Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Warblers apparently like 'grilled' food, too

STACEY COLE August 16. 2013 9:00PM

In our July 20, "Nature Talks" column, a mother "sparrow," who collected bugs from automobile grills to feed its youngster, was told of by a Twin Mountain couple.

They inquired if this "reasoned" behavior would be passed on and become "instinctive" behavior in succeeding generations of this sparrow. I could not offer an answer and turned to our readers for their thoughts.

Although one of our Manchester reader couples did not attempt to answer the bird behavior question, they did write of having a similar experience with the behavior of a prothonotary warbler. Their letter read in part: "When we were camping on the southern coast of Louisiana, we observed prothonotary warblers going into our grill in the front of the car. We were concerned about the warblers' safety, but they seemed fine! They were collecting insects that had been 'gathered' within the grill.

"Guess they also liked 'grilled' food."

During the fall and spring migratory periods in New Hampshire readers should always be looking for a prothonotary warbler. However, in checking with Rebecca Suomala, longtime biologist and Managing Editor of NH Audubon's "Bird Record" publication, there have been only five known records of the appearance of a prothonotary warbler in New Hampshire.

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A Bradford couple wrote: "Your July 20 column brought to mind some interaction we have had with ruby-throated hummingbirds. We thought you might find this of interest.

"We have become accustomed to being greeted by hummingbirds when they arrive in the spring. This consists of their hovering for several seconds about a foot away from one's face. About three years ago one of us was on the step ladder painting the inside of a screened building when the hummingbirds arrived. Two came inside the building (the screens were down) and performed the usual greeting ritual. This year the greeting occurred when one of us was leaning out of a second story window. There is usually a similar farewell ritual when the birds are ready to move south.

"The most memorable event occurred about four years ago. A hummingbird approached us both and repeatedly hovered in front of us. There was no obvious reason for this — the birds were settled in for the summer and the time for greetings was well past. We decided there might be something wrong with their feeder. We lowered it and found out why we had been alerted: A hummingbird was stuck to the feeder with its wings glued to the apron. Downy woodpeckers also use the feeder, but can be sloppy, and one had left some sugary water on the feeder apron which became quite sticky. We carefully removed the hummingbird, wiped away the sticky sauce from its wings and set it on a fence post to dry. It recovered and flew away about an hour later.

"There seems to be a lot of heart and character, as well as trust, in these little birds, and no event is looked forward to here more than their arrival in the spring."

What an interesting description of bird behavior! I must confess, I've never heard anything quite the equal to it. We thank our Bradford readers for sharing their experience with us.

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Several letters about the moccasin flower, or perhaps by its more common name, lady slipper, were received that I found of interest. An Auburn reader wrote in part: "I've wondered why lady slippers are not found in seed catalogs. Too hard to grow? (or ship?) Restricted because they are wild? I could possibly plant some along the Blackwater River at the end of my lot.

"I wouldn't want people to do the following, but when I was in grade school, kids would dig them up for their bulb, called 'wild onion.' They put hot peppers to shame!"

The pink lady slipper (Cypriedium acaule) is our state wildflower. It is covered, along with other wild flowers under NH RSA Chapter 217­­‑A:9, (Prohibited Acts) and reads:

"It shall be a violation of this chapter for any person, other than the owner of the land on which a plant listed under RSA 217‑A:5 is located, to uproot, dig, take, remove, damage, destroy, possess, sell, or offer for sale in intrastate, interstate or foreign commerce, import, deliver, carry, transport or ship any endangered or threatened species from public highways, public property, waters of the state or from the property of another without required and valid state or federal permits or both. Nothing in this section shall limit the rights of private property owners to take plants from their own lands."

New Hampshire state law covers our reader's questions.

Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey, 03446.

Nature Talks

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