Thom Smith | Naturewatch: eBirds is good guide for beginning bird watchers


Q: I am retired, and somewhat new at bird watching (and not that much better with a computer). I wonder if there is a good Internet source to learn about birds seen in the Green Mountains.

— Helen, Vermont visitor

A: A valuable website if you vacation or live in Vermont, or are just fond of exploring, is eBirds. Go to Here you will find a variety of various local check lists of birds seen; chapters of Audubon; nature centers, and best of all, as your life list of birds grows, rare bird alerts. And, if your interest extends to wood carving, the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington, (near Burlington) is worth considering a visit. On its website, it boasts, "A private, non-profit organization, the museum features over 500 carved wooden birds, representing 259 species. Here, natural history meets art."

Q: We have two red -breasted nuthatches here in Lanesborough. We also have a flicker, tufted titmice, juncos, a pair of downy woodpeckers, many chickadees, a wren, a pair of cardinals, many white- breasted nuthatches. Also a hawk, an owl and six pesky crows.

— Ed and Carole, Lanesborough

A: Thank you for reporting the red-breasted nuthatch, a bird I have become interested in following this winter. The flicker is one bird I have never had at my feeders. This larger woodpecker, that appears brownish in color at a distance, has a white rump noticeable either when flying or stationary. In summer, it is often on the ground searching for ants. When in trees, we often see this unorthodox woodpecker perched upright on horizontal branches rather than leaning against their tails on a trunk as we see other woodpeckers doing. We use to call this bird the yellow-shafted flicker, as the undersides of the wing and tail feathers are a bright golden yellow. It is a good find at this season, being a summer nesting species and migrant, even though there are many winter sightings. They start to arrive in numbers in late March and are commonly seen through October.


We have been receiving a number of reports of red-breasted nuthatches over the past couple weeks. And have received 12 e-mails reporting red-breasted, many reporting a pair from Massachusetts and Vermont, with a two from New York In addition, and equally exciting, are the eight reports of evening grosbeaks.


Several readers have commented lately of flocks of grayish birds feeding on crab apples. They are most likely cedar waxwings. Although erratic, being seen some winters and not others, or when seen, sometimes in large flocks of 50 or more, other times smaller flocks of a dozen or so. When we lived in Dalton, next to Main Street Cemetery, we would see flock or two nearly every few years during the winter months. They would first devour the dogwood fruits (in the cemetery) before venturing into our crab apple trees. Smaller than a robin and having a crest shaped like the cardinal's, they are handsome birds. I would like to think that the winter visitors are different birds than we see in summer months or during migration, as is the case with robins.


I should just give up and smile when someone says, "I like your bird column," and not attempt to explain that the column began as a Q and A about "nature in and around the home" in 1979, and intended to be driven by reader's questions. It remains to some extent that today, although a infrequent reader may think otherwise. And while this piece focuses on our avian neighbors, during, wintertime, as has often been the case in the past, it is not always limited to birds, as next week's submission about black squirrels should prove. And if you have seen a black squirrel lately, please email me the information of when and where by Monday the latest.

Email Thom Smith at or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.


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