Sparrows in the rain

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A posse of Tree Sparrows spent some time cracking millet seeds yesterday in the rain.

It rained much of the day. Then a line of thunderstorms passed through in the middle of the night, with rolling thunder that boomed so loud it shook the house. Torrential rain washed away most of the snow, the streams are overflowing, and it’s 55 degrees… making us think it is mud-season spring already.

Feederwatch mid-February totals

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Project Feederwatch totals from Sunday and Monday:

Red-tailed Hawk 1
Mourning Dove 7
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 4
Black-capped Chickadee 7
Tufted Titmouse 7
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Eastern Bluebird 7
American Robin 2
American Tree Sparrow 4
Dark-eyed Junco 8
White-throated Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 5
Purple Finch 2
American Goldfinch 3

It was VERY cold, probably the coldest day we will have all winter on Sunday (low of -11, high of 8), and there is snow cover, so the number and variety of birds was pretty high.

Purple pose

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Over the weekend, one male and one female Purple Finch visited the feeders… but at different times.

They like black oil sunflower seeds. They do not flit, like chickadees and titmice, so it is easy to get pictures of them.

Your backyard sunflower seed feeder is probably a great place to look for Purple Finches if you live within their winter range. This species moves very erratically from year to year, so if you don’t have them this year, there’s always a chance they’ll arrive next year.

You’ve been counted

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Hello, Red-tailed Hawk who visited our back field and woods yesterday. I counted you in the GBBC and NH Audubon Backyard Winter Survey.

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I noticed that the chickadees, our little sentinels of alarm, did not seem as upset about this hawk as they do about the Cooper’s or Sharp-shinned Hawks. I guess red-tails are less of a threat to them. They are looking for nice fat rabbits instead of featherweight chickadees.

Love birds

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Are these bluebirds a pair?

They were here for a few hours yesterday and just showed up again today.

I am counting this weekend for the Great Backyard Bird Count and the NH Audubon Backyard Winter Survey (which don’t always overlap weekends).

Today and tomorrow are my weekly winter Project Feederwatch counts too.

A great pastime, peering out the window into bright sunshine, watching the birds… and helping them to survive this cold snap by keeping my feeders full. It was -11 when we woke up this morning, ouch.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Stay warm.

Bluebirds and a crazed puppy

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Yesterday morning a flock of Eastern Bluebirds, maybe 8 or 10, visited the edge of our back field. They spent time in the shrubby undergrowth plucking tiny rose hips and fat winterberries.

I had my German Shepherd pup Radar with me. It was a beautiful winter morning and I had seen and photographed bluebirds, oh joy! We walked down the long path to Grandfather Pine. Radar crossed the little creek and came back with…

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… a deer leg. Probably dropped by a coyote. There have been lots of coyote tracks out back this winter.

The deer leg was, unfortunately, the most amazing and delicious toy/ snack he has ever had in his six months of happy life.

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He ran around and jumped for joy. Then he set about gnawing flesh and bone and playing keep away when I got near.

I had a very hard time getting it away from him and getting him back inside. I tricked him finally by whizzing a frisbee past him. He dropped the leg and chased the frisbee. I got the leg and disposed of it in a plastic bag tossed in our trash. Then he wouldn’t drop the frisbee and come inside. I had to fake him out with “go for a ride in the car? go for a walk in the woods?” He jumped in the open back of my Subaru Outback. Then I felt compelled to actually follow through on my promise, since he smart and will stop believing me if I don’t do what I say. That deer leg brought out the wild beast in him.

This morning he pooped out deer fur.

UPDATE

Right after I posted this, some bluebirds (members of the same flock?) showed up at our feeders. It is a very cold morning, 5 degrees, and they are boosting their calorie intake with some peanuts and safflower seeds. Must make some more homemade suet dough today!

This fellow held still long enough for some nice pics…

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Thick-billed Murre and more at Hampton Harbor

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A Thick-billed Murre at Hampton Harbor today.

Luckily a real birder who was watching birds a short distance away from me posted her checklist from the same time and location to eBird.org and that helped me figure out what kind of (unfamiliar, locally rare) bird it was.

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The murre was near a female Common Eider duck.

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There were Common Loons too.

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And those sharp little Red-breasted Mergansers.

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Murres are alcids, in the same family as puffins and auks. They look more auk-like when they are out of the water: photo.

A common bird of the far northern oceans, the Thick-billed Murre is found in Arctic waters all across the globe. It remains up to the limits of pack ice in winter, using its wings to swim underwater to find its fish and invertebrate prey.

The temperatures here are supposed to plummet to near-Arctic ranges in the next few days, so our visiting murre will feel right at home.

Cool Facts: The Thick-billed Murre is one of the deepest underwater divers of all birds, regularly descending to depths of more than 100 m, and occasionally below 200 m. It can remain submerged for more than three minutes.