November is an interesting time to watch the feeders. The regular birds are still around, although some of them look a little different than they did in the summer.
A few new birds are also likely to show up. The trick is spotting them and seeing which ones actually do make an appearance. November is also a time when the weather can be unpredictable, and ahead of a good storm is always a terrific time to see the birds as they prepare for a rough day or days ahead.
My regular birds these days are chickadees, titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays and cardinals. Over the years, for whatever reason, I’ve never had great luck attracting cardinals. But this fall is different with daily visits from several males and females. I also get house finches, house sparrows and starlings.
One day last week, a flock of 50 to 60 grackles showed up in the evening, which was interesting to see. Carolina wrens show up on occasion as do mourning doves.
As I mentioned in a previous column, I have also seen a few red-breasted nuthatches. I am looking forward to seeing what else shows up this fall and winter.
I walked across the living room toward the large window that offers a view of the bird-feeding station and birdbath. I stopped dead in my tracks as a bird much larger than I expected to see was perched on the side of the birdbath.
Wisely, all of the other birds were nowhere to be seen.
It was a Copper’s hawk, one of the hawks in New England that commonly preys on small feeder birds. The large bird of prey had no interest in the birdbath’s water — either for drinking or cleaning. It was simply using the structure as a perch to get a better look at the feeders and nearby bushes. It hopped off the birdbath and onto a hemlock branch I had discarded to give the feeder birds a place to hide. After peering through the underbrush and finding nothing, the hawk flew off.
I settled on the back porch of my brother’s house in western Pennsylvania and watched the blue jays hunt for acorns in an oak tree.
Before I get into that, I wanted to acknowledge how exceptional the fall foliage has been this year. The conditions must have been just right. Oaks can sometimes go from green to burnt orange to brown quickly. This oak, and many others I’ve seen this fall, are a much brighter orange and the color is lingering longer before turning brown.
The blue jays would fly in from the surrounding areas and alight in this spectacular oak tree. The birds disappeared into the bright orange foliage and work at dislodging acorns. I couldn’t see the jays at work but the rustling of the leaves and branches let me know where they were.
As a follow-up to my recent post on cardinals, here is a look at a male cardinal, female cardinal and immature cardinal. Note the brighter bill of the adult female cardinal compared to the young bird. Here is the original post.
Photo by Chris Bosak – An immature cardinal perches in a bush next to a feeder.
My intermittent foot problems have kept me grounded for the most part over the last few weeks, so I have relied heavily on my backyard birds to keep me entertained.
Thankfully, it is a great time of year to watch birds in the backyard. Just as fall migration brings many birds to our parks and open spaces, they also bring plenty of birds to the backyard.
In addition to the common feeder birds, I have seen a few surprises either at the feeder or among the bushes near the feeder. One day I was sitting outside working when a ruby-crowned kinglet flew right past my face and landed in a bush about five feet away from me. Like most kinglets, it did not sit still for very long and hopped around the branches before disappearing in a matter of seconds. It was a nice little visit anyway.
Cooler temperatures, Halloween decorations, fall foliage, football, and, of course, pumpkin spice. Everybody claims to hate pumpkin spice, but they wouldn’t make it if people weren’t buying it.
For me, I love fall for the bird migration – obviously. I particularly like finding fall warblers. It is especially rewarding when I stumble across a small flock of fall warblers.
Palm warblers and yellow-rumped warblers are the prime candidates to find in small flocks. Such was the case the other day when I found a group of about a dozen palm warblers eating seeds from the dying weeds and flowers in a meadow.
Large flocks of yellow-rumped warblers are fairly common to come across as well. Just be on the lookout as you never played know where you will find them. I have usually found them eating small berries of some sort.
While on my unsuccessful moose search in northern Maine recently, I came across a bird found only in points north of middle New England.
I knew what it was and launched the field guide app on my phone to gather a little information on the species.
To my surprise, nothing showed up when I searched for the bird.
“How could that be?“ I asked myself. “I know what bird it is and I know what it’s called. Why would it not show up on a search in a field guide to North American birds?”
Then it hit me. I was searching the wrong name. The gray jay is no longer called the gray jay. It is back to being the Canada jay. It had formerly been known as the Canada jay, got switched to gray Jay, and in 2018, got changed back to Canada jay. I had known this before, and even mentioned it in a previous bird column, but had totally forgotten while I was in the field at that moment.
My destination was the northern part of Maine. I’m talking way north. Get to Baxter State Park and keep going for several more hours.
I drove pretty much through the night to get there. I took a few half-hour breaks to sleep and then continued on my way. I have been to northern New Hampshire dozens of times, and I have been to the middle of Maine many times. I’ve always wanted to see what Aroostook County was all about so I took the opportunity to head up there and finally see for myself.
I settled at the border town of Fort Kent where only the St. John River separates the U.S. from Canada.
Wildlife, of course, was the driving force behind the decision to drive up there. The boreal forest, to me anyway, is a magical place filled with so many interesting creatures. Moose are my favorite creatures, but things like lynx, loons, eagles, grouse, boreal chickadees, Canada jays, and other specialty species unique through the habitat are also a draw.
I pulled into the tire shop for my appointment the other day, handed over the keys and asked how long it would take. The nice gentleman said it would be at least an hour, but that I was welcome to sit in the waiting area and help myself to coffee.
It was an ideal late summer/early fall day and the fall migration was well underway, so I decided to take a walk instead.
I gave the guy my cell phone number, asked him to give me a call when the truck was ready, and set out to find the nearest place where I might find some birds.
When hearing the word shorebirds, most people likely think of sanderlings and other small sandpiper-like birds running back and forth among the waves at the ocean.
Shorebirds, however, are not limited to small “peeps,” nor are they limited to the ocean. While it is true that the ocean and other coastal regions, such as Long Island Sound, are the best places to find shorebirds, inland lakes and ponds have shorebirds too.
I have seen lesser yellowlegs at many inland lakes in New Hampshire, all the way from the northern tip in Pittsburg to southern lakes such as Edward McDowell Lake in Peterborough. Yellowlegs may be seen on the edges of inland lakes during migration periods, such as now.