Tag Archives: Letters from Readers

Songbirds in Winter ~ Sharing Recent Letters from Readers

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)American Robin

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –


And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet, never, in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of Me         –  Emily Dickinson

Dear Gardening Friends,  Please forgive when I am slow to answer your kind and thoughtful letters. I am struggling with an elbow injury and have had to limit my writing and photography somewhat (with extreme reluctance!!!). I love to hear about your bird and butterfly encounters, so please, keep your letters coming–just know that I am slow! Warmest wishes, Kim

From Jeannette in Marblehead – Kim Happy New Year, So enjoy your emails.  Walter and I were in Gloucester in November and drove by your home to try to peak at your garden but of course, it was the end of November and the gardens were sleeping.   It looked enchanting with the little sparkling lights. A quick questions where does one find the Nyjer feeder and seeds.  We have been so unsuccessful, all our bird feeders in the past have become squirrel feeders. I  hope to come and see your gardens this Spring/Summer.

Dear Jeannette, We purchase Nyjer and safflower seeds from our local Essex Bird Shop and Pet Supply and I imagine most Mom and Pop type bird and pet supply shops stock both varieties of seeds as well as the Nyjer seed feeder. I like looking at the Duncraft website–they have quite a selection of Nyjer seed feeders. We have the very basic single tube feeders, but I lust after their three tube copper feeder. I wonder if they photoshopped all those finches!

From Judy in Gloucester –Thanks for the wonderful information, Kim.  I have what I think is a sparrow that spends each evening tucked into the corner of the little porch over my side door facing your house. S/he is there reliably every late afternoon as soon as it is dark and leaves in the early morning.  It was the same routine last year.  I’m wondering if it’s the same bird every evening and perhaps even the same bird last year and this.

Dear Judy, I can’t say for sure without seeing a photo or the actual bird, however, House Finches and European House Sparrows are well known for their habit of nesting in the eaves. We have had several pairs of House Finches build their nests on top of the porch pillars that are tucked under the porch roof, as well as House Sparrows sleeping overnight in the same areas, just as you describe yours. I would think it is the same bird every evening and possibly from year to year. House Sparrows are year round residents on Cape Ann (and nearly everywhere else).

From Joan in Gloucester –Dear Kim, As always, I enjoy your email messages. We use Nyger seed for one feeder, as well as sunflower seed for another and sunflower hearts for the third. We happily feed whoever comes to eat‹birds (our preference), but the cleverness and ingenuity of squirrels as well as their acrobatic antics have brought us much laughter over the years. For a while we tried many different types of feeders guaranteed to defeat squirrels, but found that the squirrels almost always could find their way to defeat the feeder designers.

It turns out that we also feed a lot of pigeons, starlings and other (I consider) less than appealing species of birds, but in the end, we are feeding hungry creatures who are our neighbors (including a brown rat who lives in the marsh next to our yard).

I love watching the various eaters and how they perch on nearby trees or shrubs waiting their turn, having little spats, diving in to disrupt each other, chasing each other away and reflecting the behavior of the humans who occupy our world in many of the same ways.

Thanks for your always wonderful photographs and the information that is so interesting.

Gratefully, Joan

From Diane in Ipswich –Hi Kim,I so enjoy your e-mails!  Today one of our “mystery birds” was identified in your e-mail!  We have had Eastern Towhees in our yard the past couple of weeks.  I could not find them in my Audubon book.  I saw Eastern Towhee mentioned in the e-mail and googled it to see what that was and voila!  There was our mystery bird!

We have also had many Pine Siskins lately.  I did not know what they were called either!

I too delight in watching the birds. I have two sets of feeders and keep them well stocked with Nyger, woodpecker food, black oil sunflowers and suet.  I also throw millet, sunflower and sometimes, as a treat, peanuts in the shell for the ground birds – and squirrels.  Since I have been doing that the squirrels leave the feeders alone.  Although watching their acrobatics on the feeders is very entertaining!

The birds I know the names of that are here in my Argilla Rd. Ipswich yard are chickadees, siskins, red & yellow finches, various sparrow like birds, a wren or two, towhees, titmouses, lots of juncos, two kinds of woodpeckers, mourning doves, blue jays and 3 or 4 pairs of cardinals.  Sometimes the chickadees will eat out of my hand.  What a feeling! Have a lovely day!

Dianne Fischbach

Ipswich Garden Club

CBR, CRS, GRI, Green

Broker / Owner

Coast & Country Real Estate

From the Byers in Gloucester – Thanks for your very interesting email on Pine Siskins! I have never been able to identify any on the feeders previously, but thanks to your excellent photo (which I printed & stuck in my bird book) I may now have a chance. We have all the rest of the gang, goldfinches, chickadees, 2 var of nuthatches, titmice, purple (or maybe house) finches, juncos (ours seem to be much darker than your photo shows) & of course, zillions of sparrows. So maybe we can now separate out those pine siskins. Thanks again!

A quick note on the subject of butterflies: if you haven’t seen it yet, you should, & I would say ASAP.  The Library has, in their 1st display case on right as you go in the front, a fantastic display of tropical butterflies! The story Tom & I got from a couple of the librarians is that these display trays they have were seized by customs authorities for some malfeasance; & that customs has the option, instead of destroying the stuff, to “lend” it to educational, nonprofit, etc. institutions. I would suspect they will not be on display for long, & probably the fluorescent overhead lights would in any case be detrimental to the magnificent colors.

Best wishes & here’s to an EARLY spring! Ann (& Tom) Byers Western Ave., Gloucester

From Sally on the South Shore – Hi Kim — I just heard yesterday for squirrrel proof feeders, you hang a SLINKY at the top!   Remember them?   I guess a toy store would be the place to look.   I am going to get 2 and can’t wait to see if it works.   Love your column.   Sally Goodrich

Hi Sally, let me know if slinkies do the trick!