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 had a pair nesting for the first time this year at our farmstead in South Dakota. Boxes put out for Bluebirds which didn't come, but these were a very pleasant consolation.
    by fluffypeanutcat, Tue, 25 Sep 2018
  • This is a good point. While cleaning mine, I kinda got the impression the cheep cheeps were waiting on me since they started chirping as soon as I brought it outside again. I swear they are so smart. Within five minutes of filling the feeder up, they are there to feast.cheers Cheep cheeps!
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • Hahaha, I love the ending remark "that area will have already been well -fertilized!"I've noticed that there are more cheep cheeps right after I clean the bird feeder compared to how many there are right before it was cleaned...so cheep cheeps do like and appreciate a well maintained feeder and they are worth the effort. : )
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • The storm saying seems true so far. We had as party at our bird feeder right before our last storm... 6 at once but different cheeps cheeps would come and go so there were more than 6 for sure..and squirrels eating with the birds
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 13 Jul 2018
  • I know and do clean my feeders both for seed and for hummingbird liquid. I have a vase full of different size brushes that are only for this purpose. I have friends however who NEVER clean their feeders or bird baths, and it’s gross! I am ringing this article and will have to give out to the few offenders I know. I can’t imagine looking at such mess and not cleaning it, but not everyone thinks resale. Part of responsible bird watching/loving is to make the time and take the effort to do this.
    by Carol, Tue, 10 Jul 2018