Wild bird food on Cape Cod

Many of us love to feed and watch the birds that come to our feeders. We dutifully fill feeders with sunflower seed, thistle seed and suet. Some also add safflower seeds and other goodies.

What many of us forget is that wild food is better for the birds and many of us actually have wild bird food right in our own yards. Goldfinches are especially fond of evening primrose seeds so I always leave some stalks in the yard for them.

024Goldfinches have pretty good camouflage for the fall and winter. Look how nicely they blend into the landscape against the seed stalks.

027 032Many gardeners and yard lords really, really want to clean up the yard and gardens until there is nothing for the birds at all. I understand not wanting to leave piles of leaves and weed seeds in certain areas but surely there is a place or two in your yard where you can leave some leaves on the ground for the birds to forage in and some weeds and wildflower stalks with seeds that the birds can feed on.

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You will make some little birds very happy and it will make you happy to watch them as well. Look how lovely these sweet goldfinches were today. I do offer thistle but they prefer the natural seed at this time of year and some days I have several dozen feeding on various seed stalks. Other birds like them, too.


Weekly Nature Watch is now online!

Weekly Nature Watch, the column I write for the Enterprise Newspapers on the upper Cape, began back in January 2012. I write two other columns now but this one will always have a soft spot in my heart.

Just this past week my column was added to the online version of the Enterprise at CapeNews.net which is very exciting and fun!

Last week I wrote about moving on in the fall and here is the link to the Weekly Nature Watch column.



Ah, bittersweet

At this time of year I see them everywhere, the gatherers of bittersweet. They love those colorful berries on the vine and they bring them home by the armful and the trunkful.


It’s so pretty, they say. They make bittersweet wreaths to hang on their fences and doors. They put it in fall arrangements indoors and out. They love it so much.


And then something funny happens. The bittersweet berries are full of seeds after all and the bittersweet begins to grow and grow and grow. It climbs up houses and strangles bushes and trees.


It grows and grows and grows

Until it alone stands in the landscape….

Of course bittersweet hasn’t taken over the landscape quite yet but think twice before you bring it home and let it wreak havoc in your yard.

When people say a plant is invasive bittersweet is one of the Poster plants!



After the storm

All weekend long it blew and blew. It rained, it poured and it drizzled. Roads flooded, yards flooded and trees blew down. Power went out. November asserted herself.

And then the next day, the sun shone….


We went for a drive down Cape and stopped at Fort Hill


And over to Coast Guard Beach and Nauset Light Beach where we saw seals and hundreds of gulls and gannets.





As the sun lowered itself closer to the horizon we went to First Encounter Beach where everything had a golden hue.





We saw a late rose and the moon rise over some trees



We saw hundreds and hundreds of ducks fly into the bay as the sun set


And bid the sun farewell


Celebrating Bats on Halloween!

I’m batty about bats and you should be too!

batty for you


Bats are often feared and misunderstood so I have this little quiz for you today. Feel free to cut and paste and print it. If you do the same with my images in this post please only use them for your own personal use. All written and visual work is protected by copyright.

Busting Bat Myths!
With Cape Cod Art and Nature

True or False?

1. ____ All bats eat insects.
2. ____Bats are mice with wings.
3. ____Bats live on every continent.
4. ____Bats love to eat moths.
5. ____Bats are 25% of all mammals.
6. ____All bats are small.
7. ____Bats have one baby a year.
8. ____Bats live in belfries.
9. ____Bats are mammals.
10. ____Bats want to scare you.
11. ____Vampire bats are real.
12. ____Bats like to nest in people’s hair.
13. ____Bats have thumbs and wrists.
14. ____All bats are nocturnal.
15. ____Bats are blind.
16. ____Bats hibernate.
17. ____Bats can drink water on the fly.
18. ____Bats use echolocation to find food and avoid collisions.

bat anatomy sheet

Happy Halloween!


An influx of purple finches on Cape Cod

If you feed the birds or have been out and about looking at birds on Cape Cod this weekend you may have seen a purple finch or two or three. Some people have even been seeing flights of hundreds! I myself have about 20 in my yard in Hyannis even as I write this.

My photos are a bit blurry because they are taken through a window with a screen but they will give you an idea.

This is the first female I saw. Purple finches used to be common here but have been more or less pushed out by house finches. These days, spotting a purple finch on your feeder can be very exciting. Except for when it’s not, like right now when everyone and their neighbor has a purple finch at the feeder…

008Purple finches and house finches look rather similar so check your bird book or Cornell’s All About Bird Page for Purple Finches to see the differences. The females are more heavily marked, especially on the head where you can see the dark cheeks and eye line.

The male is pretty rosy, with the pink going right down his chest and on his rump as well. also note the marked notch in the tail.

007Have you been seeing these at your feeders? Keep count and notes as there are people collecting information. Most of these birds seem to be migrating through. Will some stay for the winter like the red breasted nuthatches did a few years ago? Who knows? For now, anyway, they sure are fun to see!




I’m still here!

I know it’s been a while since I posted and some people have contacted me with some concern. I am fine! Just busy and these days I do a lot of my social media posting on Facebook. I will be back here in the next few days, however, so thanks for not giving up on me.


A morning in Beech Forest

If you’ve never been to Beech Forest, part of The Province Lands Park of the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown, you might want to add it to your list of places you must visit on the Cape.

Because it is one of the oldest original hardwood forests remaining on the Cape it is a mecca for wildlife but especially for migrating songbirds. May is an amazing time to visit Beech Forest and I try to get up there at least once or twice during the warbler migration.

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At this time of year the trees are just starting to leaf out and the forest floor is full of the small early blooming plants that always make my winter weary heart sing…

There are the sunny little star flowers….

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interspersed with the Canada mayflowers,  not to be confused with trailing arbutus, also called mayflower….unnamed (2)We even saw our very first Lady’s slippers of the season….

unnamed (5)High bush blueberries were in bloom….

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And the water lilies were just starting to emerge on the pond…

unnamed (7)The grasses and other pond plants against the bright water almost looked like impressionist paintings on the morning we were there…

unnamed (8)We ran into lots of friends along the way such as these geese…

unnamedand this little red squirrel…

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and of course, one of the very tame chickadees that abound there. Someone started feeding chickadees and titmice at Beech Forest years ago and they will follow you and land on your head looking for seed. This one chose my hand instead. I always consider it an honor when a bird wants to hang out that close to me…

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We took our time looking and listening and I did a fair amount of sketching while I walked as well. Later I sat under the trees at a picnic table there and finished off the sketches with watercolors.

unnamed (6)What a great way to spend a morning! I highly recommend it! And oh yeah, it was filled with birdsong and all sorts of warblers….but my phone camera was not up to the task of photographing them.