Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Feed the birds?

Male cardinal.

White-breasted nuthatch.
Our holiday in Maine came to an end and we headed back to New Hampshire on our way to Boston airport.

The fortune I spent on bird feeders was not entirely wasted as we gave them away to a good home and fed all the food to the local "critters of the forest".

So what birds did we manage to attract to our seed-feeders in two weeks? None at all; but I bought two hummingbird feeders that worked straight away as the forest is not over-endowed with sources of nectar. There is plenty of seed about though, so although we saw finches and woodpeckers in the garden, they did not come to our feeders. In fact, most of the small birds we saw were insectivores such as flycatchers and warblers.

Male goldfinch
A pair of Acadian flycatchers hunted from our apple tree every day, so I assumed they were not migrants. Kingbirds (another kind of flycatcher) gathered at dusk in a lone pine. Under the tree, any seed that the squirrels did not get was gobbled up by wild turkeys and a lone Lincoln sparrow. A pair of American robins haunted the woods nearby and they were joined by a dozen or so migrant robins coming through the site, but it was the mixed, roving flocks of small birds that I wanted to study.

They arrived sporadically and then disappeared before I could get the camera on them. The resident white-breasted nuthatches and black-capped chickadees picked up migrants warblers by the dozen. The ones I managed to identify were mostly yellow-rumped warblers and American redstarts but I'm sure there were some Blackburnian warblers, a pine warbler and a black-and-white warbler among them. Other regular garden birds included juncos, crows, hairy woodpeckers, and blue jays.
Very big garden bird.

Because of our location on a peninsula, we could also watch water-side birds from the house. Ospreys, cormorants, eiders, gulls, loons, herons and belted kingfishers would join the harbour seals in our bay. Egrets flew up and down and waders such as semi-palmated and black-bellied plovers, greater yellow-legs and spotted sandpipers came in at low tide to probe the mud or peck amongst the rocks. The biggest "garden bird" we saw was a bald eagle that perched on a pine and then went off to pester the ospreys across the channel. The only other bird of prey we saw from the house was a broad-winged hawk, although we saw vultures and red-tails very close by.
Ospreys used to nest in the garden
 and have moved across the river.

Our best views of garden birds in Maine were at Maine Audubon's Gilsland Farm and at the local bird-food shop, but we also stopped off at the HQ of the New Hampshire Audubon Society where we spent a happy hour. It is an educational site with lots of ideas that we could copy. I will write it up later but, bird-wise, we had good views of cardinals, chickadees, a downy woodpecker, house finches, a purple finch, nuthatches and goldfinches and just a glimpse of a bobolink.

Some of you may remember Iain MacDonald who worked with Dave Dick for RSPB in Scotland? He now works for New Hampshire Audubon, but no longer at HQ. A local visitor asked the current warden about the need to take feeders indoors at night and he replied that they didn't have a problem, except a raccoon sometimes. She told me that the previous night in sub-urban Bedford she had been robbed by a bear who bent down her feeder pole and shook all the food out before digging up her raised beds and trashing the BBQ. I would have loved to see that. We only had raccoons, squirrels and porcupines on our plot, but that's another story.