Many folks fascinated by watching birds feed young
“In front of this tree I spread a lot of tiny bird seeds because since early spring I have had several tiny Chipping Sparrows every day. Also just a few feet back of the apple tree is a long stonewall. The wall is lined with several huge shrubs and many tall trees. Along the wall I spread a lot of sunflower seeds because I have had a pair of Rufous-sided Towhees here since spring. Many times I have seen a pair of Cardinals feeding there. On June 17, I saw a beautiful, very red cardinal feeding on the tiny seeds. He would eat for a minute and then fly up into the apple tree. I thought he was only going to a safe place to eat his seeds, but he flew down, ate for a minute, then flew to the other side of the tree. What I finally saw was that he was feeding 2 baby Cardinals. This went on for a couple of days. Then I noticed the baby birds on the ground eating by themselves. To my surprise, the father bird did not come down to eat but for 2 or 3 days did a low flyby over the seeds so that he could watch over his babies. The baby birds did what daddy had taught them. They would fly higher into the trees, then slowly descend to a lower branch. They then landed on the ground after being sure it was safe for them to do so.
“About 8 days later at around 8:00 a.m. I looked out toward the stonewall and there was a flock of at least 8 baby Cardinals eating sunflower seeds. It appeared that the 2 babies raised here told the flock of new babies this is a wonderful place to eat. I can tell they are new babies as they have a crown, a black spot and just funny-looking feathers that just don't have much color yet. I also have had Chipping Sparrows feeding their young.”
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From time to time, as I re-read these columns after they have been published, I realize that I have written about a bird without correctly identifying it, or attempting to.
As an example, in a recent column I quoted from a reader's letter where two words were used to describe a bird seen as a “blue bird.” In that column, based upon the description of the activity of that particular “blue bird,” I assumed the reader was writing of the eastern bluebird, a species that still remains fairly common here in the New York-New England region. I hope my assumption was correct in that our eastern bluebird was the species of bird that our reader described. However, whether or not, it was a touch careless of me in either case.
There are a few species such as the indigo bunting, blue grosbeak, and the colorful blue-backed lazuli bunting (rarely seen in our region), as well as the noisy blue jay, that some might consider as “blue birds.” Usually, however, when folks in our region write or speak of the bluebird (either as one word or two) we mean the eastern bluebird. Their cousin, the mountain bluebird, is rarely if ever seen east of the Mississippi River. On the other hand, the eastern bluebird occasionally visits as far west as the Rocky Mountains. This occurrence has been attested to by Karen Metz, a long-time reader-friend and former resident of Windham. For the past several years, Karen has lived in a Colorado woodland 6,600 feet above sea level. Her Christmas letters frequently tell about both Eastern and Western Bluebirds nesting and raising young near her home.
The male Indigo Bunting in his breeding plumage is basically an all-blue, sparrow-size bird with touches of black on its wings and tail. It is fairly well known as a visitor at bird feeding areas in late spring or early summer and is quite easily identified. The females are also delightful little birds with a medium to warm brown back, wings and tail. It has a light brown tinge at its throat and a lighter belly. Although these buntings commonly build their nests in low shrubbery, for several years a pair nested within the corn stalks growing in a field next to our house.
The Blue Grosbeak male is larger than the Indigo Bunting. It has a heavy “grosbeak” size bill and is a solid dark blue with a patch of brown (chestnut) on its wing bars. The female is generally warm brown in color, slightly lighter below and has two light brown wing bars. They are not seen nesting in northern New England as frequently as is the Indigo Bunting.
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Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.
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