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.

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 ( 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 (, 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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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018