car with binoculars and cameras, and we took off, hoping for clearing weather. When we arrived, the rain had stopped, but the wind began. The area was Lexington Community Farm, a large area with back woods and lots of weeds and tangles. A birder walking towards me said that he had the bird earlier, but it had flown. For those of you that have gone after an unusual bird, you know the feeling, the you-should-have-been-here-an-hour-ago sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. I desperately wanted to see and photograph this bird. It took a few hours and 5 birders. First, a pair of birders saw it briefly down low and back in tangles, but it flew. The wind was likely keeping it well under cover and deterring it from vocalizing. Then Don briefly spotted a bird with black and white that flew. Then my friend, Dave, saw it, and he and I moved a bit and got on it. To my astonishment, this European Goldfinch proceeded to feed in front of me, visible without much obscuring vegetation. I became lost in an adrenaline rush, altered state of consciousness, through my camera lens. I call it "becoming one with the bird." I fired and got as many photos as possible.
Wow! At an incredibly challenging time in my life, I just had an uplifting, almost spiritual experience in which the stars aligned. Through time and space, I had connected with this amazing finch who lifted my spirits—what a gift. Lessons from finches; experiences like this are open to all who trust that the improbable is possible. Yes, finches keep calling me and I keep answering.
And FYI, a European Goldfinch is not a native bird. It is native to Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia and likely does not cross the Atlantic. Sold as a caged bird in this country, the European Goldfinch often can escape or be released and possibly live in the wild. There have been 3 times when populations of it have bred in the wild. In southern California, it has bred a few times; in Brooklyn, N.Y., there are a few dozen breeding around parks. Around the Great Lakes, however, they seem to be taking off. The population in WI may be expanding to Chicago and MI. Evidently, eBird may be revised to class the Great Lakes population as Provisional. This MA European Goldfinch is thought to be an escapee. However, finches are full of surprises. They can move distances. Who knows how the future will play out for this species.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Lunar Eclipse 2021, Spectacular!

Spectacular lunar eclipse last night. I got up at 5 a.m. because the weather forecast here in MA said rain last night then clearing. I lucked out and saw this amazing sight in a clear sky filled with stars. The lunar eclipse was the longest one in over 500 years. This moon is called the Frost Moon or Beaver Moon because it is the time of year when frosts occur and busy beavers are actively storing a large cache of favorite tree branches secured in the mud underwater near their lodge entrance. I embrace the full moon's energy and always try to take its photo. (Photo with Nikon P950 on moon setting, slightly cropped, but other than that, untouched).


Monday, October 25, 2021

It's Golden Eagle Time!!


Where eagles fly, it's Golden Eagle time! I am blessed to live where I can see eagles and they have special meaning for me as the Bald Eagle is my first spark bird. While Bald Eagles are common here in NH and nest relatively close by me, Golden Eagles are a rare migrant. We are approaching prime time for them to migrate past Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory and none has been seen yet. After the weather clears get out there if you can, and dress warmly!! Fyi, the Red Crossbill is my second spark bird and has set me on a new course, can you guess, lol, writing a finch guide! (photo from another time)

Thursday, October 21, 2021

23,357 record number White-winged Crossbill migration yesterday!

 23,357 was the total number of White-winged Crossbills that migrated past the Dunes de Tadoussac bird observatory, in Quebec on the St. Lawrence river, yesterday, a record. They also had 2,230 Pine Siskins migrate. You can see amazing photos and video from then at this eBird checklist.

Meanwhile, I can always hope that finch dreams become a reality and that some of them show up in NH this winter, preferably at my feeders, as this one did in 2011!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Black-bellied Plover and other shorebirds still coming through NH!


Black-bellied Plovers and other shorebirds are still migrating through NH. Look for them at the coast and also inland water areas with exposed shorelines and flats.

Friday, October 08, 2021

Pine Grosbeak Beauty

It's Finch Friday. Today's finch is a Pine Grosbeak, male. These beautiful birds live in the boreal forest and western mountains of North America, irrupting south in years of food shortage. Then you might see them in parking lots eating crabapples in winter (where I photographed this one).


Thursday, October 07, 2021

October Big Day, Global Bird Weekend, is here!

This weekend. Sat. Oct. 9th is October Big Day! All you have to do is count birds wherever you are, even at your feeders and submit your list to eBird. You will also be part of the Global Bird Weekend where thousands of birders across the globe participate, read more here,
Have fun!!


Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Yellow-rumped Warblers a.k.a. "butterbutts"


Yellow-rumped Warblers are one of the commonest migrating fall warblers. Just saw this one on my deck in NH. Also know as "butterbutts," these photos show you why.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021


The Cover


by Lillian Stokes and Matthew A. Young

The complete guide to North America’s finches, including a special section on Hawaiian Finches. A publishing first! Coming to you in 2024, published by Little, Brown and Company a division of Hachette Publishing.

From finch fanatics to fledgling finch fans, from goldfinches to crossbills, Stokes Guide to the Finches of the United States and Canada finally gives birders and some of America’s favorite birds their due–a guide to all things finch! 

This authoritative guide will include beautiful photos; creative essays; detailed identification information on each finch species' plumages, subspecies, and voice; the latest range maps; complete information on all aspects of the lives of North American finches; rare and vagrant species of finches; special section on Hawaiian finches, the honeycreepers, one of the most endangered groups of finches; the latest scientific studies; extensive information on finch irruptions, conservation, research, feeding and attracting finches and much more. Authoritative, fun, and accessible, this guide will appeal to novice through advanced birders and capture the spirit and personality of this amazing group of birds. Stay tuned for exciting updates!

Lillian Q. Stokes is an award-winning author and nature photographer who coauthored 35 Stokes Guides on birds and nature, including Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which have sold about 6 million copies. She was the host and producer of the first PBS national birding tv shows. Lillian was captivated by Red Crossbills which she studied during the legendary 2020-2021 finch superflight, and she was moved to tell their story and the story of their finch relatives. 

Matthew A. Young is a nationally recognized finch and Red Crossbill expert and founder and president of the Finch Research Network. Matt got hooked on Red Crossbills as a young birder at Yellowstone Falls when Red Crossbills descended over him. He’s worked in the social work field with special needs adolescents for almost 10 years and worked at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology across 15+ years, where he was an Audio Engineer on several audio guides and Merlin packs. He’s written finch species accounts for breeding bird atlases and Birds of the World and has published several papers about the Red Crossbill vocal complex. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Winter Finch Forecast Goes Live, Sunday, Sept. 26th


Remember the historic finch superflight of 2020-2021, in which all 8 species of irruptive finches left the boreal, and millions of birders experienced this, including many of you? Well, big finch happenings are coming soon. The Winter Finch Forecast comes out this Sunday, Sept. 26th and you can listen to it live at 2 pm as Tyler Hoar and Matthew Young discuss the forecast on Badgerland Birding go here
If you check the reminder box they will send you a notice.
The 8 irruptive finch species were, Pine Grosbeak (shown here in my photo) Red Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill, Common Redpoll, Hoary Redpoll, Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, Evening Grosbeak.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Finches are Coming, the Winter Finch Forecast is Out Sept. 26th!


The finches are coming! Which ones, when, and how many? Stay tuned because the famous Winter Finch Forecast will tell you soon, it comes out Sunday, Sept. 26th. Get notified by subscribing here, on the Finch Research Network site.

Gone Hawkwatching, It's Prime Time for Raptors


Gone hawkwatching. At Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory now and have seen over 1,000 raptors - big kettles of broadwings plus eagles, Ospreys, harrier, sharpies, redtails. More keep coming. It’s a good day.
Update, as of Sept. 22, 2021, 6,793 raptors were seen at Pack during the month of Sept.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Learn Hawks, Get 20% discount off Cornell's Bird Academy Hawk ID Course Now!


Hawk migration is starting, can you ID them? Get ready by taking this special Cornell Bird Academy course and get all the raptors at your fingertips! 

Click link Better Birder: Hawk and Raptor Identification and get a 20% discount! Use this BAStokes21 code at check out to receive the discount. One use per customer.

This comprehensive self-paced course covers all 34 species found in the continental U.S. and Canada, with Dr. Kevin McGowan as your friendly guide.

  • * Discover raptor diversity—from vultures and eagles to falcons      
  • * Learn ID shortcuts with Kevin's Keys to ID videos and diagrams
  • * Build field skills with the powerful SnapID practice tool

  • Note: just type the code into the coupon code box in the cart at checkout, and don’t forget to click ‘apply’! You’ll see the lower price reflected in the “Cart Totals” box before clicking “Proceed to Checkout.”  

Or, use the same discount code BAStokes21 for any other of the Cornell Bird Academy Courses
Sign up here,

Gardening for Birds

Warbler Identification

Nature Journaling and Field Sketching

Bird Photography with Melissa Groo

How to Identify Bird Song

Feeder Birds: Identification and Behavior

Comprehensive Bird Biology

Bird Behavior

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

American Goldfinch Nest and Birding Serendipity Magic!


Me and Ignacio
Phil and Ignacio
American Goldfinch female on nest
Male goldfinch feeding female
Nesting habitat American Goldfinches

Ok, sometimes birding is just serendipity magic. I am studying American Goldfinches (more on that later) and wanted to see a nest. So Phil Brown (NH Audubon awesome birder) was birding with Ignacio Oreamuno (Costa Rican bird guide who owns a bird-friendly coffee plantation, was drinking coffee and wearing Stokes DLS binoculars) and a goldfinch flies right in front of them and goes to a nest. Phil texts me. I fly over there, and we have a great time watching Mrs. Goldfinch incubating. Female American Goldfinches sit on the nest almost continuously until the nestlings are about 4 days old and she is fed regurgitated seeds by the male. That's about 24,480 minutes of sitting!! Breeding is a highly cooperative venture between the male and the female; she protects the nest by continuously sitting, he provides all the food to her and nestlings. After day 4, the nestlings are fed by both parents. Oh, and did I mention an Olive-sided Flycatcher showed up and distracted us? Serendipity? Or meant to be?
Note: All nest photos were taken at a distance with a long telephoto superzoom camera at 2000 mm. Nikon P950. It is highly important not to disturb nests.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Gardening For Finches, Leave the Seeds!!


Gardening for finches – plant it and they will come! American Goldfinches love the seeds of composite flowers like these Purple Coneflowers. Provide a finch feast by resisting the urge to "tidy up" your garden and leave the seed heads of flowers. The new crop of crabapples will feed Pine Grosbeaks this fall and winter. Plant varieties of crabapple that keep their fruits through winter. Prairiefire (Malus x 'Prairiefire') is a good choice. Your reward? Your garden becomes a magnet of beauty and uplift to your spirit in seeing these beautiful finches.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Baby, Baby, Noisy American Goldfinches, Cute but...

 In the world of American Goldfinches now, fledglings wave wings and make their headache-producing, incessant, fledgling calls, whether or not a parent is near. I think their parents have had it, saw a male recently just fly away from a begging youngster. Eventually the young will have to fend for themselves and a few have already found the feeders. Fall will come, adults will molt into their subtle brown-gray LL Bean parkas (their feathers actually will be denser), finches will flock and some will migrate, depending on where they live. Enjoy their beauty now.

Nighthawk Watch Party, 831 Nighthawks, Wow!!

Annual Nighthawk Watch Party last night on our deck. 831 individual Common Nighthawks were detected, but the actual count was more like 760 since you need to figure in some birds flew north then south again. Big thanks to the ace counting team of Steve Lamonde, Phil Brown, and Henry Walters (the last two being hawk migration counters at Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory). I was too busy being the host to count, lol. So what could be better than a party with good friends (all fully vaccinated)? Well, that same party while just an amazing number of incredible birds flew right over our heads!! Thanks to all who participated!


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Rare Birds! Limpkin in IL, Roseate in MA!


Continuing with the theme of Florida coming north, the ABA rare bird alert recently noted a Limpkin near Hennepin, IL, and another one in Maryland for a 7th state record. MA had its first state record of a young Roseate Spoonbill and there was another roseate in CT, making number 5 for that state. I just love those roseates! You can check the ABA rare bird alert site for updates. Rare birds are exciting fun for birders, although maybe not as much fun for the rare birds who are often immature birds that must fend for themselves in new situations. On the other hand, the built-in ability for at least some members of a species to explore new areas can be an advantage if that species needs to colonize new terrain because their usual habitats have been destroyed. (my photos are from another time in FL)

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Magnificent Frigatebird, 1st State Record NH!!


Update: The frigatebird was seen this morning at the Isles of Shoals on the Maine side. People are booking trips out there.
Evidentlly, if you are in the northeast, you don't have to go to FL or the South anymore, it will come to you. Besides Roseate Spoonbills, a Magnificent Frigatebird was in NH recently and is likely still wandering around. This is a first state record for NH!! This impressive tropical seabird spends most of its time soaring effortlessly. Named frigatebird or sometimes "man-o-war bird" because it pirates food from other birds, harassing them until they regurgitate their meal. Males have red throat pouches, inflated during courtship, females and young birds have areas of white. Who knows what birds the hurricane may bring, Stay safe!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Shorebirds are migrating now!!

On the move, Semipalmated Sandpiper. The end of August is prime time for migrating shorebirds. Visit your nearest shorebird hotspots, such as coastal wildlife refuges to witness this wonderful treat. Oh, and bring your camera!


Monday, August 16, 2021

Lark Sparrow, Rare Bird in NH!!


Lark Sparrow was recently found in eastern NH evidently, its Mapquest app was not working. This is a bird that breeds in the midwest and western areas of the country. The later part of August can produce some nice rarities as most birds are post-breeding and on the move, sometimes in the wrong direction. This was a life bird for some NH birders (cool thing if you're birder, it's the first time in your life you see a species then you do a happy dance). I photographed this one on the NH coast in 2014. When you are out birding, expect the unexpected and study your field guide for what could show up. Chance favors the prepared mind.

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!