Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Butterflies Through Binoculars



Monarch Butterfly. They lay their eggs on milkweed and their caterpillars feed on this plant.


Great Spangled Frittillary on Purple Coneflower


Close-up of Great Spangled Fritillary

American Lady Butterfly, told by the two eye spots on underside of the hindwing

Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies are unmistakable

Spicebush Swallowtails can be told from other big, dark swallowtails by their single row of prominent white dots inside the margin of their forewings.
The larvae of Spicebush Swallowtails feed on spicebush and sassafrass.


Pearl Crescent butterfly. Scores are feeding on white clover on our path so we keep the path mowed high to preserve the clover flowers for them.

Mourning Cloaks are widespread across much of North America. They are one of the few butterflies who overwinter as adults, finding protected places in log piles, nooks, or under loose bark, and when they emerge in the spring they look worn, as this butterfly does. They are one of the longest lived butterflies and some may live as long as 10 months. Mourning Cloaks feed on sap and fruit.


Our butterfly bushes will bloom soon and they're magnets for the butterflies. Here's a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly on one of them.


We've written two books to help you attract and identify butterflies.Stokes Beginner's Guide To Butterflies, has an easy ID key to help you quickly identify the butterflies you see by size and shape.


Stokes Butterfly Book gives you plans for a butterfly garden, lists and photos of butterfly plants, and chapters, with color photos, on the identification, behavior and caterpillars of common butterflies. Both are available at amazon.com and stores.


When the birding is slow, and it's the middle of the day, a wonderful thing for birders to do is look for butterflies. Butterflies are colorful flying creatures, just like birds. The identification skills birders already have can be transferred to identifying butterflies.
Look at butterflies through your binoculars, no need to catch them in a net.

The hot weather favors butterflies as they need to warm their bodies to fly. They need to get their body temperature up to 85 to 100 degrees Farenheit in order to fly well. Adult butterflies come to flowers for nectar, lay their eggs on special host plants, which can be unique to each species of butterfly. The eggs hatch, larva feed on the plant then turn into a pupa or crysalis from which the adult butterfly will emerge. A complete cycle or generation is called a brood, and butterfly species can go through from just one to as many as four broods per year, depending on the species and the number of warm months. Different butterflies are on the wing at different times during the summer, so you will continue to see new species.

There are about 17,000 species of butterflies in the world. In North America there are about 700 species but only a small fraction are common and likely to be seen by the average person.

When you see a butterfly watch it closely for several minutes. Observe how it flies, its size, shape, and the colors and patterns on its wings, both above and below.

Start by knowing the major families of butterflies that are distinctive. Below are some:

Swallowtails - are our largest butterflies and most have long tails coming off their hind wings.

Whites and Sulfurs - these are all medium-sized butterflies that are predominantly white or yellow.

Gossamer Wings - this group is easy to identify since it includes all of our smallest butterflies, such as the blues, coppers and hairstreaks, and metalmarks. The blues tend to be iridescent blue, coppers are often copper, hairstreaks often have hairlike tails on their hind wings, and metalmarks often have metallic spots on their wings.

Brush-footed Butterflies - this is a large and varied group of medium-sized, generally dark-colored butterflies with such strong and rapid flight they are hard to follow. Their is no one field characteristic, besides their flight, that makes them easy to identify as a group.

Satyrs - these are medium-sized butterflies that are almost all brown, often with darker eye-spots on their wings. They have a weak and bobbing flight and are often seen at woods edges or among grasses.

Skippers - are small butterflies whose flight is extremely rapid and erratic. They are mostly rich brown or orange-brown

Enjoy the butterflies as well as the birds!

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Hot Weather Tip for Birds: An Easy Birdbath


It's 96 degrees. For an easy, inexpensive birdbath, try using a saucer that goes under a flowerpot. I just refilled this bird saucer with fresh cold water and two Red-winged Blackbird juveniles showed up. One drank and the other with spread wing might have been sunbathing (which birds do by lying with spread wings, to help get rid of parasites in feathers). Their mouths are open because they are panting, it's how birds cool off. I am just trying to help the birds and stay out of the high heat, it's like an oven out there!

 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

10 TIPS TO HELP BIRDS IN HOT WEATHER

 


Birds need water to drink,

and bathe.

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

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's some tips to keep your feathered buddies cool:

1. Bird baths, bird baths, bird baths! Birds need water to bath and drink in hot weather so buy a bird bath. You can even use any wide flat container for a bird bath, such as the lid of a trash can or a large saucer that it used under a flowerpot.

2. Choose a bird bath 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 bird bath 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 bird bath. 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 bird bath cool by adding ice cubes several times a day, or refilling the bird bath 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 bird bath is placed in a more open area so no predators can hide nearby. Provide a stake or branch placed in the ground near the bird bath, if no landing places exist near it, so birds have a place to wait their turn at the bath.

6. Air condition your bird houses by adding a second roof for shade. We nail on a piece of plywood, using long nails and only nailing them part way 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 bird house cooler. In some cases we have just shaded the roof of a bird house with piece of cardboard.

7. Misters are coolers. Misters can be bought to attach to a bird bath, or clip to shrubs near a bath. They spray a fine mist that birds can fly though, 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, comes with their 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 nice cold drink ,,,aaahhh!

Friday, June 14, 2024

Bluebird Nesting Cycle, what you should know!

 


Birds are in full time breeding mode right now. Many birds do mate-feeding as part of their courtship and nesting. Males will get food and feed it to the female. She may quiver her wings as she is getting fed. In bluebirds mate-feeding continues from the start of pairing on into the nestling phase. Cardinals and other birds also do this. Whether it's just part of the pair-bonding, extra nutrition for the female or other reasons, it's just fascinating to watch.

People do not always understand a bird's breeding cycle. Someone just asked us
"I put my bluebird house up late. They did start making a nest about a week and half ago. I haven't seen them around for a whole day. I did check the nest I could not see any eggs. Could they have possible left the nest by now?"

To help you better understand bird behavior, in general here is some basic information on the breeding cycle of birds. This is generalized information for most songbirds, certain species may vary from this.


Breeding begins by a male singing, forming a territory and trying to attract a female. If he is lucky, a female bird will choose him and join him on the territory. He then usually diminishes or stops singing.


The female builds the nest and it may take a day or several days. There may be a pause before the eggs are laid. The pair will mate, then the female lays 1 egg per day until the clutch is complete. Most songbirds lay 3-6 eggs. She usually lays the egg in the morning and does not stay near the nest the rest of the time. So if you see 1 or 2 eggs in a nest it does not mean it is abandoned, chances are the female will come back the next day and lay another egg until she has a complete clutch.


Then incubation begins. It is done mostly by the female and usually lasts about 12 to 14 days (12-18 days for Eastern Bluebirds). During this time the female is quiet and the male stays somewhat near and does not sing.


When the eggs hatch both parents become very active bringing food to the nest. They carry away from the nest fecal sacs, little white packages that are the droppings of the young. This keeps the nest clean. The young, called nestlings, stay in the nest for about 12-14 days (longer for birds thart nest in birdhouses, for Eastern Bluebirds it's 16-21 days). The young at first have very few feathers. Then they have "pin feathers", feathers enclosed in sheathes. By the time they are ready to leave, the feathers have broken out of the sheathes, the young are fully feathered, and they call loudly.


When the young "fledge", or leave the nest they are called "fledglings". At first they may not be able to fly that well and for the first few days stay in the vicinicy of the nest. They are still fed by the parents for another several weeks. The fledglings often stay scattered in trees and call constantly. So if you hear constant chirping and see adult birds carrying food to different bushes or trees, chances are they are feeding fledglings. During the fledgling phase the adults may start a new brood. The male may sing again, mate with the female, and she will start a new clutch of eggs. even while he is still feeding fledglings from the first brood. The fledglings will eventually learn to feed themselves and the parents stop feeding them. and so the whole thing starts over.


Sunday, June 09, 2024

Bluebird Babies!

                      


Daddy bluebird feeding his fledgling baby mealworms from a feeder. Sooo cute! Soon the fledgling will learn to use the mealworm feeder itself. In cold, rainy weather when the insects the parents also feed the young are less active, the mealworms are a welcome help to the busy parents. Love the bluebirds it is such a special treat to have them breeding right by.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Stokes Guide to Finches of The United States and Canada, advance copy has arrived!!

 

Yesterday – One of the most special moments in an author's life is when they open the package with huge anticipation and a bit of trepidation, and hold their new book in their hands for the first time. My reaction to my advance copy (with coauthor Matthew A. Young) and my 36th Stokes Guide, was WOW!! It is everything I hoped for – stunningly beautiful thanks to the amazing photographers whose work we used, gorgeous design, packed with information on all things finch from ID, life history, vocalizations, irruption and migration info, creative essays, the latest range maps, scientific research, a special section on finches of Hawaii, how to feed and garden for finches, and much more. My wonderful coauthor, finch expert Matt Young, is at a birding festival so he will see his copy when he gets back (sorry Matt but I know you will love the book). I only got one advance copy and the publication date is September 17, 2024 when copies will be available at all retailers, so we will all have to wait. This is a book for anyone who likes birds, from backyard birders to the most avid crossbill fans. I can't wait to introduce them to this amazing group of birds.
If you are a reviewer and want an advance review PDF copy let Matt or I know. Email contact form is on the top right of this blog.