Monthly Archives: February 2015

The color green


Feral parrot in South Beach. White-eyed Parakeet?

There were a pair in this coconut palm, very sweet on each other. I was walking round in the Art Deco district for a pleasant couple of hours. Miami Beach really does have amazing white coral sand on its beaches and beautiful warm blue, green, turquoise ocean water. A wonderful break from endless white.

Dinner at the food trucks in North Beach with my pilot husband on a layover. The trucks are there once a month. A great outdoor dinner by the ocean.

Wish me birding luck in the Everglades today! Home tomorrow.

Nuthatch in a hoodie


White-breasted Nuthatch holds still for a moment.

White-breasted Nuthatches are gray-blue on the back, with a frosty white face and underparts. The black or gray cap and neck frame the face and make it look like this bird is wearing a hood. The lower belly and under the tail are often chestnut.

I entered 2 of these nuthatches on my latest Project Feederwatch count, and 1 red-breasted.

Black duck, check

black duck

American Black Ducks, a male and two females, in the marsh creek next to Petey’s restaurant in Rye, N.H.

I just learned to tell these ducks apart from the ubiquitous mallard and yesterday I counted 13 of them in this location (“Massacre Marsh at Parson’s Creek”) along with 23 Canada Geese, 17 Mallard and 1 Herring Gull. I entered my observation on my eBird life list, begun January 2014, and the black duck is #100 on the list.

The American Black Duck hides in plain sight in shallow wetlands of eastern North America. They often flock with the ubiquitous Mallard, where they look quite similar to female Mallards. But take a second look through a group of brown ducks to notice the dark chocolate-brown flanks, pale grayish face, and olive-yellow bill of an American Black Duck.


Large, bulky ducks, nearly identical in shape to Mallard. Mostly dark brown overall with pale head/neck. Males show bright yellow/green bill, duller olive on female.

Red-tailed hawk in frozen marsh

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk eats a duck in Hampton Marsh. I pulled over on the Route 1 causeway for this pic.

Red-tailed Hawk

My hand was not very steady at this level of zoom. But it’s still a cool shot. And it helped me and my birdy Facebook friends ID this hawk as a red-tail.

Most Red-tailed Hawks are rich brown above and pale below, with a streaked belly and, on the wing underside, a dark bar between shoulder and wrist. The tail is usually pale below and cinnamon-red above, though in young birds it’s brown and banded.

red-tailed hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk has a thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a raptor should sound. At least, that’s what Hollywood directors seem to think. Whenever a hawk or eagle appears onscreen, no matter what species, the shrill cry on the soundtrack is almost always a Red-tailed Hawk.


Red tail, adieu.

Our red-bellied neighbor

Red-bellied Woodpecker

This Red-bellied Woodpecker, a female, is definitely a neighbor. She lives close by. She visits our food supply daily and has become less wary of me.

Red-bellied Woodpecker1

Her species name is a bit confusing, since we rarely see the faint patch of red on her belly.

The patch on her head indicates she is a female. On males the red goes all the way to the beak.

Red-bellied Woodpecker2

At the suet dough banquet table.

What would she eat if I weren’t such a diligent provider this winter?

Red-bellied Woodpecker4

One female Red-bellied Woodpecker. That’s my weekly entry on the Project Feederwatch site.

I hope a male turns up this spring!


That’s one healthy looking bird.

A peaceful bird

mourning dove

Mourning dove and fresh snow.

A flight of six doves has been visiting the tube feeder and porch railing off and on this morning.

mourning dove

Doves are calm and calming. The yin to blue jay-and-starling yang.

There is actually a species of dove called the Peaceful Dove, native to Australia and New Guinea.

And just because I feel like it, two depictions of doves in ancient and medieval art…


Doves raiding a jewelry box, from the House of Fauns in Pompeii.


Doves perch in a peridexion tree, where they are safe from the dragons waiting below. The dragons cannot catch the doves unless they leave the tree.

Live worms for my special friends

bluebird tray feeder

Male bluebird gazes adoringly at his food.

bluebird feeder

Female bluebird joins him for chow.

I bought some live mealworms. They arrived in a box marked Live Animals. There were 2,000 of them, supposedly – I didn’t count. They are chilling (and dormant) in a plastic container marked WORMS in the refrigerator.

Another plastic container says Suet Dough for Birds. (I just made a fresh batch this morning. It was -1˚ at wake up… the birds need a high-calorie breakfast!)


“You should have a refrigerator that’s just for the birds,” says daughter Anna.

“What a great idea!”


2000 Live Mealworms, Reptile, Birds, Chickens, Fish Food (Large)

I put out a small handful of worms when I see the bluebirds around noon or 1 p.m., maybe every other day. But I supply peanuts or suet dough in the domed feeder or on the platform feeder most of the time.

Here is my favorite suet dough recipe (I thawed frozen blueberries and added about 3/4 of cup to today’s batch).

More suet recipes for bluebirds and other birds, from

Cheer cheer, birdie birdie


Decorate your snow white landscape with bright red birds.

The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness, and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off.

female cardinal snow

Even the brown females sport a sharp crest and warm red accents. Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards. In summer, their sweet whistles are one of the first sounds of the morning.

Along with Mourning Doves, they arrive earlier in the morning and later in evening than many other birds. Crepuscular. Lately I have looked out the kitchen window in winter twilight to see four, five, six males materialized in the blueberry bushes and scrubby underbrush of the wood’s edge. If she flicks her tail or flies, I may spot a female or two also.

That is probably my favorite thing about cardinals – their ornamental aspect, decorative spots of colors to the landscape. As living individual birds, I don’t really have much feeling for them.

Northern Cardinal

Chew, chew.

They like black oil sunflower seeds a lot. And they will eat my suet dough.

They don’t seem particularly bright (other than color-wise) or interesting to me. I don’t connect with them as I do with other birds.

Bluebirds come close when I am outside, or look at me through the window, practically begging for favorite foods. Chickadees chatter meaningfully when I go outside (I think they have a name for me, or for what I am doing) and seem ready to land on my hand or head any moment, some day. Even the irritating blue jays enjoy pretending to be afraid of me, being “chased off” by the sight of me, returning quickly to thieve and stuff their faces with more peanuts.

I am in the minority, I know – many people love, love, love cardinals. The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of seven states.

Feeding birds on top of snow

plywood plank bird feeder

If you have been feeding the birds in winter, you’d better keep feeding them… even in a blizzard. Especially in a blizzard.

Yesterday morning we woke to a fresh 18 inches and it was still snowing. Birds arrive half an hour before dawn, needing fuel after a cold, cold night, but I didn’t want to put on all my outdoor clothes and boots and shovel my way to the feeders yet… it was Sunday morning, after all.

So I found a piece of plywood and put it down on the snow on the back deck and tossed some mixed seed on there. Juncos and goldfinches, tree sparrows, chickadees and titmice were happy campers. Cardinals too. A blue jay or two. Doves.


A little later I shoveled paths to the feeders and filled them. Not to mention the chicken coop! Lots of shoveling.


The coop and chicken run are bermed with snow and half underground, like a cozy hobbit hole. There is plenty of straw in there for insulation. I check on food and water two or three times a day, plus pay my hens a little visit.

Two brown eggs yesterday. I had a blue-green egg and a couple more brown ones. I made a bacon and asparagus quiche yesterday morning for brunch.

Black-capped Chickadee

Lots of Black-capped Chickadees around the last few days, more than usual. Maybe there is less of whatever they eat out in the woods. Or it’s harder to get to.

One day a few weeks ago I watched a chickadee hopping around on the branches and trunk of a red maple tree, nibbling at something tiny and invisible, making happy little sounds to itself. I wondered if it was tiny bits of maple sugar oozing from the pores of the tree.

A little sweetness in bitter winter.