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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Going Cuckoo!!

Going cuckoo. Both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos are being reported from multiple places in New England. I have had both from my condo deck here in MA in past years and had a Yellow-billed recently. Not easy to tell apart, learn the calls first you will hear them more than see them. Aptly named for their bill colors, Yellow-billed has a long tail with bold white tips, Black-billed has small whitish tips on the tail and also a red orbital ring around the eye. These are secretive, woodland birds who love to eat caterpillars. They winter in South America. Cool birds!!

Friday, May 20, 2022

Warbler Fallout, Now!

                                          Golden-winged Warbler
                                         Black-throated Green Warbler
                                                    Magnolia Warbler
                                                Bay-breasted Warbler
                                                Blackburnian Warbler
There's fallout on the NH coast now, get out if you can!! Someone just had 12 species from Church St. parking lot in 1/2 hour. Fallout is when migrating birds encounter weather conditions such as fog, high winds, storms, etc. which ground them. Photos are from another time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Yellow Warblers Arrived! Such Beauty!

Yellow Warbler male
                                            Yellow Warbler, female

The first bird I heard this morning as stepped out on the deck to put out the sunflower feeder was a beautiful Yellow Warbler. Birdsong is good for the soul.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022


Evening Grosbeak
Purple Finch
Just finished a looong working weekend with my coauthor to Stokes Guide to Finches of North America, Matthew A. Young, doing our best to bring you an awesome guide to all things finch!! Coming in 2023.


Friday, April 15, 2022

Pine Warblers Are Arriving!!

Yes, they eat suet. Pine Warbler on my suet feeder a few years ago. When some of the early migrants, like Pine Warbler, arrive there may not be a lot of insects around, especially if it is cold or bad weather. So they can take advantage of a high-calorie food source like suet. Welcome all the migrants with feeders well-feeders with suet and a variety of seeds, as well as hummingbird nectar and orange halves for the catbirds and orioles. The great migration push is beginning, embrace the wonder.


Tuesday, April 05, 2022

The Common Birds Still Excite!

 I get asked whether the common birds excite me anymore. The assumption is that only the rare is valued and thrilling and I am jaded to the ordinary. My answer is hell yes, I get as excited by the common and known birds as much as I did the day I first saw them. Rare birds are exotic, fun, and pulse-quickening. But I look at all birds as mini-miracle bundles of wonder, there to be focused on and cherished.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Greater Prairie-Chickens Booming!

We left at 3:30 a.m. to arrive predawn and stealthily crept through the chill darkness to wait at our blind. The faintest light appeared...slowly the males came...the dancing and the booming, reverberating-through-your-body, other-worldly sounds began. We were watching the lek mating rituals of Greater Prairie-Chickens.
Males gather and display at their mating grounds each spring. They rapidly stamp their feet and produce the booming sounds by inflating the orange air sacs on the sides of their neck, the sound comes from air passing through the syrinx and is amplified by the sacs, an extension of the esophagus. Males also make cackling and whooping noises. Females then arrive and decide which male to mate with, while the males compete for females. Females usually choose older, more experienced males with longer legs, larger eye combs, and the best territories within the lek. After mating the females nest and raise the young themselves.
This took place a number of years ago (when we were with our friends Gary and Diane Cole) at the Prairie Ridge Natural Area, Illinois, the only remaining place east of the Mississippi where Greater Prairie-Chickens, a declining species, can be found on their historical grounds.
You can listen to the sound of the Greater Prairie-chicken here


Monday, March 14, 2022

American Woodcock Astounding Behavior!!

 "Peent!!" Go listen for the nasal call of American Woodcocks, who are returning to their breeding grounds across much of the eastern U.S. and very southern Canada. Wow, what a great bird!! Those shoe button eyes on top of its head allow it to look for predators while it feeds on earthworms with its bill stuck in the ground.

One of the most astounding things about woodcocks is the males' courtship display. After giving multiple "peents" he rises in the air in a spiral, hundreds of feet high and you could hear his wings making a twittering sound. At the very top of his flight, he makes a canary-like chirping for several seconds, as he begins his descent. After landing, he begins his "peent" calls again.
Male woodcocks do courtship displays, at dusk and dawn, in open fields, hoping to attract as many females as they can. Females go to the fields, choose and mate with a male, then go into the woods and nest and raise the young by themselves. The young are born fully feathered and can walk and soon feed themselves.
If you live near open fields you can go and listen for woodcock displays and witness this amazing woodcock behavior for yourself. Getting more deeply into the lives and behavior of the birds around you takes you out of your world and connects you to something larger. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Red-winged Blackbirds have returned!!

 Here's how I was greeted this morning, "okaleeee." A Red-winged Blackbird made my day. Birds have a way of doing that, embrace it!

Monday, March 07, 2022

Purple Finches are On the Move!!


                                     Purple Finch eBird map March 2022
                                                  House Finch males
Purple Finches and goldfinch at top.

Beautiful Purple Finches seem to be on the move. Purple Finches breed across Canada, the upper Midwest, the northeastern quadrant of the U.S., and down West Coast areas. However, they winter down through the Gulf Coast states. Here's an eBird map of where they are now. Don't be fooled into thinking you have Purple Finches when you are seeing House Finches. House Finch males have more heavily streaked flanks and red color more limited to head and breast, females have plain brown faces, not the whitish eyebrow line of female Purple Finches.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Happy Bluebirds!


Come along with me my love,
And we will roam the sky;
We'll fly across the meadows,
And soar o'er mountains high.
We'll drink of streams' pure waters;
Chase butterflies and bees;
And when we tire of this, my love,
We'll rest in shady trees.
Then we will search in earnest,
Each nook and cranny wide;
Where we can raise our family,
Together, side by side.
There it is, my dearest love,
Well, goodness! Bless my soul!
Just waiting there for us, dear one,
Our house upon a pole.
A kind and careful craftsman
Has built it strong and true;
DO enter into it, my love,
And I will follow you.
Katherine M. Braun
"Bluebird Honeymoon"
And from Henry David Thoreau, Journals–March 2, 1859
"Princes and magistrates are often styled serene, but what is their turbid serenity to that ethereal serenity which the bluebird embodies? His Most Serene Birdship! His soft warble melts in the ear, as the snow is melting in the valleys around. The bluebird comes and with his warble drills the ice and sets free the rivers and ponds and frozen ground. As the sand flows down the slopes a little way, assuming the forms of foliage where the frost comes out of the ground, so this little rill of melody flows a short way down the concave of the sky."
When I wrote Stokes Bluebird Book: The Complete Guide to Attracting Bluebirds in 1991, I included some poetry and special quotes on bluebirds in an early chapter because bluebirds are one of the most beloved songbirds who inspire and enchant millions. Birds are so much more than just their colors, wing measurements, sounds, life history information; they're winged spirits who touch our souls.

Monday, February 14, 2022


                                   Roseate Spoonbill preening heart shape
Bluebird pair

                     Happy Valentine's Day. 

This is also my blogger anniversary. I have been doing Stokes Birding Blog for 16 years. Hope you have enjoyed it. Have a great day!

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Christmas Bird Count Jan. 3rd 2022 Great Fun!!

Hooded Merganser
Red-bellied Woodpecker and Carolina Wren
Song Sparrow
Hooded Merganser
Horned Lark

Canada Geese in field where lark was

Spoiler Alert: these will be the suckiest Christmas Bird Count (now in its 122nd year) photos you will see, so look no further if you're used to viewing the gorgeous eye-candy photos from other photographers. But the purpose of the Christmas Bird Count is to count every bird and have fun, and fun I had, even if the weather was rainy, gray and cold. I participated on Sunday in the Greater Concord, MA Christmas Bird Count (which includes sections of a number of towns) and had a territory with diverse habitat, including wetlands and fields. I brought my Nikon P950 point-and-shoot superzoom camera which is no DSLR, but the superzoom of 2000mm allows record shots. What I loved best is that every bird counts, whether rare or common, something to be celebrated when often birding's emphasis is on rarities (which I do love seeing!). During 24 hours, by car and on foot, every species, with numbers seen, is recorded. In the early, dark morning I managed to get a photo of the special Horned Larks in the big field with geese. It was raining, I was soaked, standing in the mud with my fingers numb, and loved every second of it. Isn't that what life is about, feeling alive and loving every second of it? Later, during mid-day, it stopped raining and I worked hard in an area where diverse habitats come together and I saw the most birds, scanning, trying for photos, recording, and just feeling a sense of exhilaration to be immersed with birds in the experience. Nothing else mattered and I truly was "in the moment." I miraculously managed to get both Red-bellied Woodpecker and Carolina Wren in the same photo. In a water area later, the beautiful male Hooded Merganser swam away from me, his white flag erect like the head of an arrow piercing a pattern in the still, deep, dark water. At the end of the day, participants turn in their numbers to compilers. Last night was the countdown zoom, where you hear about all that was seen. I am always so impressed by the skill and effort put in by so many participants, plus a sense of birding community on this special day. Over 31,000 individual birds were counted, of about 90 give or take species (some numbers are still being confirmed). Life is about the gift of every moment and birds are a big present.