Wednesday, 4 September 2013


Our house.
Well, the Johnson's house really.

Mourning doves.
A walk in the woods.
Watch out for deer ticks though.
I have spent almost $100 on bird food and feeders at the Freeport Bird Supply Shop. Our holiday home now has a niger-seed feeder, a sunflower seed feeder, two hummingbird feeders and a sackful of Critter Mix. The family also insisted that I bought a hefty block of vitamins; enough to feed a small herd of highland cattle for a week.

The bird shop is owned and run by a serious birding couple called Jeanette and Derek Lovitch. Their store is very like an RSPB shop in the UK; stuffed with binoculars, books, gizmos and bird feeders, but the big attraction for us is the array of feeding stations outside. We always see a good selection of American garden birds there and this visit was no exception. In the space of five minutes we saw mourning doves, chickadees, tufted titmice, goldfinches, house sparrows and a hairy woodpecker.

American goldfinches.
On the ground, I soon spotted a pair of cute chipmunks stuffing their faces with sunflower seeds. They can clear a bird table in minutes and then come back for more because they stash their food away for the winter. Beneath another feeder, a huge groundhog patiently waited for his next snack to fall on him. In late summer they just pile on the fat until they conk out for the winter.

I was foolish enough to mention squirrels to Derek so he gave me quite a lecture about using proper baffles and other techniques to avoid having squirrels on the feeders. "I absolutely never have squirrels on my feeders" he told me. This wasn't just a sales-pitch so he could flog me a load of baffles and poles, but also a bit of a put-down. I thought he meant, "You Brits must be really dumb to let squirrels on your feeders. We don't allow it here. Shape up!"

Chippies store food for the winter.
This one seems to have such full cheeks I call him Dizzy
(after the jazz trumpet player.)
Groundhogs do not store food; they just eat it.
I almost fired back to say that they were American squirrels and a pain in the bum, but settled for telling him that we had solved our squirrel problem by putting the feeding station on metal poles covered with grease. He almost freaked out.

"Grease? If a bird gets any oily substance on its feathers it will die of hypothermia. You have to stop."

Hairy woodpecker.
I think we do have to stop. In our case, the most likely victim would be a woodpecker and it probably would just end up with messy feathers, but why risk it?

We always set up feeding stations at our holiday homes. In Florida our bird table attracted nothing but a sandhill crane but in Maine we have been lucky with flying squirrels, nuthatches and chickadees. That was two years ago; this year we have had severe thunder-storms and a deluge of rain. Feathered birds and furry mammals generally hate to come out in the wet. The exception seems to be porcupines.

Our house lies at the end of a long, rocky neck called Howard's Point where no hunting is allowed. The track winds past three other remote houses and is hemmed in by woods. On our first evening we saw skunks, raccoons and a white tailed deer. At the house, a plaintive cry led us to a baby porcupine who was left under our porch while his mum ran away across the lawn.

After the rain the roads were awash. We even saw a snake swimming across the black-top and then, after dark, we saw thousands of frogs in the roads. Our best sighting was a screech owl that snatched a frog off the carriageway by the light of our headlamps.

So far my feeders have attracted nothing, but the porcupines have made a good start on the vitamin lick.

PS. The sun came out at mid-day and two hummingbirds showed up. We saw two mixed flocks of forest birds pass through the garden, including chickadees, white-breasted nuthatch, goldfinch, house finch, junco, yellow-rumped warbler and a few more.