June 24, 2018
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‘First of Year’ birds a special treat

By Judy Kellogg Markowsky

I have a small net filled with animal hair that I put out for nesting birds. A pine siskin was the first to visit my cache of dog and horse hair. She picked out the hairs she wanted and flew away with dog hair in her beak. It looked as though she had a beard.

Pine siskins nest in the pine forest where they form loose colonies with other siskins. Nests are spaced about 15 feet apart. Pine siskins don’t migrate in predictable patterns, but wander irregularly. Many siskins come to Maine in winter, but the next winter perhaps none — they might be in Ohio or Wyoming.

Many warblers are returning to Maine from Central and South America. Don Cramer found his first Nashville warbler of the year at Fields Pond Audubon Center. He’s a birder and calls this bird “my FOY (first of year) Nashville warbler.” These birds make their nests on the ground and live in second-growth forests of bushes and small trees.

Jim and Kathy Zeman found their FOY hummingbird. These are amazing birds. Their wings go at 53 flaps per second, so you cannot see their wings — only a blur. They feed mostly on nectar from flowers and on tiny insects. Once I saw a hummingbird sucking sap out of holes in a tree made by a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Peggy Baum found her FOY brown thrasher. Thrashers are related to mockingbirds. They imitate songs that other birds sing twice, then they sing another song twice. Mockingbirds typically sing each song three or more times. Brown thrashers are bright rufous on the back and have a long tail. Their white breast is streaked with black.

I found my FOY Eastern kingbird, a bird you see on the wires near roads. These flycatchers do catch flies — they fly about 15 feet to snag an insect, then fly back to the wires. They pluck off the wings and legs and eat the body of the insect.

I love May! I wake up early every day hoping to find a new FOY.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden, call 989-2591.

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