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Friday, July 25, 2014

King of the Birds


Eastern Kingbirds nest on the pond by our home.


They are large, dark flycatchers, note the white tip to their tail.


Mrs. Kingbird was incubating eggs in her nest built in a Buttonbush, right over the water.

We have been seeing a lot of Eastern Kingbird fledglings recently. Kingbirds nest on the large pond where live. They usually build their nest in a Buttonbush shrub at the very edge of the water. Canoeists and fishermen passed by all day and the birds do not seem to mind. 

Eastern Kingbirds are large flycatchers, darting out from perches to catch insects. They breed in open areas, often near water, across the East and much of the West. Kingbirds have a territory of about an acre and will chase out larger birds, with the kingbirds diving at their back and chasing them much farther than the territorial boundary. We see this all the time. You don't want to mess with a kingbird, if you're another bird. The scientific name of Eastern Kingbird is Tyrannus tyrannus, so the joke goes that kingbirds are too tyrannical (two tyrannical).
Look for them when you go swimming, or boating this summer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Butterflies for Birders! When the birding slows down look for butterflies!

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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Be On The Look Out for Unusual Doves! How to ID Them.



Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Doves are expanding their range, look for them at your feeders

Mourning Doves are common feeder birds across the country



Doves like to drink and bathe

Mourning Dove snoozing on nest. They lay 2 eggs.

Common Ground-Doves are small doves

White-winged Dove. One was recently seen as far north as Newbury, MA.

1. Mourning Doves are the most common doves found at feeders nationwide. Eurasian Collared-Doves are mainly found in the southern, western and middle part of the country. White-winged Doves and petite Common Ground-Doves are found mostly in the southern and lower western parts of the country.

2. Doves are seed and grain eating birds, so they eat many wild seeds and will come to bird feeders for a variety of seeds including millet, milo, corn and sunflower. 

3. Doves are large birds (except for Common Ground-Doves) and feed mainly on the ground. So when choosing bird feeders, select feeders that have a platform or wide ledge so doves can land and comfortably eat. Doves will also feed on seeds that fall to the ground from bird feeders. The Stokes Select 3 in 1 Platform Feeder and red Platform Feeder are excellent feeders for doves.

4. Doves feed differently than some other small feeder birds such as chickadees, who come to your feeder and take one seed at a time. Doves have a crop in which they store seeds for digestion afterward. So you may see doves coming in and consuming a lot of seeds, then going off elsewhere to sit on a branch to rest and digest.

5. Mourning Doves are in in pairs in summer. In spring the male gives his long "ooahoo oo oo oo" call to court a female. Some people mistake this cooing for a sound an owl would make. The mournful nature of the sound gives this species its name. Mourning Doves build flimsy nests, lay two eggs and both parents feed their young "pigeon milk," nutritious whitish liquid the parents regurgitate. The young fledge at 12-13 days of age.

6. In winter Mourning Doves are in flocks of about 20 or more birds. The flocks drift about a given area as food resources change. There is a peck dominance hierarchy in the flocks, with some birds more dominant over others. At your feeder you may see one bird raise its wings and even hit at another bird with its wing in aggressive encounters.

7. Most doves have rather plain brownish or grayish plumage. White-winged Doves have a distinct white streak at the edge of the folded wing. Eurasian Collared-Doves look similar to Mourning Doves but have a black half collar with a lower white edge, behind their neck. They are expanding their range and  might show up anywhere, so be on the lookout for them at your feeder. Common Ground-Doves are only 6 1/2 inches long and plain brown, with the male being a little more pinkish on the breast.

8. Provide doves with a bird bath to drink from and bathe in. When doves drink,they can keep their head down and draw in water in their bill. Other birds drink by dipping in their bill then tilting their head up and back to swallow.

9. Keep feeders stocked, water fresh, and enjoy the doves. Maybe you will even see a new species! To help you ID doves, see our new The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America and the regional versions, The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern and Western Regions.


Monday, July 07, 2014

Fledgling Birds! What you should know.

Baby American Robins about to fledge and leave the nest.

This is a very busy time of year for birds. They have nested and now many have fledglings that are out of the nest. In many cases, fledglings birds are fed by their parents for another several weeks - college age, we jokingly call it, "out of the nest but still dependent on the parents". The fledglings must learn how to feed themselves and how to avoid danger.

This photo was taken yesterday of robins in a nest over our front door. They were just about to leave the nest. Today, they were gone. We spied one of them in the middle of our driveway, then a parent robin came and fed it then it followed the parent into the woods to safer place as it could only fly a very short distance. In several days it will develop better flying skills.

So many times fledglings like this are scooped up by well-meaning people, convinced the fledgling has been adandoned. What a tragedy. If only they knew how to back up and observe from a distance, keep kids and cats indoors, and let the parents care for the fledgling and lead it to cover.

By the way, if you ever do find a truly abandoned fledgling or nestling, (confirmed by observing it for quite a while to be sure no parent is involved), you should know it is not legal for you to keep and raise a native bird. Bring the fledgling to a licensed bird rehabilitator.

Eastern Bluebird, male fledgling,  being fed at our mealworm feeder by his mother

With birds that nest in bird houses, such as bluebirds and Tree Swallows, the fledglings from the get go are better flyers than the young of birds who nest in open cups. Tree Swallows fly very well when they leave the box and are hardly fed at all by the parents, as they can catch food on their own. Bluebirds can fly somewhat when they leave the next box, usually enough to make it to the safety of trees. They are then fed for several weeks by the parents. 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Happy Fourth of July Hummingbird Garden with Corgis!


Happy Fourth of July Everyone! Hope you have a great day. Here are our Corgis Abby (l.) and Phoebe (r.) sitting in front of our deck hummingbird garden, which consists of pots of some favorite hummingbird flowers Salvia "Lady in Red" with some Salvia "Black and Blue" in the center and plus some purple trailing verbena which attracts butterflies. WE can sit on the deck and watch hummingbirds buzzing only feet away from us, what a treat!

Friday, June 20, 2014

We provide habitat for breeding birds at Bobolink Farm, our NH home.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, female, comes frequently to feeder, she may be breeding nearby.

Hairy Woodpecker, male (right) taking hulled sunflower back to his nest to feed young. Mr. Cardinal comes for a seed and feeds Mrs. Cardinal as part of courtship and breeding.

Cosy pair of Gray Catbirds, who love the oranges! We have 2 pairs of nesting Catbirds.

Bobolink Farm, our NH property. View from our deck.

We have Bobolinks nesting in our fields and make sure our farmer does not hay the field until late August, after all the Bobolinks have fledged.

We have 15 nesting pairs of Tree Swallows in the bird houses we provide. That's great, as this is a declining species near us.

Lots going on here at Bobolink Farm, our NH home of 48 acres. We feel like bird farmers. Breeding birds are everywhere, with many taking advantage of the habitat we have created, our bird feeders and bird houses. It's a great time of year to sit on our deck and watch the show around us. So many baby birds in the works. It gives us great pleasure to know we are helping so many birds, especially since many of these birds continue to have population declines due to lack of suitable habitat.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Birdathon!

Orchard Oriole, female, made property bird number 201 for us!!

Brown Thrasher walked right up to us

Baltimore Oriole at end of day

Did the NH Audubon Birdathon yesterday and had a great day. Here are some of the best and prettiest sightings.