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Red-Bellied Surprise

A few days overdue, but on Saturday, as I was getting ready to go to the store, in addition to the mourning doves that were startled by me coming outside, there was a silhouette up in the trees that was about the size of a mourning dove, but acting like a woodpecker. I almost thought it was a Northern Flicker, but after a quick run to get my binos, it turned out to be a male red-bellied woodpecker.

While certainly not a rare bird, they are uncommon up here. They continue to expand their range north. In Manchester there was a report of a breeding pair this past summer, though no chicks were seen. Hopefully I’ll get to see more of him this winter!


Where did October go?

I’m pretty sure I know - it went making sure that the store would be ready for the holidays. And with a few orders left to go, we’re getting there. Please make an attempt to stop by if you can, we’ve got some really fun stuff, including the new National Geographic Handheld Birds  which is the COMLETE NGS Birds of North America on a handheld device. I’ve been playing with the store copy and it is really, really cool.

Now for birds - as shown on the home page of our site, the dark-eyed juncos and white-throated sparrows have returned, cleaning up under the feeders with the mourning doves. While it’s great to see them, it means that cold weather and snow are sure to follow close by. And snow if only good if you can ski on it, so if it’s going to come, we need a lot of it quickly!


The Move South is On

Yesterday was a beautiful autumn day here in Vermont. We had a front blow through late Monday night, and yesterday was a day when migration south seemed to be in the air. Saw several more flocks of geese heading south, 3 different raptors, can’t say which since I have not yet learned how to best ID hawks and at least 15-20 monarch butterflies heading south.

Colder temperatures are definitely on the way.


Signs of Fall are Everywhere!

With a new cold front that has blown through, there are signs everywhere that cold weather will soon be taking over. The first sign this morning, other than the blustery cool breeze we were experiencing, was a male American Goldfinch in mid-molt. He was about half the brilliant yellow and half-dull gray - a little haggard.

Also saw, and heard, my first undulatinig “V” formation of Canada geese making their way south - and actually going in that direction.

Lastly, on Monday I saw my first wooly catepillars crossing the road that I drive to the store on. Didn’t get a chance to see which color was thicker, so I guess I’ll have to wait to see what winter brings.


A bit quiet at the feeder

Nothing really that unusual to report at our feeders lately. We did have a hawk cause a bit of a raucous that caused a mourning dove to fatally crash to the ground.

Lots of sparrows, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, and the reliable hairy woodpecker continue to show up. We haven’t seen the northern cardinals that had been so regular show up for the past few days. They may have moved on, and hopefully someone else is enjoying the male as much as we did. He was quite the showoff.

I plan on heading over to Putney Mountain on Tuesday to take part in the hawk watch. I have not participated in one of these before and the weather may not be too conducive on that day, at least according to the forecast, but it will be a nice chance to get outdoors for the day.



How much joy can one bird bring?

For birdwatchers, and those who keep life lists, the past 6 weeks have been very exciting. Where two birds in very different locations have brought a lot of joy to many, many birders.

First there was the sighting of a Western Reef Heron in Maine. Only the second time seen in North America. And while there was some very interesting and complete taxonomic debate on the bird, for most who went to see the bird, it was a thrill. Postings on birdwatching sites were updated almost by the hour so those travelling could keep up with where the bird was.

The second bird is still thrilling Vermont birdwatchers, where a Norther Wheatear has been putting on quite a show. It seems to keeping its range to a causeway in Colchester Vermont and posing for some extraordinary photos. Here’s a couple I think are the best.

People often ask why I am so interested in wild birds? Most often it’s the thrill of seeing something wild for the first time that gets kind of addicting. Ask anyone who has ever seen the rose-breasted grosbeak for the first time in person.


The trouble with Hairy(s)

One of the great treats we get to see at our bird feeders (or suet feeders when we put them out) is the less common Hairy Woodpecker. Much larger than the Downy Woodpecker, they’re quite a sight to see when they visit our feeders.

Lately, in spite of his size, and we can tell it’s a he by his brilliant red patch on the back of his head, this particular Hairy woodpecker has been feeding out of our tube feeder, even though there is a much easier way to eat via our platform feeder not 10 feet away.

What makes this a bit annoying is that we use a blend in our tube feeder, much of which a woodpecker wouldn’t find appealing. So he takes to using his bill to throw everything he doesn’t like on to the ground. The mourning doves and various types of sparrows seem to LOVE this, as do our resident chipmunks.

It can be entertaining to watch, it’s just that more trips are needed to fill the feeder. We’ll have to see if he keeps this up, or maybe use a more specialized feeder and fill it with more attractive woodpecker food to redirect his energy.

In any event, he’s great to have around - even if he is a bit messy.


Cardinal Sins

Or at least the sins that a northern cardinal thinks you make…

Occasionally one forgets to fill the feeder, or runs out of seed, the latter being the case this time. And it’s also pretty well known that when that happens, black-capped chickadees will often scold you as you walk out of your house.

Now mind you, it’s not that you mean to treat them as pets; you think you’re just providing a bit of food for some “wild” animals. But experienced bird feeders know differently. Wild birds can give you the guilt trip just about as well as a “domestic” pet can.

Last week, and again today, I had an experience that I really found unusual. It’s now become clear that the pair of northern cardinals that visit our feeders have learned from the chickadees. If the food is low or just about gone, the male AND the female have started to belt out their metallic “chirp” call… looking right into the house and a couple of times right at me.

Lesson learned.  I’m bringing seed home tonight.


The hummers are back!

With the late bloom of so many flowers, the past few weeks have had customers and us see many fewer visits to our hummingbird feeders. Now with those flowers dying back, the visits have certainly increased. Our feeder out front went from about 1/3 full (which is all I put in since they weren’t coming) down to just about empty in 3 days.

And when I’m taking the dog out each morning, I always hear (practically feel) one buzz by me as we walk close to that feeder. It should be fun to watch them over the next 4-5 weeks before they make their incredible journey back down to South America.


Owl Howls!

For the past 3 weeks or so, there has been quite a chorus outside of our house. Seems like a juvenile barred owl and mom have been patrolling our woods for their meals. Just about every other night (or early morning as is most often the case.) I am serenaded with the very familiar “Who, Who, Who cooks for you!” call, but then the other-worldly sound - referred in many books as the “monkey scream” starts. Oh my…. it’s a sound that one doesn’t soon forget, especially when it’s made about 8 feet from your bedroom window — Sheesh!

Still, as our only brown-eyed owl, it’s a beautiful bird and really nice to hear both of them, timestamp not inclusive.


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