Are you fascinated by birds, their ability to escape the confines of earth with flight, their marvelous color patterns and not in the least, their song?

Have you complied a life list over the years? What are your favorites among those birds you have seen and heard?

Having watched and studied birds most of my life and compiled a substantial life list from various parts of the country and beyond, I have my favorites amongst the group and they are now prominently displayed on the wall in my great room as seen on the right.

It might even be fun to include your state bird in the center of that group. I am in the process of including all the state birds in my collection. Enter the gallery by clicking on any of the images or on the gallery link above, and see what you like.

I thought winter was over.

February here in the Berkshires was delightful.  Sparse smatterings of snow just here and there in amongst the trees.  The fields were completely brown just waiting for spring to sprout new grass.  We had the return of a pair of bluebirds apartment hunting.  They flew from one bird house to another. The male would peek inside, sometimes go in and see how it felt. The female would sit atop the house surveying her surroundings, then she would fly to another house and the male would follow her repeating his pattern of assessing the accommodations.  One day in late February, I heard the song of the red-winged blackbird; a most wonderful sound heralding warmer weather and the return of spring.  Two days later, a common grackle made his presence known by visiting several of my bird feeders along with the juncos, American goldfinches, chickadees and blue jays.  And then, as if withou warning, March came in blasting us with a severe Nor’easter, leaving us buried beneath 22 inches of snow.  This to be followed by two more heavy snowstorms.  The bluebirds have taken temporary leave of us, but the grackle hangs on with the promise of an ample supply of seed in the feeders.  Daylight savings time has arrived and I live with the knowledge that spring really cannot be far behind.

Barn Swallows

Last week we had a sudden rain burst and as I gazed out the window overlooking the pasture, I saw barn swallows and several rough-winged swallows “fall” out of the sky. The torrential downpour drove them down near the ground and as they sought protection from the onslaught, they struggled to reach the white pine tree beside the house. Several of the barn swallows alighted on the pasture fence. There they constantly shook their feathers trying to escape the rain. As suddenly as it started, the rain stopped and the swallows immediately took to the air, their favorite habitat.

Note cards featuring my bird art now available


Good News!

Due to popular demand, I now have note cards available with some of my favorite birds.  These include a Hermit Thrush, Barn Swallows, Red-eyed Vireo, Marsh Wren, and Baltimore Oriole.  You can easily purchase these selections or custom order any other illustration that you might prefer on line individually complete with envelopes and clear protective sleeves for $3.50 or five cards with envelopes and sleeves for $12.00.

Single Cards:


Five-Pack Selections:

The five designs I want are:

A Change in the Seasons

Well, it’s the end of March here in New England.  In my opinion, it is about the uglest time of year what with all the dirty snow along the roadsides.  As the frost leaves the ground, there is mud everywhere the snow has melted and with a  constant change in temperatures from cold, blustery, snowy days to clear blue skies, warmth from the rising sun, one never knows what to expect.  As a result, all our thoughts are anxiously awaiting the coming of spring.  A sure sign is the return of the red-winged blackbirds, followed by the occasional common grackle, another blackbird.  The red-wing’s “conk-kra-rhee” announcement of his arrival is music to my ears.  A lone song sparrow has also been hoping about on the frozen brown lawn grass, yet to announce his presence with his wonderful song.  The chickadees are advertizing their presence with their singular two-note song as they divy up territories in which to raise their young.  The ever present turkeys are beginning to turn their thoughts to spring as well.  The toms are struting about in all their finery, gobbling to the hens who are still totally uninterested in the boys.  

Signs of Spring:  We are now working our way through the middle of April.  Our huge snow pack which we thought would never melt has finally lost its grip on the land.  Within a few short days of sun and warmer temperatures, the stuff is all but gone.  For several weeks now, the spring birds have been returning.  I have kept track of the arrivals each spring since 2000 and the birds pretty much arrive on or about the same day every year.  (Must be an internal calendar that signals their return to the northern hemisphere). 

This is the list so far this year, 2015:

March 16 – Red-winged blackbirds (male)

March 17 – Common Grackles

March 20 – Male Cardinal singing

April 3 – Male Robins

April 9 – Male bluebird checking out the available housing arrangements in the pasture.

April 11 – Eastern Phoebe and Song Sparrows

April 13 – Cowbirds

April 14 – Tree Swallows return en masse.

April 15 – Kildeers and Canada Geese (down on the pond)

Apri1 16 – Chipping sparrows, White-throated sparrows and a female Pine Warbler picking up white horse hairs for her nest.

The rhubarb is pushing up through the wet mud and promises to be a good crop again.  The crocuses and daffies have lifted their head above ground on the south side of the house; the ones on the north side in the perennial garden will take another couple of weeks which gives us two blooming periods that we so enjoy.

Winter in the Berkshires

March 30: Winter this past season has been especially taxing for all of us in the Northeast as I might assume elsewhere in the United States. The severe cold, wind, and a steady dose of snowstorms made life challenging at best. I was able to keep the bird feeders fully stocked as it is critical to do this if you start feeding the birds in the fall. What happens is more members of a bird species will visit your feeders than can be supported on their own in the natural environment. We had our usual residents of chickadees, blue jays, both red and white nuthatches and the downy and hairy woodpecker pairs. I also ended up with at least 14 wild turkeys for most of the season.

My three ranchero Toms were always present, but during the more severe weather, I believe the hens kept to the cover of the woods. I hoped they were finding enough food under the snow to keep alive. (It does seem now that for the most part they survived.) I have a resident family of Common Crows that raise their young here in my neighbor’s old cow pasture every year. They enjoy picking scraps and juicy tidbits off the hay and manure pile by the horse’s shed. The turkeys visit here every day as well. I was able to let my eight chickens and roosters out for some fresh air only seldom as the frigid temperatures and snow blocked their access to the outside world. A heater lamp kept them cozily tucked inside on the coldest of days and nights.

During the second half of the winter months I was glad to see a large flock of redpolls, goldfinches, and pine siskins spend time with us. They would alight in the honeysuckle bush chattering madly together, feed briefly on the sunflower and Niger seed and then on some unseen clue, explode into the air and escape to the tall trees across the road. Moments later, they would return sporadically to once again explode into the air. It was difficult to get pictures of all of them as they are very active little birds, hoping and flitting about.

Election Day

November 4:  This was midterm election day and promised to result in a low turnout of voters as has been our history  in the past.  I normally head over to our local polling station in the town hall around lunch time. It was a clear, rather warm day and as I headed out the door, I looked up to the blue sky above and there circling low was an adult bald eagle, symbol of our nation and a beautiful reminder of our right and our privilege to make our voice known by selecting the candidate of our choice.

Real estate wars

We have installed a barn owl nesting box in our barn in the hopes that we might attract barn owls next spring to our farm. In the meanwhile, our resident starlings who normally nest in tree hollows, were irresistibly  drawn to the dark hole in the side of the barn.  They cluster around the roof’s peak waiting their turn to inspect the cavity.  I bet they are hoping to spend the cruelest and coldest days of winter safely tucked away within the confines of the nest box.  Starlings will also sit upon active chimneys enjoying the warmth if not the smoke rising from within. However, come early February or March, we are hoping to have a mated pair of barn owls take up residence in the barn box.  Being larger and predatory, it is a sure bet the starlings will beat a fast retreat or become an unexpected lunch for the owls.  

Little Gems in the Forest

November 1: While hiking along a logging road that runs through a partially cleared section of our woods up behind the farm, I heard the thin, high notes of golden-crowned kinglets actively working their way through the balsam branches as they sought out tiny insects.  On such a grey, dreary, cold day, the sight of tiny flashes of gold among the dark green evergreens as they chatted excitedly to one other was such a little thing, but so huge in the way it gave light to my soul. Golden-crowned kinglets are little birds that breed and raise their families in northern confer forests, but will sometimes spend their winter months here in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.  Normally, they are hard to spot because they are tiny, very active moving from branch to branch high up in the tops of  evergreens in search of little insects. Their high-pitched, thin notes and buzzy chatter will give way their location.  Luckily this day they were searching in the lower branches and were such a pleasure to see close up.  

Bluebirds in our midst

October 20:  The barn and paddock as well as the garden were resplendent with bluebirds today.  I don’t know if they are passing through on their way south or will hang around for some time.  The males were uncharacteristically  chattering  as the females fed on some of the bright red seed pods hung on the asparagus “ferns” in the garden.  I put out some dried mealy worms on the platform feeder for their benefit which they love. We anxiously await the arrival of the bluebirds in the spring.  It is the male who arrives first, checks out the variety of bird houses set up in the pasture.  Then he disappears for several weeks, probably checking out other accommodations in the area.  In the interim, the tree swallows arrive and take up residence in most of the apartments, but the bluebird does return and manages to snag one of the houses for his very own.  

Four Hens and Three Rancheros

hens September 17:  Fall rolled around once again and amidst the riot of yellow and red leaves come the turkeys.  First, the four hens who probably are either this year’s grownup babies or last spring’s maiden aunts march in from the pasture. At first they were leery of my presence when I placed their cracked corn on the rock in the backyard.  They were torn between their natural fear of me and their appetite for corn.  I attempted to cluck like a turkey to ease their fear.  Now whenever I appear before the hens, I cluck to them and they associate me with their corn and wait expectantly for their handout, cautiously moving closer to me.  I approach them slowly with eyes lowered, subdued, non-threatening  so that they now more or less trust me. One day not too long ago, three fine specimens of male turkeydom appeared shortly after the hens departed.  The next day, they tagged along after the hens displaying their feathered finery not for the benefit of the hens, but to impress each other as they strutted around in a circular fashion.  Now four hens and three toms show up together each morning and evening like clockwork. For the most part, the toms chase the hens aside.  Whatever happened to inviting a lady to dinner.  After all, who knows what reward that might bring! In past years, I have had turkeys visit my yard on a regular basis, but somehow they mysteriously disappear just before Thanksgiving time, only to reappear after that holiday.  Hmmmm….