Bird Feeders Are Not All Created Equal

Tails of a Twitcher

Bird feeders are not all created equal. Any squirrel will tell you this. I have been through many, many feeders at this point, but even the better made, better quality feeders will fail eventually. This is especially true for those made of plastic. Any plastic, even good plastic, will eventually perish when exposed to the extreme cold of winter. There are those people who bring their feeders in during the winter. But you are possibly hurting the birds to save a feeder. Summer feeding is much less important to bird survival. They have other sources of food and they can forage more easily. In winter, especially in snow, that is much more difficult. And remember, many fledglings were taught that your feeder was a food source. They will expect that to remain the case through their first winter. If you want to bring your feeders in, start to wean the…

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The Twin Hawks

Tails of a Twitcher

This past July I had an accidental encounter with a pair of young hawks, who I believe were siblings. I had just tucked all my camera equipment away when I noticed a very large fluffy lump on the grass. I was in the parking lot of Lambert Castle, which is terraced above the lawn, so it was a level below me. I crouched down to see what it was. That was when I realized it was a Red-Tailed Hawk, awkwardly strutting around on the ground. Cursing my luck for putting the camera away so nicely ten minutes earlier, I rushed to my trunk to put my lens back on the camera. The Hawk didn’t seem to notice my movement in the slightest. So far, so good. I got a few photos from where I was, still with the Hawk not even seeming to notice me. So I decided to test…

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Richard W. DeKorte Park, Lyndhurst, NJ

Tails of a Twitcher

Another of the twenty parks managed by New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, Richard W. DeKorte Park ( ) was one of the first locations I ventured to when I started birding. It probably wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this park inspired me to become a bird watcher. We would pass it on the train and I kept wondering what this amazing place was, and how could I get there. One day I finally tried it, and it didn’t disappoint. I still go there regularly, and it never fails to amaze. In the heart of New Jersey’s Meadowlands, this wetland habitat is visited by over 285 different species. The 3.5 miles of trails include a boardwalk through the wetland area itself, as well as some grassy, treed areas. The Manhattan skyline is visible in the background with the highway and train line. Nature truly co-exists with man…

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Barbour’s Pond- Garret Mountain Reservation, Woodland Park NJ

Tails of a Twitcher

Garret Mountain Reservation is a wonderful urban park. Located in
Woodland Park, New Jersey, the park has at least two different
vantage points where visitors can look down/out at the city of
Paterson and beyond. Along with the paved paths frequented by walkers
and joggers and the many picnic areas (some recently updated) with
grills and picnic tables, there are also hiking trails. According to
Passaic County’s website, the park welcomes over 150 species of
birds throughout the year and the County sponsors Bird Watching
meet-ups throughout the summer. While they are not as intense, nor as
remote as the Appalachian Trail, they do provide good terrain for a
short walk. I typically do not follow the whole trail (which
basically works its way around the outer edge of the park. Instead I
usually walk an easier and shorter loop around Barbour’s Pond.

shaded, the trail at Barbour’s Pond…

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Splish-splash in the Bird Bath

Tails of a Twitcher

I was in search of the ideal bird bath for almost two summers before I finally settled with the weighted plastic model I bought from Lowes. Despite the fact that it wasn’t exactly the bird bath I had designed in my imagination, I was very happy to both provide my feathered friends with water and, of course, to observe and photograph their aquatic-antics.

So I
did some bird bath research, made sure I was dumping the old water
regularly and refilling it with fresh. I even converted a kitchen
brush for scrubbing dishes into a bird bath scrubber to get rid of
anything gross growing along the edge of the bird bath (I guess I
used a bit to much elbow grease because after about three months of
cleaning the bird bath, the finishing paint started pealing off the

my bird bath was in place, clean and welcoming…

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Mill Creek Marsh – July

Tails of a Twitcher

Another visit to Mills Creek Marsh in Secaucus, New Jersey. A warm day but not too hot, so we walked the whole loop. We were rewarded for our efforts, and I am not just talking about the treat we had at Panera afterward.

The dominant sensory experience throughout our walk was the Marsh Wrens calling to each other from every patch of tall reeds or bushes. There must have been hundreds of them. Spotting them however, presented a challenge. I did manage to spot a few, but they mostly eluded me. This soundtrack of the wetlands was interrupted occasionally with the call of the Red-Winged Blackbirds, not wanting to be left out or overshadowed.

As you might expect, we spotted Robins, Grey Catbirds, Swallows (probably tree), Mallards, a Tern (not sure which variety), a few House Sparrows and a Song Sparrow. There were many Canada Geese, some with goslings, and…

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Types of Sparrows

Tails of a Twitcher

Once you become a bird watcher, you become aware that many facts you took for granted are not 100% accurate. For example, “call a spade a spade” or “call a sparrow a sparrow.” Not necessarily untrue. However, there are twenty-one different types of sparrows listed in my Eastern North America bird book. So “sparrow” is clearly not specific enough.

want to take some time in this post to point out of the differences
between some of the most common sparrows, so you can begin to notice
them yourselves. I am going to focus on four: House Sparrows,
Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows and White-Throated Sparrows.

The House Sparrow is the most obvious starting point. Ubiquitous, especially whenever food is out for the taking, you see them in yards, woods, parks and city streets. I have so many of the little guys in my yard at this point I think they…

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Bird’s ID – White- crowned Sparrow

H.J. Ruiz - Avian101

White-crowned Sparrow

The White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) is a species of passerine bird native to North America. A medium-sized member of the American sparrow family, this species is marked by a grey face and black and white streaking on the upper head. It breeds in brushy areas in the taiga and tundra of the northernmost parts of the continent and in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific coast. While southerly populations in the Rocky Mountains and coast are largely resident, the breeding populations of the northerly part of its range are migratory and can be found as wintering or passage visitors through most of North America south to central Mexico.

Adults are 18 cm (7 in) long and have black and white stripes on their head, a gray face, brown streaked upper parts and a long tail. The wings are brown with bars and the underparts are gray. Their bill is…

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Bird’s ID – White-throated Sparrow

H.J. Ruiz - Avian101

White -throated Sparrow

The White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) is a passerine bird of the American sparrow family Passerellidae.

There are two adult plumage variations known as the tan-striped and white-striped forms. On the white-striped form the crown is black with a white central stripe. The supercilium is white as well. The auriculars are gray with the upper edge forming a black eye line.

On the tan form, the crown is dark brown with a tan central stripe. The supercilium is tan as well. The auriculars are gray/light brown with the upper edge forming a brown eye line. Both variations feature dark eyes, a white throat, yellow lores and gray bill. There is variation and some individuals may show dark lateral stripes of each side of the throat.

They almost always pair with the opposite color morph for breeding. The two color morphs occur in approximately equal numbers. Both…

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