Nov 29, 2016 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2016

14 Acres of Habitat in New Hampshire

A winter flock of bluebirds inspired Amy Kane to try to lure them closer to her window. Almost instant success inspired her to not only offer more feeders and food choices, but to start blogging about her backyard birds, and to take photos of the avian abundance of her New England property.
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I was snowshoeing in the red maple swamp behind our house on a bright, cold January day a few years ago when I saw a flock of bluebirds eating the bright red berries of the wild winterberry hollies. Why do I never see these birds at our bird feeder? I wondered. That simple question—with the simple answer that sunflower seeds in a tube feeder is not what they eat!—got me started on a quest to attract, observe, and photograph birds in my backyard.

I ordered a domed plastic feeder and some peanut butter suet dough. In a few days I had bluebirds right where I wanted them: within viewing range of our kitchen window. I made Zick Dough with a recipe from Julie Zickefoose's blog (juliezickefoose.blogspot.com). My husband put up a Gilbertson PVC bluebird house. We installed a heated birdbath on a porch railing. By March, a pair of bluebirds had made themselves at home. I spoiled them with live mealworms I ordered on Amazon (the mail lady got a kick out of that). In April, they had five nestlings that became fledglings in mid-May.

A pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks visits a backyard feeder in spring. Photo by Amy Kane

I created a blog, Amy's Backyard Birds (amybirds.com), to keep track of what I was seeing and learning, adding links to helpful websites and other bird blogs. It's not your typical backyard: We are lucky to live on 14 acres of woods and fields with a half-acre pond right in the middle, in the seacoast region of New Hampshire. In two and a half years I have photographed 56 (and counting) species of birds within the bounds of our land, plus many more I have seen on local walks and long distance travels.

A most unusual backyard bird, a swan in our pond. Photo by Amy Kane

There are the usual year-round cardinals, chickadees, and titmice that have a taste for our seed mix. There are the birds that herald spring and summer, like catbirds, tree swallows, orioles, common yellowthroats, and other warblers. There are the winter red-breasted nuthatches, juncos, and tree sparrows. There are less common visitors too: the fierce-looking northern goshawk that sat in a pine tree overlooking our bird feeders long enough for a few good photos; the green heron that left footprints in the mud at the edge of the pond; and the vagrant swan that took up bossy residence for four months, summer to fall 2015, walking from the pond up to the house every other day to look for a handout of poultry layer feed and cracked corn, freaking out my backyard hens and entertaining my human guests.

Our house is for sale now and a new chapter begins for us soon in a town on the Treasure Coast of Florida. My blog will have new birds and a new backyard.



About Amy Kane

Amy Kane has written for local newspapers and regional magazines. She lives in North Hampton, New Hampshire, and spends a lot of time in her big backyard training her 1-year-old German shepherd not to chase birds.

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  • Fascinating, how insightful both the humans and cheep cheeps are... Thanks for sharing.
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 27 Apr 2018
  • #18 in the Gallery is misidentified as a Tree Sparrow, instead of Tree Swallow.
    by Ron, Mon, 23 Apr 2018
  • yep i do the microwave too....they don't break down in our compost so the birds get them!
    by ecumam2, Wed, 18 Apr 2018
  • As you probably know, sunflower seed hulls have a bio-chemical in them, (allelopathic), which keeps any other seeds from sprouting, in the same area. I have used this fact, to a purpose. With a large build up, each year (& yes, it is a bare spot!), I rake up the "bounty" & spread them on areas of bulbs & perennials to keep the annual weeds down. It's also helpful near blue squill bulbs, which drop seeds through the fence that divides a perennial garden, from the lawn , where they are welcome to naturalize. The garden can be over run with them, so sunflower hulls can keep the sprouting down.
    by Plntlady, Tue, 17 Apr 2018
  • I do this in a small garden, near our road, where winter road sand can build up & bury the small, low-growing plants that live there. In spring I just pick up the burlap & shake it back onto the road, before the road crew comes by with the street sweeper, in spring.
    by Plntlady, Tue, 17 Apr 2018