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Monday, July 20, 2015

Dragonflies for Birders, Enjoy!

Birders can look for dragonflies through their binoculars! This is a Halloween Pennant dragonfly, so aptly named, and one of my favorites. We have hundreds in our fields right now.

Widow Skimmer

Widow Skimmer. The most colorful dragonflies with patterns on their wings are often in the Skimmer family of dragonflies.

When birds are quiet in summer, birders turn to watching dragonflies, that's what we do. Dragonflies are active on warm days, the hotter and sunnier the better. Dragonflies are stunningly beautiful, have cool names, and are abundant in fields, lakes, streams, shores, many of the places people go in summer.

Here are a few tips to enjoy and identify them.

1. Use your binoculars to spot them, if you have close focusing binos, even better.
2. Some dragonfly males patrol territories along ponds, lakes, and streams. Females mate with them then lay their eggs on emerging vegetation. If you see 2 dragonflies flying in tandem, this is a precursor to mating. In the wheel positon, mating is occurring.
3. Some dragonflies are more perchers, others more fliers, that can be a clue to their ID. Different perchers have different ways of perching, again an ID clue.
4. In general, some of the most obvious, colorful, and patterned-wing dragonflies you see are in the Skimmer family, so look in that section of our book.
5. Different species of dragonflies are on the wing at different times during the summer, so you will constantly see new ones.
6. Male, female and immature dragonflies of the same species can look different, just like birds.

We (along with dragonfly experts Blair Nikula and Jackie Sones) produced a book, Stokes Beginner's Guide To Dragonflies in order to quickly help you get into enjoying these marvelous insects. We worked out an easy key and lots of color photos. Take it and binoculars along with you the next time you go to the lake, river or stream. We take it with us in the canoe whenever we go out in the summer. Enjoy!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Enjoying Doves at Your Feeders! How-to.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Doves are expanding their range, look for them at your feeders

Mourning Doves are common feeder birds across the country

Doves like to drink and bathe

Mourning Dove snoozing on nest. They lay 2 eggs.

Common Ground-Doves are small doves

White-winged Dove

1. Mourning Doves are the most common doves found at feeders nationwide. Eurasian Collared-Doves are mainly found in the southern and middle part of the country. White-winged Doves and petite Common Ground-Doves are found mostly in the southern parts of the country.

2. Doves are seed and grain eating birds, so they eat many wild seeds and will come to bird feeders for a variety of seeds including millet, milo, corn and sunflower. 

3. Doves are large birds (except for Common Ground-Doves) and feed mainly on the ground. So when choosing bird feeders, select feeders that have a platform or wide ledge so doves can land and comfortably eat. Doves will also feed on seeds that fall to the ground from bird feeders. The Stokes Select 3 in 1 Platform Feeder and red Platform Feeder are excellent feeders for doves.

4. Doves feed differently than some other small feeder birds such as chickadees, who come to your feeder and take one seed at a time. Doves have a crop in which they store seeds for digestion afterward. So you may see doves coming in and consuming a lot of seeds, then going off elsewhere to sit on a branch to rest and digest.

5. Mourning Doves are in in pairs in summer. In spring the male gives his long "ooahoo oo oo oo" call to court a female. Some people mistake this cooing for a sound an owl would make. The mournful nature of the sound gives this species its name. Mourning Doves build flimsy nests, lay two eggs and both parents feed their young "pigeon milk," nutritious whitish liquid the parents regurgitate. The young fledge at 12-13 days of age.

6. In winter Mourning Doves are in flocks of about 20 or more birds. The flocks drift about a given area as food resources change. There is a peck dominance hierarchy in the flocks, with some birds more dominant over others. At your feeder you may see one bird raise its wings and even hit at another bird with its wing in aggressive encounters.

7. Most doves have rather plain brownish or grayish plumage. White-winged Doves have a distinct white streak at the edge of the folded wing. Eurasian Collared-Doves look similar to Mourning Doves but have a black half collar with a lower white edge, behind their neck. They are expanding their range and  might show up anywhere, so be on the lookout for them at your feeder. Common Ground-Doves are only 6 1/2 inches long and plain brown, with the male being a little more pinkish on the breast.

8. Provide doves with a bird bath to drink from and bathe in. When doves drink,they can keep their head down and draw in water in their bill. Other birds drink by dipping in their bill then tilting their head up and back to swallow.

9. Keep feeders stocked, water fresh, and enjoy the doves. Maybe you will even see a new species!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Happy Fourth of July!

Northern Cardinal

Great Egret

Indigo Bunting

Flowers from our garden

Happy Fourth of July weekend. Hope you see some red, white and blue birds!