For the Birds: Ticks taking down New England moose

Photo by Chris Bosak A cow moose and two calves eat aquatic vegetation from a pond in northern New Hampshire, July 2020.

I never met Bill Silliker Jr., but I am a fan of his work. He was a nature photographer who passed away in 2003. He was based in Maine, and his specialty was moose. His work graced calendars, magazines, books, you name it. The other day I pulled his book “Moose — Giant of the Northern Forest” off the shelf. He wrote it in 1998 and it is, of course, richly illustrated with his fantastic moose photos.

Again, I never met Mr. Silliker, but his writing comes across as down-to-earth, compassionate and deeply caring about the animals he photographed. The book’s chapters discuss various aspects of moose: history, behavior, rut, etc. At the end of the book, he discusses the many threats to moose. Among them are car and train accidents, predation by bear and wolves (Alaska and western U.S.), and humans by way of pollution and habitat destruction.

He also notes that brainworm “may be the most serious health hazard moose face in regions where their range overlaps with that of the parasite’s carrier, the white-tailed deer.” That concern is indeed playing out, particularly in southern New England, where brainworm is thought to be the chief enemy of the moose population, according to biologists in the region.

Mr. Siliker also writes that tick infestations “sometimes play a role in depleting the health and resistance of moose.” Fast forward 20 years from the book’s publishing and ticks have played a major role — perhaps the major role — in the sad and precipitous decline of moose in northern New England and other parts of its range.

Ticks are mentioned in only one sentence in the book. If the book were revised, ticks could be a whole chapter or more. N.H. Fish and Game biologists say mild winters that start later in the year are the reason these “winter ticks” are able to thrive.

A later-starting winter gives the ticks that much more time to find a host. As I have heard it described, winter ticks quest (look for a host) as a group so when one tick finds a host, hundreds of other interlocked ticks come along for the ride. That’s how tens of thousands of ticks can end up on one animal. Once on the moose, the ticks are set for the winter as they are protected from the weather by the moose’s thick hair and fed by the animal’s blood.

There’s not much that can be done about it, other than hope for the return of colder winters, which does not seem imminent. You can’t spray pesticides on millions and millions of acres of forest, and you can’t capture all the moose to equip them with collars that would need to be replaced periodically. Neither option is at all practical. Hope, however, is not a good strategy, and I’m confident biologists are working on solutions to the problem that has essentially cut in half New Hampshire’s moose population from 7,500 in the 1990s to between 3,000 and 4,000 now.

We are four years into N.H. Fish and Game’s Game Management Plan, which is revisited every 10 years. The tick problem started more than four years ago, so I am hopeful the current plan is having a positive impact or at least being further analyzed.

I visited moose country in northern New Hampshire last month. I saw three moose during one canoe ride: a cow with twin calves. I can recall a visit in the early 2000s when I watched four moose at once grazing in that same small pond at dusk. I likely saw three or four moose on the way back to camp that night too.

Those days appear to be gone, but hopefully not forever. I bet Mr. Silliker would feel the same way.

For the Birds: Thankful for a lone moose sighting

Photo by Chris Bosak A cow moose and a calf eat aquatic vegetation from a pond in northern New Hampshire, July 2020.

It’s going on 30 years that I have been making frequent trips to the northern tip of New Hampshire to look for moose and other wildlife. Thirty years? Hard to believe.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in the Great North Woods over the decades, some positive and some negative. Granted, the trips have become less frequent lately, but I still try to make it up at least once a year.

A positive I have noticed is an increase in loon and bald eagle sightings. Both those species have bounced back from low population numbers and now seem to be doing much better. That is thanks in large part to groups like the Loon Preservation Committee, which is based in Moultonborough.

The biggest negative, by far, is the precipitous decline in the moose population. It used to be that a drive along Route 3 in Pittsburg, especially if timed properly, would yield three or four moose sightings easily. Now the sightings along that stretch of road have pretty much dwindled to zero. Your timing needs to be just right and that needs to be coupled with a tremendous amount of luck. The other moose hotspots off the beaten path are ice cold these days as well.

New Hampshire’s moose population was estimated to be about 7,500 in the 1990s. Now it estimated to be between 3,000 and 4,000 but the population has appeared to have stabilized over the last few years, according to N.H. Fish and Game.

Biologists say a combination of factors has led to this decline. The most significant factor is the burgeoning winter tick population. These ticks feast on moose throughout the winter and leave the magnificent animals completely depleted. How can a few ticks bring down an 800-pound animal? Well, it’s more than a few ticks. It’s more like tens of thousands of ticks on a single moose.

Warmer and later starting winters have contributed to the tick’s out of control boom, to the detriment of our beloved moose.

I took a trip up to the magnificent Great North Woods last week and was fortunate enough to have a moose sighting. It was a cow moose with two calves. Hopefully these twins are a good sign that perhaps the moose are indeed stabilizing and even reversing this awful trend that has cut their population in half. Anecdotally, I’m not sure I fully believe that as that was my only moose sighting in four days, but I’ve always been one to hope for the best.

As I mentioned before, loons and eagles were numerous. Even smaller ponds that never used to hold loons play host to this most iconic symbol of the northern forest.

Interesting in their absence were ospreys. Many years ago, I would see several ospreys either in Pittsburg or Lake Umbagog. This year, even though I visited both places, I didn’t see a single osprey. The osprey population has rebounded tremendously over the last 20 years, so I’m not worried about the lack of sightings I experienced. I’m guessing it was just poor luck on my part.

I did see plenty of ruffed grouse, but the spruce grouse eluded me once again. There are interpretive signs all over the woods up there and all the books and magazines say that spruce grouse are up there, but in my 30 years of visiting, I have seen a grand total of zero. It’s not for lack of trying as I walked over 30 miles through prime spruce grouse habitat in the four days I was up there.

Maybe next time I will be in the right place. Hopefully next time there will be more moose sightings as well. Until then, I will enjoy the memory of this latest moose sighting and continue to follow the news about what’s going on with New England’s moose.

For the Birds: Whole-bird approach to birdwatching

Photo by Chris Bosak A gray catbird perches on a branch in New England, July 2020. Merganser Lake.

Look up “wood duck” in a cheap field guide and you’ll likely see a beautiful duck with green, pewter, tan, white and even some blue plumage. That is, indeed, a wood duck — a male wood duck in its breeding plumage.

If you saw a female wood duck, immature wood duck or male wood duck in its non-breeding plumage, you’d never find it in that field guide and you’d have a hard time believing someone who told you it was a wood duck because it looks nothing like the beautiful bird in the field guide.

Sometimes field guides lie. Well, they leave out a lot of the truth at least. There are top-quality field guides out there and even they can’t portray every bird in every possible plumage. Between the breeding, non-breeding and transitional plumages, it’s impossible to fit every variation of every bird into a book. That’s not even to mention all the other plumage oddities, such as leucism, albinoism and other conditions.

The same can be said for bird sounds as well. There are dozens of apps and websites out there now that feature bird sounds, but as terrific and helpful as they are, they can’t get every song, call and alarm note of every bird.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was watching a gray catbird in my backyard. I was listening to about nine unique bird sounds that day and at least three were coming from that catbird. Two were coming from a male and female cardinal and a small gang of titmice were making at least two different sounds.

Gray catbirds are so named because of their cat-like calls. It is a very appropriate name for that bird as they indeed sound just like a cat. Sometimes you question whether a cat is lurking in the thick brush or a catbird.

Catbirds also have a warbling, squeaky song, as well as dozens of various other sounds. I can always tell it’s a catbird, though. There is an overall feeling to it that I can recognize because of years of listening to catbirds. It’s kind of like how an American robin makes several different sounds, but they are all “robin-like.”

A few years ago, a different approach to birdwatching emerged. It is one in which birders consider all the aspects of the bird — including size, shape and habits — in order to make an identification. It is called by some the “Whole Bird and More” approach and birdwatchers do not merely rely on the color and general appearance of the bird, which as mentioned before, can be deceptive.

The same principles may be applied to identifying birds by sound as well. Take the aforementioned robin for example. We all know its “cheerup, cheerily, cheerily” song. By knowing the overall feeling and sound of that song, you can identify the robin’s other sounds — such as their “tut, tut, tut” calls — when you hear them. Robins have other songs and calls as well, which can be traced back to the robin using the same principles.

That said, I’m certainly not an expert at identifying birds by sounds. The warblers that fill our treetops in the spring certainly pose a challenge. But when you get to know a certain bird sound well enough, it can carry over into that bird’s other sounds. If you hear the black-capped chickadee’s “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call enough, you also know it’s a chickadee when it sings its “fee bee” song. (Actually, I like to think of that song as “ha ha” and imagine the chickadee laughing.) So, just like the “whole bird” approach may be applied to looking at birds, it may also be applied to listening to birds. Try it next time you’re listening to the birds sing.

Photo by Chris Bosak A gray catbird perches on a branch in New England, July 2020. Merganser Lake.

For the Birds: Complain and they will come

Photo by Chris Bosak A female ruby-throated hummingbird visits a flower in New England, July 2020.

Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in several New England newspapers …

Apparently, all I had to do to get my hummingbirds back this summer was complain to my neighbor.

I had had frequent visits from both male and female hummingbirds early in the spring. The daily visits continued for a few weeks and then stopped abruptly. Last year, and the year before that, the visits never stopped and I saw them daily until the fall.

This year, June was largely a hummingbird-free month in my backyard. 

During a walk around the neighborhood last week, I noticed a neighbor had bird feeders on her deck so I stopped to chat about what birds she had been seeing. She had a few of the usual suspects but didn’t mention hummingbirds. 

I inquired about the tiny birds and she said: “Yes. I see them every day.”

“That’s great,” I replied. “I haven’t seen mine in a while.”

I went on to bore her with the details of my previous years’ good fortune. She feigned interest, we chatted a little more and then said goodbye. 

The birding gods must have heard me griping and took pity on me because, the very next day, a female hummingbird showed up at my feeder. She has been back every day since, too. It is very territorial as I have seen her chase away other hummingbirds. Another female and a male have started showing up now and then, too, when the queen is away.

In previous years, a female has dominated my feeders throughout the summer so I wonder if she is the same bird I have been seeing for years. At any rate, it is nice to see the hummingbirds back in the yard. It is also nice to know there are several of them, even if I get only brief glimpses of the other ones before they are chased away.

I have a few feeders and several flowers to lure the hummingbirds. She prefers the feeders, but on occasion will sip from the flowers. This year, most of my flowers are red salvia, an annual with tubular shaped blooms. In the past, I’ve seen hummingbirds visit my coneflower and even sunflowers.

Complaining usually doesn’t solve problems and often makes them worse, but in this case, things worked out pretty well. I plan to take a trip to northern New England in a few weeks in the hopes of finding some of New England’s disappearing moose. Maybe I should proactively start complaining now in the hopes of getting the same results for that trip?

For the Birds: Grosbeaks delay closing

Photo by Chris Bosak A rose-breasted grosbeak perches on a branch in New England, June 2020. Merganser Lake.

So much for taking a break from feeding the birds. 

I mentioned in last week’s column that I had taken down my feeders for the summer as my visits had dwindled to a few species. I also mentioned that I continued to maintain a large platform feeder on my deck to keep those few birds happy. Well, that platform feeder is busier than ever. 

One day last week, while working from home and using the outdoor table on my deck as my office for the day, I watched as chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, catbirds, cardinals, blue jays, house finches, downy woodpeckers and red-bellied woodpeckers helped themselves to the offerings. 

The feeder, which is nothing more than a large, flat board I found in the basement, is big enough to hold a variety of foods: sunflower seeds, mealworms, suet nuggets and thistle seeds. I nailed a few small branches around the edge of the board to keep the seeds in place during windy days.

I was already pleasantly surprised by the variety of birds that were coming when a male rose-breasted grosbeak landed on the board. Thankfully, I had the foresight to bring the camera out to the table with me. I was quite sure the strikingly beautiful bird would take off as soon as I lifted my arms to grab the camera off the table as I was sitting only 9 or 10 feet away from the feeder. 

Slowly I moved my arms and watched as the black-and-white bird with a bright red triangular bib looked back at me. I was relieved when the bird looked away and started grabbing sunflower seeds. Still, I couldn’t risk double-checking my camera settings or autofocus point and I started photographing away. The settings were fine, luckily, and I got some nice, full-frame shots of the handsome songbird.

What also made the day special was that many of the birds that visited, especially the chickadees, titmice and downy woodpeckers, were first-year birds still gaining their adult plumage. The young woodpeckers usually arrived with a parent and watched and learned. It was amazing to think that some of these birds were born only a few weeks prior. I hope they visit for years to come and can avoid the many dangers birds face as they grow.

So I guess my summer feeding break isn’t going to pan out, which is fine with me. I’ll continue to enjoy the show as long as it lasts.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Rose-breasted Grosbeak visits a homemade platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., on May 6, 2016.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Rose-breasted Grosbeak visits a homemade platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., on May 6, 2016.

Crazy year of bird feeding with many firsts

Photo by Chris Bosak A yellow-rumped warbler and pine warbler share a suet feeder in New England, April 2020. Merganser Lake.

I cut back on my bird feeding last week as my visitors have dwindled to a handful of species.

I am still putting out enough to keep those birds coming back and happy, but I retired many of the feeders until the fall. A big, homemade platform feeder is still on the deck keeping the downy woodpeckers (family of four), cardinals, catbirds and house finches around.

At my previous houses, by this time of year only house finches would be coming around so I would stop feeding altogether in the summer. With the nice variety of birds still coming around, I will continue to throw out a little seed and suet.

Taking down some of the feeders made me think about what a strange year it has been for feeding birds, at least in my yard. I have been feeding birds for decades now and this year marked several firsts. It started in February with the eastern bluebirds. I have never had bluebirds at my feeding station before this year, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to see them arrive. They showed up every day from February until the end of May and even brought their youngsters around for most of May. I still don’t know exactly where they nested, but it must have been somewhere fairly close. It was surprising because there isn’t what I would consider typical bluebird nesting habitat anywhere in my neighborhood.

I have seen catbirds at my feeders before, but only on rare occasions and it has been years since the last time. This spring and summer, however, I am getting at least two different catbirds visiting every day eating suet. They are bold and noisy, belting out their cat-like mew from mere feet away from me. Speaking of suet, it was the attraction that lured my first Baltimore orioles. I have tried for years to attract orioles with all of the things that are supposed to attract them, such as grape jelly, orange halves and nectar (similar to hummingbird food but less sugar). No luck. This year, they visited for several days in late April and early May and always went right for the suet. I hear them calling from high in the treetops on occasion still, but I haven’t seen them at the feeders since early May.

I’ve also never had robins at my feeder before. This year, they visit daily to grab a few mealworms. Mealworms were the main food source that kept the bluebirds coming back as well.

Earlier in the spring, I had daily and frequent visits from pine warblers and yellow-rumped warblers. I have had pine warblers in the past, but that was about three years ago. I had never had yellow-rumped warblers before this year and several showed up daily for weeks on end.

After all these years of feeding birds, it seems strange to get so many first-timers and ones I hadn’t seen in so long all in the same year. Could it be that they have been coming all these years and I just never noticed because I’ve been going off to work every day? Has the opportunity to work from home allowed me to see things that I’ve been missing previously? I don’t think that is the case as even in years when I am going to work daily, I still have mornings, evenings and weekends to stare at my feeders.

There must be another explanation. But what is it?

I don’t know the answer, but I will think of some theories as the summer wears on and the birding continues to be relatively slow. At any rate, I am not complaining, of course, it has been great to see all these new birds in the yard.

For the Birds: Right or wrong, appreciate the sighting

An eft works its way through the woods in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak An eft works its way through the woods in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2018.

To err is human and I am about as human as they come.

Of course, no one is perfect and trying to solve nature’s mysteries is fraught with pitfalls.

I was walking down a trail one morning not too long ago. It had rained heavily the night before and the trail was damp. I had to watch my step because there were so many efts on the trail. I remembered a time when I mistakenly referred to the bright orange amphibians as newts.

I wasn’t completely off base, of course, as efts are the terrestrial stage of the newt. After being born in the water and then crawling around the ground as an eft for a while (sometimes a few years), they return to the water to live out their time as a newt.

That is just one example of many mistakes and misidentifications I used to make. I’m sure there are some things I currently mistakenly identify and there will certainly be things in the future that I errantly call the wrong name.

Here are some examples I often hear from others that are not correct. There is no judgment, of course, as we have already determined that no one is perfect.

I think I hear the “fisher” called a “fisher cat” more often than its proper name. The fierce, large member of the weasel family is simply called a fisher, no “cat” necessary. Indeed, it is not a cat at all. It is a weasel. Now that the red-bellied woodpecker is expanding its range north throughout New England, it is a good time to remind everyone that it is not actually a red-headed woodpecker. The red-bellied woodpecker does indeed have a mostly red head, but the name red-headed woodpecker is already taken by a bird that does indeed have a fully red head. Adding to the confusion is that the reddish-pink belly of the red-bellied woodpecker is not often seen and not an obvious field mark.

Here’s a tough one that took me years and years to get: the difference between a house finch and purple finch. They look very similar and many people automatically default to the purple finch, which is understandable as it is the state bird of New Hampshire and native to New England. House finch, however, is far more common these days even though they are transplants from western U.S. Purple finches are more colorful (at least the males), slightly larger and have more substantial bills. No, not the type of bills that are due every month.

I often hear people think an owl is singing during the day when they hear a mourning cooing. The mourning dove’s song does have an owl-like quality to it, but it is softer and unique to the dove. The owl that typically sings during the day is the barred owl and its song is much more gruff sounding than the cooing of a dove.

Finally, the osprey is sometimes confused with the bald eagle. Both are large, majestic birds of prey with white heads found near water so the confusion is understandable. The best way to tell them apart is by size. As impressive as the osprey is, the eagle is substantially larger. The typical wingspan of an osprey is about five feet, while an eagle’s is six-and-a-half feet. Also, the underside of an osprey is white and that of an eagle is brown. Either way, it’s great to see the population of both species rebounding so significantly.

In the end, whether people get the name or identification correct pales in comparison to the species being noticed and appreciated.

For the Birds: Woodpeckers and rhythm

Photo by Chris Bosak A male yellow-bellied sapsucker perches on a dead tree branch in New England, June 2020. Merganser Lake.

I am quite sure I am not his intended target, but when the yellow-bellied sapsucker drums on the hollow branch in my side yard, I come running. I mentioned in last week’s column that I have a yellow-bellied sapsucker that drums on a branch in my side yard and a pileated woodpecker that drums on a branch in the backyard. Woodpeckers often drum on objects such as hollow branches, the sides of houses, gutters, and chimney flashings. They pick objects such as these because the noise resonates far and wide. This drumming is done to attract mates or announce territory. Obviously, they do not tap on gutters or chimney flashings to find food or make homes.

They may pick hollow branches to make homes, naturally, but the territorial and mate-attracting drumming is more rhythmic and the cadence is specific to individual woodpecker species.

I also mentioned in last week’s column that I was impressed the first time I saw a birdwatcher identify the type of woodpecker from its drumming in the distance. I still do not have that skill down very well, but I am getting a lot of practice distinguishing the yellow-bellied sapsucker and the pileated woodpecker. Just as it is exciting when a bird chooses your property to eat, drink, or make a home, it is also exciting when a woodpecker chooses a branch on your property for its drumming.

It may not be so exciting when they return to your siding, gutter or chimney flashing for this purpose, however. If this is happening, there are measures you can take to try to stop it. Of course, nothing is a guarantee when we are talking about wildlife.

There are literally dozens of products on the market to deter woodpeckers from tapping on your house. Do a simple Internet search for “stop woodpecker damage” and they will all pop up.

New England has several woodpecker types. Most of New England has the aforementioned yellow-bellied sapsucker and pileated woodpecker, as well as downy and hairy woodpecker, and northern flicker. Southern New England and increasingly the middle part of the region also has red-bellied woodpecker. The northern part of New England features the black-backed woodpecker and, to a lesser degree, the American three-toed woodpecker.

The red-headed woodpecker is also an occasional sighting in New England. Many people mistakenly call the red-bellied woodpecker the red-headed woodpecker because it does indeed have a red head, or at least mostly red. The red-bellied woodpecker has a faint pinkish wash on the belly, which gives it its name. The red-headed woodpecker, indeed, has a fully red head. They are more common south and west of New England but, as I mentioned, are occasionally seen in our region.

This is just my own theory, and it hasn’t been scientifically proven to my knowledge, but the dreaded diseases that have ravaged so many of our tree species have greatly benefited woodpeckers. They build their nests in dead trees and branches, and sadly, between hemlock woolly adelgid, chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease and locust borers, they have plenty of dead trees to choose from. And, of course, lots of drumming branches.

For the Birds: Robins first at it in the morning

Photo by Chris Bosak An American robin perches in a tree in New England, June 2020. Merganser Lake.

Late spring/early summer is a great time to sleep outdoors. I’m lucky enough to have a porch that is screened from floor to ceiling on three sides. It’s like sleeping outdoors with the comforts of home.
There’s usually not a lot to see as the woods encroach pretty closely on the porch. There wouldn’t be much to see in the dark anyway, of course. But I can hear everything.
I typically sleep through the night but am occasionally jarred awake by a barred owl hooting or opossum trying to get into the compost pile. After years of breaches, I finally have the compost properly secured.
The dawn chorus usually wakes me up. I listen to it for about half an hour and then fall back asleep.
The other morning, it started at 4:21 with a lone robin singing in the nearby woods. An eastern wood pewee soon chimed in with its high-pitched song as if asking the robin to please be quiet. By 4:30, other robins joined in and it was game on.
A tufted titmouse sang its “peter-peter-peter” song from a nearby branch. Titmice are small birds with a big voice. If the robin hadn’t awoken me at 4:21, the titmouse certainly would have.
A cardinal sang in the distance and I heard a turkey gobbling from deep in the woods. I’ve seen turkeys in my yard twice in all the time I’ve lived here so I was surprised to hear them join the fray that morning.
A hermit thrush sang its flute-like song and I recalled the nice poem that a reader had written and sent me last week. Thrushes certainly do have interesting and beautiful songs.
I also heard a song I didn’t recognize. It sounded somewhat like a black-billed cuckoo, but I’m sure it wasn’t that. It’s always nice to know there is more to learn.
Then the woodpeckers started tapping on their territorial branches. They choose branches, or other objects such as houses or chimney flashing, that are loud and reverberate. A yellow-bellied sapsucker favors a dead branch in my side yard and a pileated woodpecker uses one in my backyard. Thankfully, the tappings I heard that morning were coming from deeper in the woods.
Many birders can determine a species of woodpecker by the cadence of its tapping. I was amazed the first time I had seen that and figured I’d never reach that level of expertise. After studying the sapsucker and pileated woodpecker up close, I’m starting to get the hang of it.
Also significant was what I didn’t hear. No leaf blowers, lawn mowers, weedwackers, chainsaws or machinery of any kind. Not even any cars or trucks. These sounds have become so pervasive in everyday life they become like background noise.
But at this time of day, only the birds could be heard. That thought pleased me greatly and I dozed back off to sleep.

Photo by Chris Bosak An American robin family visits a feeder in New England, June 2020. Merganser Lake.

For the Birds: What others have been seeing

Photo by Chris Bosak A Hermit Thrush perches on a branch at Selleck's/Dunlap Woods this fall.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Hermit Thrush perches on a branch at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods this fall.

It’s been a busy spring around here for sure. The bluebirds have youngsters, the grosbeaks are regular visitors and the female ruby-throated hummingbird is back to her old tricks of dominating the backyard.

There have been plenty of other highlights, but I want to share what others throughout the region have been seeing.

I received an interesting email from Roxanne of Swanzey. She noticed a blue jay hanging upside down bat-like. She assumed it was sick, injured or dead, but 15 minutes later the bird perched upright and soon after flew away. As it turns out, blue jays sometimes roost upside down. Who knew?

Roxanne sent me a photo of the upside-down bird, which I posted on my website, www.birdsofnewengland.com, under the “Reader-Submitted Photos” tab.

Allen from Fitzwilliam sent in photos of a female purple finch gathering fleece placed into a small cage. The wool comes from a neighbor’s sheep. Birds often gather animal fur to use as nest material.

Allen also sent in photos of a Baltimore oriole eating grape jelly from a feeder. I’ve never had luck attracting orioles to my feeders, but this year I did have a male oriole visit my suet cake feeder several times. I had orange halves, grape jelly and sugar water available as well, but the oriole ignored it all in favor of suet. Even individual birds of the same species have their particular tastes.

Lenny from Greenfield sent in several photos including rose-breasted grosbeaks, purple finches and brown thrashers. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen a thrasher. That’s not a good sign.

Mimi from Troy sent in a nice list of yard birds, including nesting bluebirds. She also had yellow-rumped warblers visit for the first time. In all, she has seen more than 30 species in her yard this spring. She also included a message that I’m sure many would agree with: “Thank goodness the birds are able to bring me joy and solace during these trying times and fill me with joy.”

Celia from Keene was disappointed with the recent snow day in May but was rewarded by seeing an indigo bunting and rose-breasted grosbeak at her feeder at the same time. “Those colorful birds made my day,” she wrote.

I’ll conclude with a poem sent to me by Jackie Cleary of Westmoreland. I’ve seen and heard a lot of thrushes this spring (wood thrush, hermit thrush and veery) so the poem was timely indeed. Thanks to Jackie for the beautiful poem, titled “Thrush Time.”

We keep the thrushes’ hours in summer;

Gently pulled from sleep

By their double rhythmic trills,

Like a pleasant saw

Which severs the night from the day;

And when the break is made

They retire to their hidden woodland business ‘Til they must sing the day to sleep, And us along with it.

We keep the thrushes’ hours.