Friday, December 16, 2011

The Bluebird of Hope and Happiness

The other day I was watching a mixed Eastern Bluebird/House Sparrow flock in the trees along the West River in Brattleboro, VT. They flew off in all directions just as I was getting my camera ready. I didn't get a good picture of a male Bluebird, just got a fleeting look at one in the thicket, but a female obligingly perched on a shrub along the road for a photo shoot. 

Compared to the modest attire of the female, the male looks over-the-top extravagant. I pulled these photos from my archive:

The Bluebird  is beloved by many because of its gentleness and sweet song. In many cultures it is thought of as a symbol of hope and happiness. Some Native American tribes considered it sacred. It is often featured in songs and tales. So, it's an appropriate symbol for the Christmas season when we are reminded to be charitable to the neediest and lowliest among us. Looking at the bird world I would include the lowly and despised House Sparrow (HOSP), but how wrong I was! The HOSP is an aggressive and deadly competitor for nesting sites. It probably contributed to the decline of the Eastern Bluebird population after its introduction in 1851. 

"don't know any Bluebird hosts who enjoy killing anything, including HOSP, but the two species are on a head on collision course and there is so much proof that the HOSP will win (and by that I mean kill) your Bluebirds eventually."
- Dave Kinneer, Bluebirding Forum, 2008

"Q: I came out to check my babies, and found several of them dead and strewn out on the ground. Others were still in the box, but looked like they had been battered on the head and eyes. HELP!"

A: House Sparrows, which are exotic pest species, will enter a box and peck the occupants to death. Clean out the box and either take steps to either eliminate the sparrows or move the box to a more suitable location. House Sparrows are found only around human dwellings, in cities and around farm buildings. To minimize competition from this aggressive predator and competitor, place your boxes where sparrows are not likely to be a problem. Please see our House Sparrow Control page for more sparrow management techniques"

So the Bluebird may well consider the House Sparrow a devilish competitor.

We are reminded this time of the year to give generously to charitable organisations. Along with mail order catalogs our mail box is stuffed with requests for money. It seems whenever we donate to an organization it soon comes back asking for more.  And this is not just my impression. Here is a link to an article in the NY Times.  Bill and I make a list every year and in general stick to it. The Charity Navigator is an invaluable source to help with the selection.

Good news on the home front: 
According to an article in the NY Times Vermont is rebounding quickly from Hurricane Irene. Now all we need is lots and lots of top soil to replace what the flood has washed away and we also badly need snow to attract skiers to support our local economy.

And Happy Birding in 2012!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Juvenile Common Mergansers are a flamboyant lot. According to Pete Dunne they look like "overly made-up dowagers"  * but to me these here look more like bright-eyed punksters. 

The other day I saw three Common Mergansers in an inlet off the CT River. Of course they saw me too and paddled off. So all I got is this parting glance. I had to dive into my archive to come up with the above summer beauties. 

Merry Birding and Happy Holidays!

* Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion

Thanks for visiting. Please leave a comment.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

First of Season Hoodies, and Liebster Blog Award

For the past couple of days a pair of Hooded Mergansers, Hoodies in short, have settled on a inactive beaver pond not for from where I live. They are very skittish and usually head back to  the shore opposite  the dirt road if notice any movement, even a car creeping ever so slowly along that road. These are the first of the season for me.

A female Wood Duck was skulking through the weeds at the water's edge.

Thank you so much, Ken Schneider of Rosy Finch Ramblng, for nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award! The photographs, stories and reports on your blog are always an inspiration for me, as you seem to be living your life on a larger scale than the rest of us. 

What does Liebster Blog mean? The origin of this award is obscure, but it's probably German as the phrase "Liebster Blog" translates into "most favorite blog". The award is given to blogs that have less than 200 followers and deserve more recognition and encouragement.There are some guidelines that have to be followed while giving or receiving the Award.
The rules for receiving the award:
  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  4. Hope that the people you’ve sent the award to forward it to their five favorite bloggers and keep it going!

Good Birding! 

Thanks for your visit and let me know what you think. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

A SNOWY OWL in Brattleboro!

Talking about a possible Snowy Owl irruption in the Northeast, great news this morning on VTBird: Hector Galbraith had sighted a Snowy Owl on the cornfield behind the Marina Restaurant on the West River in Brattleboro, just about 3 miles from my house. I dropped everything, jumped into my car and joined several birders who were already there.The owl was perched about 50 yards from the kayak shed and parking lot.

Uncropped view, about 10 AM

The owl didn't stay there. 

Half hour later it flew to the opposite corner of the field and, when I returned at about 3PM, it was sitting in a tree on a slope bordering the wetland at the far edge. I took this photo from behind the stores on the Aubuchon Plaza above the field. 

Shortly after the owl took off and flew to perch on a log in the West River. Just as I got there it took off again and seemed to disappear into the woods above the Retreat on the other side of the river near  Rte 30. On a hunch  I decided to drive to the parking lot in back of Retreat to look down on the water from above and found it again perching on some brush in the water. 

it was about 4 PM. The light was fading.  Maybe it will still be in the general area in morning. I will do a check and leave a message on VTBird  one way or the other.

Good Birding!

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment.