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Bird Notes with James Hirtle

Why gardeners should love birds!

 One of the most delightful experiences that can come to the owner of a garden is the pleasure of winning the confidence of the birds that seek it as a haven" - "Birds in the Garden & How to Attract Them" by Margaret McKenny.

 Sparrows and finches eat tons of weed seeds. The European starling is given a bad rap, but they eat lots of garden intruders. Moles and mice that undermine and feast on tulip bulbs and gnaw on trees are taken by hawks and owls. Grasshoppers which are another garden pest are also eaten by some hawk species. The following is a list of unwanted pests, with the number of bird species that feed on them:

 Army worms 43, billbugs 110, browntail moths 31, chestnut weevils 85, chinch bugs 29, clover root borers 94, clover weevils 48, codling moths 36, cutworms 98, tent caterpillars 32, gypsy moths 46, horseflies 49, leaf hoppers 175, orchard tent caterpillars 43, potato beetles 34, white grubs 95, wireworms 205.

 Helen Forrest of Clearland took some ruby-throated hummingbird photos while she was busy planting in the garden. She also has a male rose-breasted grosbeak and a bobolink. Glenn Rhodenizer of Second Peninsula reports bobolinks there and a pair at Northwest.

 Robin Anthony of Brooklyn was pleased when an adult little blue heron showed up. John Cowans at Chester has some yellow warblers and he saw a northern parula in his apple tree. At the residence of Mary Young on Princes Inlet Drive, a northern parula died when it hit her window. A male northern cardinal visited the backyard of Gerry McKiel in Lunenburg. Janice Kenefick watched as some black-capped chickadees attempted to drink out of a hummingbird feeder. Many species of birds will go to sugar water.

 The juvenile bald eagle at Dayspring is almost the size of the adult now. Wanda Baxter of Fauxburg noted some cedar waxwings and Sue Beaver of Garden Lots had a flock of 30 descend upon her magnolia tree. Brenda Hiltz of Gold River also had cedar waxwings, which were eating apple blossoms.

 Sylvia Webber of Chester Basin noted that a northern parula had returned there. James and Beverly Myra at Gold River had ruby-throated hummingbirds but they disappeared. After an absence of a few weeks the Myras were happy to see them return. They also have two fox sparrows.

 At Cherry Hill, I saw a glaucous gull, which should be on the northern breeding grounds now. I heard a flycatcher calling that was not recognizable to me. It turned out to be an eastern kingbird. Piping plovers are now back on their territories and some are incubating eggs. It could be another good year at Cherry Hill, but we've lost one nest so far, likely due to predation. That pair is still present and hopefully will re-nest. We currently have three other pairs, which are incubating four eggs each, and a few of these nests are due to hatch soon. Two other pairs are showing signs of territory and will hopefully nest also. That makes six pairs, which is the most we've had on Cherry Hill since the late 1980s.

 The snowy egret that was at Blue Rocks last week, or another, was seen and photographed at the Back Oler Farm Marsh in Garden Lots by John Robart.

 Dominic Cormier of Halifax saw two adult tricoloured herons at Conrads Beach on the Eastern Shore and also a great egret at Cow Bay. Fulton Lavender and Mike King discovered a marbled godwit at Daniels Head on Cape Sable Island.

 Twelve per cent or 1,227 species of birds are now considered as globally threatened. This is a scary figure to me.

 Reach me at or phone 764-2182.

posted on 06/09/09
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