Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tough and tufted


Tufted Titmouse, a daily visitor.

When I count them weekly in winter for Project Feederwatch, I only come up with two to four. But I always have a sense there are more of them.


They like black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet dough.

They don’t hold still for long, so I find I have few photos of them though they are probably the number two most frequent visiting species after chickadees, their Paridae cousins.

titmouse birdbath

Spunky sprites, they have endured a tough winter.

Tufted Titmice hoard food in fall and winter, a behavior they share with many of their relatives, including the chickadees and tits. Titmice take advantage of a bird feeder’s bounty by storing many of the seeds they get. Usually, the storage sites are within 130 feet of the feeder. The birds take only one seed per trip and usually shell the seeds before hiding them.

Snowy marsh


Chunky white snow in a salt marsh in Rye, N.H.


Hey, the snow lumps are swans! Mute swans, to be exact. The orange bill is the key indicator.

A native of northern and central Eurasia, the Mute Swan was introduced into North America to grace the ponds of parks and estates. Escaped individuals have established breeding populations in several areas, where their aggressive behavior threatens native waterfowl.


Wake me up when it’s really spring.

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Coffee and a (molting) loon


Common Loon, Gavia immer, at Rye Harbor this morning.

When I got back from my morning bus route, John and I had coffee and bagels at Jumpin’ Jacks Java in Hampton Beach then drove the coast. It’s cold. Temperatures much below normal.

I wasn’t looking too hard for birds, but I did have my camera. The wind had settled down and diffused light was mirroring off the calm surface of the sea.

Common Loon

Loons are big birds. This one was all alone.

Looks like some spotted summer plumage is starting to grow.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology...

The eerie calls of Common Loons echo across clear lakes of the northern wilderness. Summer adults are regally patterned in black and white. In winter, they are plain gray above and white below, and you’ll find them close to shore on most seacoasts and a good many inland reservoirs and lakes.

Gavia immer


Loons are well equipped for their submarine maneuvers to catch fish. Unlike most birds, loons have solid bones that make them less buoyant and better at diving. They can quickly blow air out of their lungs and flatten their feathers to expel air within their plumage, so they can dive quickly and swim fast underwater. Once below the surface, the loon’s heart slows down to conserve oxygen.


Peaceful sight in these last hours of official winter.

Spring equinox is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. this evening.

It’s been a snowy winter

red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch in rainy snow. We got another inch or so of white stuff yesterday.

Hard to get a photo of this zippy little bird, it never holds still.

An intense bundle of energy at your feeder, Red-breasted Nuthatches are tiny, active birds of north woods and western mountains.

I’m not sure if this bird is a winter visitor or resident. It likes suet, suet dough, peanuts, and some part of the bird seed mix I get from Agway. It’s quite small compared to the other birds.

Speaking of winter, Boston breaks seasonal snowfall record with 108.6 inches

Boston is an hour south. We have received around the same amount or more of snow this year, so maybe coastal New Hampshire has broken a record too? It’s been quite a winter, anyway. And I speak as someone who has been out in it every school day, early morning and afternoon, driving a school bus for fun and profit.

Four days till official spring. Vernal equinox is at 6:45 p.m. EDT on Friday, March 20.

Saturday loafing

Herring Gull

Herring Gull in rain.

Bleak, cold, gray. At least it’s not snowing.

gulls snow

Gulls on snow plow pile in parking lot at Salisbury Beach State Reservation, Massachusetts.

We took a coastal drive yesterday and didn’t see anything spectacular. But I refused to go far from the car because of the light, cold rain. Sometimes I’m in the mood to endure and defy the elements. Yesterday, not.


“How long do seagulls live?” asks my husband.

I guessed 5 or 6 years. But it can be a lot longer…

Large white-headed gulls are typically long-lived birds, with a maximum age of 49 years recorded for the herring gull.


American Herring Gull: Young birds take four years to reach fully adult plumage. During this time they go through several plumage stages and can be very variable in appearance.


All About Birds: Their opportunistic scavenging punctuates hours of bathing, preening, and “loafing” near food sources. (“Loafing” is a term behaviorists use to describe a bird that isn’t doing much of anything; many seabirds spend long hours this way.)

merrimack river mouth

View of the Merrimack River mouth, from just outside the car, with chunks of ice floating to sea on the outgoing tide.

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porch blue

Bluebird seen through deck railing.

The deck furniture has been put away for months of cold and white but yesterday I found an old plastic chair and sat out in sunshine with the birds. It got up to 56 degrees!


I observed the two male bluebirds continuing to vie for the honor of food provider to the female. (At least, this is what I think they are doing.) They chase each other from the feeders, zooming like little blue jet fighters.


The female has leisure time to feed, while her suitors eye her and each other from branches in the trees closest to the feeders.

May the best man win.

We are back to cold today, with rain and sleet and snow on the way. But we had a nice taste of coming spring.