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Monday, November 06, 2023

Palm Warbler Migration Now!


"Yellow" subspecies of Palm Warbler photographed in NH in fall

"Western" subspecies of Palm Warbler photographed in winter on Sanibel Island, on the west coast of southern FL

In addition to many sparrows such as White-throated, White-crowned, Song, Chipping, Swamp, and Lincoln's Sparrows we had migrating through New England, there are some Palm Warblers, top photo above. These late migrating, beautiful warblers have yellow breasts and deep yellow undertail coverts. They constantly wag their tail up and down, a nice giveaway to their identification. These bright "yellow" Palms are the eastern subspecies of Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum hypochrysea) and breed from central Quebec east. They winter along the Gulf Coast, from LA to northern FL.

The "western" subspecies of Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum palmarum) breeds from Ontario west, across to parts of the Yukon and ne. British Columbia and winters in the Southeast, down through south FL. Some may also winter on the West Coast. This subspecies has very little yellow on the breast but still has bright yellow undertail coverts. There is a breeding zone south of James Bay where they intergrade. This gives you some idea of why Palm Warblers may look different, depending on which area of the country you are in.

Enjoy watching the Palm Warblers forage near the ground in goldenrods along the edges of fields in migration.

For more on the subspecies of Palm Warbler as well as how to identify fall warblers, see  The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, the best-selling photographic field guide available.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Winter Finch Forecast is Coming! Red Crossbills!

The Winter Finch Forecast is about to come out which tells you who, what, and where finches will show up this winter. If you haven't heard there has been significant Red Crossbill movement already, especially Type 4 and 2 into the northeast. This photo is of a Red Crossbill who landed at the feet of my coauthor of The Stokes Guide to Finches of the United States and Canada, Matthew A. Young, and I, the first time we met in person. The reason the book exists is because I recorded Red Crossbills during the 2020-2021 finch superflight and sent the recordings to Matt to decode as to call type and that is how we met. So we owe the book to Red Crossbills.

Prime Time for Hawk MIgration

On the wing, hawks, monarchs, and me. It is prime hawk migration time. I saw 6,000 plus Broad-winged Hawks at Wachusett Mt. hawkwatch (tower on top of a mountain). In addition to all migrating raptors, they count monarch butterflies. I am on the Hawk Migration Association of North America board, which maintains the awesome website,, in which sites all across North America report their daily raptor numbers. Go there to learn all about it and find a hawkwatch near you.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Oranges for Red-bellied Woodpeckers

Orange therapy. It's always amazing to see which new birds use foods offered at Lillian's Bird Buffet. Move over orioles, this Red-bellied Woodpecker male loves the oranges. I have even seen Downy Woodpeckers eat the oranges.
I have robins and bluebirds eating suet as well as all the usual birds you would expect – woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, grackles, and starlings.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Offer Dog Fur For Birds!


Santa Chickadee. Offer it and they will build! I put Corgi fur, compliments of Abby and Andre, out in this suet basket as nest material for birds. While the chickadee photo is from another time, I just saw a titmouse go to the suet holder and take a big mouthful of fur and fly off into the woods. Birds like chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches nest in natural cavities or birdhouses and may include material like this fur in their nests. It brings me a lot of joy to offer birds things like bird seed, birdhouses, suet, oranges, bird baths, nesting materials, etc. which can make their lives easier. Win-win!

Friday, May 26, 2023

Prothonotary Warbler Golden Beauty!



 Prothonotary Warbler, a golden treasure in the greenery! Being more heard than seen now across a river from conservation land in Concord, MA. It is considered uncommon here because its breeding range is a bit south and across much of the country's eastern half. These photos were taken on Sanibel Island during migration. Prothonotary Warblers breed in cavities in standing dead trees along rivers and in forested wetlands. I remember once canoeing along a small swampy river in the New Jersey Pine Barrens and seeing multiple Prothonotary Warblers, like luminary candles along the edges, lighting our way.

Prothonotary Warblers have declining populations and are on the Partners in Flight Yellow Watch list. They are vulnerable to loss of forested wetlands on their breeding grounds and loss of mangroves on their wintering grounds.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Birding is a Big Tent, Mother's Day walk

American Redstart female
Warbling Vireo
American Redstart male

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

 I had a wonderful Mother's Day doing...birding of course!! I went with my awesome son and daughter-in-law to a wildlife area and we did what I might call 'integrated birding' or 'deep birding' a bridge between numbers stacking up listing birding and slower paced more 'mindful' birding. I think a lot about birding and how it is done and how to teach people about it. My goal is always to foster a deeper connection between people and birds.

Birding is a very big tent and all are welcome, no matter how you relate to birds. It is a continuum from the exciting big day type checklist agenda of seeing how many birds you can tally to what a friend of mine once called "bliss" birding, just being somewhere and seeing or listening to birds and not caring what they are, just being happy. All of this has merit, all of it can be rewarding to the participants.
We arrived at our area mid-day when birds can be quieter, and after checking off a few redstarts and orioles, we might have moved on. But my keen-eyed son spotted a darker, larger, not-moving bird obscured among the leaves. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was doing exactly what Yellow-billed Cuckoos do! The longer we stayed there the more we saw. While tuning into the redstarts we saw one with yellow sides and tail spots, the female American Redstart, then followed her as she foraged and the male sang nearby. A pair, likely going to breed there. Then we saw other male redstarts and began to get a sense of multiple redstarts dividing up breeding territories. Orioles sang from several places and we saw males and females (both males and females sing). A Warbling Vireo showed us views prompting my daughter-in-law (a more new birder) to be surprised at how plain it was, but such a “robin with a slide whistle” sound. A catbird kept up its constant singing which improvises and mostly mimics the sounds of other birds as do its cousins the Brown Thrasher and the Northern Mockingbird. In general, Gray Catbirds do not repeat syllables consecutively but repeat each once, Brown Thrasher tends to repeat syllables in pairs, and Northern Mockingbirds birds repeat after several times. Knowing this helps a birder distinguish them. A beautiful Scarlet Tanager sang from a treetop its “robin with a sore throat” scratchy song then moved on, possibly a migrant. Looking out over a bridge the breeze, kissed by the water, brought a gentle feel and aqua scent to our faces. Then a flash of melted butter caught our eye. A female Yellow Warbler was not just checked off then ignored, but followed. We realized she was at an Eastern tent caterpillar big web in the fork of a tree. Then she began to pull off some of the web and fly off. She will use this as “glue” to help her stick together her nest material, follow her and you will find the nest. We walked a short distance by the railroad track, and found a Magnolia Warbler working its way along feeding. We had to leave soon, had just started back to the parking lot when a loud hoot from a Barred Owl stopped us in our tracks! Then another Barred Owl answered from the distance with a higher-pitched voice, likely the female. Even though female Barred Owls are larger than males, their voice is higher pitched. Likely a pair with a nest nearby. We were about to get in the car when a Yellow-throated Vireo sang from a tall tree, cool! (I less commonly encounter them). Suddenly overhead two Red-tailed Hawks circled over us. We went to lunch, filled in our eBird checklist, and agreed we had a great time.
We had seen migrant and many breeding birds, each in its own special breeding habitat, and paused long enough to get a sense of where they were in their cycle, deepening our understanding of them and their lives. We had fun compiling our numbers list as well, satisfied we did a good job at finding and identifying all the birds. We had hardly moved beyond the parking lot, yet the longer we stayed the deeper our experience was. We had covered the spectrum of how to do birding. Yes, birding is a big tent, open to all and welcome to all. Come on in.

Friday, May 05, 2023

Orioles Have Arrived!!

 Just arrived here in MA two days ago! To attract Baltimore Orioles offer orange halves on a platform to feed hungry orioles when they arrive and before the trees have leafed out and insects are plentiful.

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Bluebird of Happiness has arrived!!


I am happy because Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird are now nesting in a birdhouse I proved about 20 ft. from my condo. The wooden bluebird house, of the right dimensions and constructions for bluebirds (and no House Sparrows allowed), is on a pole with a predator guard. Build it and they will come, maintain it and they will thrive.

Choose happy!

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Orioles Are Arriving Soon!

eBird map showing location of Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles are migrating and beginning to enter MA. I can't wait until they show up at my feeders. Put our orange for them when they first arrive and they will come to them especially if the weather is cool and there is not a lot of other food available. Once the trees leaf out and there are lots of caterpillars, they will consume them and may not come to oranges as frequently.


Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Northern Parulas Migrating Now!


Migrating now, just seen in eastern MA. Warbler mania is beginning.

Purple Finches Coming Through!


Hello PUFI!! This female/imm.male Purple Finch stopped by yesterday, jockeying for space at the feeder with the "going for the gold" American Goldfinches who are getting feisty as they molt into their yellow breeding plumage. First-year male Purple Finches look streaky brown like females so they cannot reliably be distinguished in the field. Tell these Purple Finches from female House Finches by their white eyebrow. Hope she/he reaches the breeding area and successfully produces more PUFIs.
PUFI is the bander's four-letter code for PUrple FInch.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

What Birds Are Singing Now?


Who is singing now? Just a sampling of the birds singing here in MA now (yes, female cardinals sing, as do many female birds). Snow on the ground does not stop them. Their hormones triggered by day length, are their directing force to herald a new season of reproduction.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Eastern Bluebird Thoreau Quote


I went out this morning and had a beautiful Eastern Bluebird is a quote from Thoreau..
"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 valley 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."
Henry David Thoreau, Journals–March 2, 1859
And so now, as then, the bluebird is singing as the ice and snow melt here in Thoreauland (I live next to the town where he lived) and bring me joy, just as it did HDT. Full circle of timelessness, some things remain to lift out spirits and hearts, just look and listen.
(Fyi that quote and others plus complete info on attracting are in our Stokes Bluebird Book).

Monday, March 06, 2023



by Lillian Q. Stokes and Matthew A. Young

The complete guide to finches of the United States and Canada, including a special section on Hawaiian Finches. A publishing first! Coming to you in early 2024, published by Little, Brown and Company.

From finch fanatics to fledgling finch fans, from goldfinches to crossbills, the Stokes Guide to 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; 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 finch; 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, 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 over 5 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. As a former psychiatric social worker, Lillian recognizes the wellness benefits of connecting people to nature and that has been a continuing goal of her work.

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. Over the last ~25 years 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 and Audio Engineer on several audio guides and Merlin packs. Matt works in the social work field as a Care Manager where connecting people to nature continues to be a desired goal.


Bluebird in snowstorm, came to suet and hulled sunflower.

The March snowstorm here in MA brought in lots of birds including, 45 goldfinches and this less-than-happy Eastern Bluebird who comes to suet and hulled sunflower. Birds especially need feeders in weather like that so keep hulled sunflower, suet, and finch feeders full.

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Feed The Birds in Severe Cold, They Need It!

Now, lots of very cold birds, including two Eastern Bluebirds, Downy Woodpecker, and goldfinches, sitting on their feet to keep warm and eating the hulled sunflower I put on the deck. Feed the birds, they especially need it in severe cold. Provide high-calorie foods like suet and sunflower. It was -31 wind chill early this morning.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

White-winged Crossbills at feeders!

You never know who may show up at your feeders! I once had White-winged Crossbills visit feeders in late winter. These northern birds are rarely seen here, let alone seen at feeders. White-winged Crossbills are large finches that mainly live in Canada, AK, and northern areas of the northeast quadrant of this country. In winter they can come down into the U.S. in search of food. They use their amazing bill, which is crossed at the tip, to pry open conifer cones and extract the seeds. We were making it easy for them, as we had hulled sunflower in the feeders, no shell to remove.


Monday, January 02, 2023