Just when you thought it was safe….

… Mother Nature’s blast of white let us know who was in charge this morning.


It’s a fairly deep snow but with rising temperatures it should melt quickly. I filled the bird feeders last night and threw out some feed this morning for the ground feeders. The seeds and berries and nuts quickly disappeared deep into the fluff. That’s no problem for the ground feeding juncos, the most numerous of the birds visiting us this winter.

These medium-sized sparrows fly in a flock to feed. They land together and they hop, fly, scratch, dig, and flit in and out of shrubbery. Although they move quickly, one or two have become meals for the neighborhood’s ever-observant Cooper’s hawk. We simply find the telltale pile of grey and white feathers on the ground.




The juncos dig for seeds and toss snow, fuss constantly among themselves, and jockey for dominance. Although they primarily dine on our shelled sunflower seed on the ground, they don’t hesitate to feed from any of the feeders…. loving the bluebird’s mealworms, the tube feeders, and the suet cake.


The little juncos are among the most common songbirds at the winter feeders in many areas. In Virginia, they were only winter visitors. However in New Hampshire, we have plenty of preferred coniferous forests with lots of evergreen, so we’re lucky to have them as year-round residents.


Great Backyard Bird Count 2018 (GBBC)

Binoculars? Check. Pencil and bird list? Check. It’s the 21st annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) weekend where you’ll find me counting birds for at least 15-minutes a day for four days starting today, February 16 until Monday, February 19.  Last year, over 160,000 folks participated and logged their findings online.

It’s not hard to do and it ends up being a lot of fun for adults and children. Citizen scientists can count birds on any one day or on all four days. Pick the time of day. Pick the same site or different sites. On the website GBBCbirdcount.org, you will post your findings and the accumulated data will help researchers at Cornell and the National Audubon Society find out how the avian population is doing and steps needed to protect birds.

To make it even easier, you can print out a checklist of birds that are in your area from the website. Check out the GBBC site above and to follow the easy directions, then post your findings.


“Spring is coming. Spring is coming. Spring is coming.”

Great Backyard Bird Count 2015

Well, it’s that time of year again…. time for me to become a citizen scientist and count birds for a minimum of 15 minutes a day during this 4-day weekend, February 13 – 16. Then report my findings at birdcount.org. It’s easy, it’s free, and it helps avian researchers have a real-time picture of how birds are doing.

There are two days are left in the count… today and tomorrow. Just Do It!

Ice-encrusted mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) in Portsmouth NH

Near the feeder, it’s an easy task but in other locations, it can take a bit of concentration. Can you spot the lone chickadee among American goldfinches and a junco in the crab apple tree? Click to enlarge.

American finches and chickadee


Great Backyard Bird Count

For over a month, I’ve fed the birds in our new habitat. And they have had the best of food, my special blend that I’ve developed over the years. It took almost a week of feeding before the first little brown bird discovered the feeder. Since then I’ve attracted the most common birds found at feeders. I’m missing a few familiar friends… like the cardinals.  But I’m beginning to attract varieties of woodpeckers. I hear them more than I see them but they will dash in for a seed or two early in the morning.

I was excited to rise at dawn today for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Coffee in one hand, binoculars in the other, I settled into my comfortable chair where data form and paper waited. What I saw at the feeder caused me to slosh a bit of coffee from the mug.

Grackles. Common Grackles. Iridescent in the early morning light. Hundreds of them, in the birches, in the pines, in the air, in shrubs, swinging on the grackle-proof feeder, spilling seed on the ground where they came and went with abandon.

They don’t know this crazy lady yet so they swooped and soared and dined in utter bliss. It was hopeless. My 15-minute Backyard Bird Count was easy today. I will report 200 Common Grackles. Hope rises eternal. I’ll try again tomorrow.

It’s a Grey Fox… not a Red

I’m not venturing out to garden, weed, or prune in our new frozen tundra this winter. The only outdoor activity I’m fully engaged in so far is feeding the songbirds. We have no trees near this house so instead of hanging feeders from limbs as I did in Virginia, I discovered a great Advanced Pole System at Wild Birds Unlimited to bring the birds closer.

The pole with attached auger is simply twisted into the ground about 24″ and additional poles are snapped onto this pole. The top of the pole is where you can get fancy or stay simple. This is what you could do:

I chose to stay simple with one squirrel baffle tube feeder until I saw how many birds would be tempted to dine with us. The small chickadee was the first to discover the feeder, followed by the tufted titmouse, hairy woodpecker, goldfinches, nuthatches, and the ground feeders, the juncos and other sparrows.

I’ve had the system for one week and the food is disappearing fast. Now I’m waiting for those birds I rarely or never see in the south, like the redpolls, the grosbeaks, the crossbills. I’m gearing up the the Great Backyard Bird Count of 2012 on February 17-20. I’ll count the birds around the feeder and the birds I see in the distance or simply flying over. With an extensive salt marsh vista, hawks are numerous, busy scouting for food over the grasses, gulls soar from the nearby rivers, and noisy Canada geese fill the skies.

With the noise at the feeder today, we attracted a new visitor.  What I thought was a Red Fox is really a Grey Fox. I’m sure his acute hearing alerted this visitor to see what all the ruckus was in his neighborhood. He stood very still on a sunny hillside where the snow has melted and just observed the bird activity at the feeder. After a moment, he turned tail and quietly disappeared over the hill into the white pines. There were no dining opportunities at our feeder on open ground.

Grey Fox

However…. should the fox be interested, there is a meal or two available if he is patient and quick. You see, not only the birds have found the feeder. We have one or two uninvited guest who are eating more than their fair share of my costly bird food. And, boy, are they FAT.