For the Birds: Helping birds this summer

Photo by Chris Bosak A young pileated woodpecker knocks on a fallen tree trunk as it looks for insects, Danbury, Conn., summer 2019. Dead trees are valuable to birds as homes and food sources.

It may be early in the summer season, but it seems like a good time to prepare for the hot days ahead.


Here are some things you can do to protect and help birds this summer:


Feeding hummingbirds is one of the great joys of summer in New England. No matter how many times they have visited already, it is always a thrill to see one land on your feeder, or better yet, feed from flowers planted in your yard. It is important, however, to keep the sugar water fresh and the feeder clean.


Sugar water should be changed every couple of days during hot weather. It can be a bit cumbersome, I know, but it is worth the effort as it keeps the birds happy and safe. Also, sugar water should be made with four parts water and one part sugar, and that’s it. No red dye. It’s unnecessary and potentially harmful to the tiny birds.

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Sandhill Cranes in New England

Kevin Peters sent in these terrific photos of a sandhill crane family he saw last week (mid-June 2022) east of Plainfield, Massachusetts. I’ll add these to the Reader Submitted Photos page on this site, but I thought sandhill cranes in New England warranted a post of its own. According to eBird reports, other people have reported sandhill crane sightings in the Berkshire region this year. Numerous sources say sandhill crane sightings are increasing in New England. Definitely something to keep an eye on. Thanks for the photos Kevin!

From reader Jim Smart of New Hampshire: Baby Robin Eric and I

Baby Robin Eric and I
by James G. Smart

On the morning of July 1, this year (2021), I walked out between our screened-in porch and a row of arbor vitae trees. I saw a cute little toad. Ah, how nice I thought. Not far from the toad was a bigger surprise—a baby robin, looking cold and afraid. We had had a strong wind storm the night before and I saw where the robin’s nest was overturned. I ran to my wife, Eleanore, and asked “Should we let nature take its course”? Or should we rescue the baby robin, knowing full well, we would rescue the baby robin.


Thus began the story of Eric. I decided to name him after Leif Erickson, the ancient traveler and wanderer. Eleanore thought I should be sole parent realizing his diet had to be consistent and that live worms would soon be his main diet.


Eleanore fixed up a nice cardboard box for him padded with paper towels. I returned outside and picked him up. He had no feathers on his rump. It was just red skin with hair on it. His little feet felt uncomfortable on my hand, a sensation I had never had before. Of course he has scratchy feet I said to myself—he’s a bird! I placed him in the box, went to the kitchen in search of food, found some blue berries and some leftover cooked farina. That was his first diet in his new home. He was so anxious to eat, it was hard to feed him. He yakked so much his bill often knocked the food out of my fingers. But he got enough.

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A walk among bobolinks

Photo by Chris Bosak — Bobolink in New England, May 2022.

One of the highlights of the post-spring migration rush in New England is to visit a field in New England where bobolinks nest. Luckily, I have one fairly close to where I live — Happy Landings in Brookfield, Connecticut. The bobolinks’ bubbly song (which reminds me of R2-D2) fills the air as red-winged blackbirds and yellow warblers provide an apt auditory background. Here are a few shots of a recent walk in the field.

Photo by Chris Bosak — Bobolink in New England, May 2022.

Photo by Chris Bosak — Bobolink in New England, May 2022.

Photo by Chris Bosak — Bobolink in New England, May 2022.

Red-winged blackbird, just because

Photo by Chris Bosak – A red-winged blackbird in New England, May 2022.

Red-winged blackbirds may be known as an early migrant into New England with their arrivals starting in February or March, but they are common sightings throughout spring and summer until their fall southward migration. I’m posting this now just because I got this shot the other day and it’s a cool-looking bird.