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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  • I have the same situation. The feeder is attached to the middle of a large picture window that goes ceiling to floor w/ no ledge or sill for animals to climb or balance. Yet every morning all the sunflower seeds have been cracked open and hulls left. Any ideas what it is?
    by Liza Fox, Sun, 15 Nov 2020
  • I have a bird feeder that sticks to my window and I've been hearing noises against the window at night right now its going on. But whatever it is it is aware of me. And when I get to window it leaves.I can't imagine a squirrel or mouse or possom being able to get at it. ...So as I was reading this article im to assume no bird eats at night. Or no birds will eat at night. Why is that? Then im also thinking of a sinereo that could a lost confused bird eat at night. This eating thing is watching meI turn out the light go there noise dissappears..Thank you.
    by Nosferatu, Thu, 05 Nov 2020
  • I have metal baffles (cones) on my pole for my bird feeders. Something is still tempting them at night. What else could it be? Deer???
    by Ella Spencer Connolly, Thu, 27 Aug 2020
  • I found where he lives, then I keep him up all day by singing at full volume! Hah, that'll show the little sucker!
    by Pike Juan, Tue, 11 Aug 2020
  • I never knew feeding birds could be so confusing. I love watching the birds in my backyard even though I don't get a very big variety.
    by JustMyOpinion, Sun, 26 Jul 2020