The Bird Garden is located at 3203 route 114 in Edgett's Landing, New Brunswick. We manufacture unique bird feeders, houses, iron hangers and among other things make the best peanut butter suet ever.
We also have a stall at the Moncton Market, Westmorland Street, (but we're closest to the Robinson Street entrance), Moncton, New Brunswick, Saturdays from 7 am - 2 pm.

*****Since we can no longer compete with online discount sites like Amazon, we are no longer carrying commercial feeders. For now, we will be concentrating on our unique feeders and accessories, bear with us while we update our website. *****
Plug your current location in the google maps at the bottom of each page for driving directions to our two locations.

Looking Beyond the Backyard

If you’re an aspiring birdwatcher and want to see something other than the birds you’ve been attracting to the backyard, it’s soon going to be a great time to get out get your feet wet...figuratively and literally.  There are already a few puddle ducks around, and soon they will be everywhere, the prime hotspots are usually the first places to have open fresh water.  So check where there is moving water, at the head of a pond and in the “channel”, where the water will be moving faster.  On warm days any roadside ditch could be productive.  The best place to look on cold days, when most of the fresh water will be frozen, is right at the end of the pipe at your local sewage lagoon (and yes, when I say “fresh water”, I mean not salt.)  
Soon our resident hoards of Mallards will be joined by a much more diverse crowd, so if you see a green head in the ditch, don’t automatically assume it’s a that of the Mallard.  I’ve seen the beautiful Northern Shoveler in the ditch and the little wetland area at the corner of Vaughn Harvey and Assumption, pretty cool sighting in the city.  
I got my feet wet at the Gray Brook Marsh in Hillsborough, even though I’d been seeing ducks my whole life, I never really stopped to look at them.  Once I did, there was no turning back, I was hooked.  If you’ve never really looked at ducks you’re missing out.  I can’t think of many things in New Brunswick more beautiful than the Wood Duck, but many of the others rank high on the list.  
The same as the sparrows mentioned last week, this time of year is easier to differentiate the species.  The males are in there finest feathers, the females are a little tougher to identify, but it’ll only get harder as the season progresses, feathers wear and molt and those pesky immatures are hanging around to confuse us.  The other nice thing… the females are usually hanging around with males of their species, so at least you have a clue where to look in the field guide.  Also, if you get birding before all the ice is out, the ducks will be easier to find, when the ice is gone, the ducks will be able to hide better in the longer grass around the edges.  Then they will be nesting and more likely to be disturbed by nosey birders, not that it’s OK to disturb them early in the spring, one should always try to observe from a respectable distance.  If the ducks flush, you got too close.  I like the largest pond in the Gray Brook Marsh because it opens down the middle first, it’s a good distance from the road for observing with binoculars, (no scope required) and you shouldn’t have to disturb any birds.  On cold or rainy days you can see most of the open water from the shelter of your vehicle.  
New Brunswick is a great place to be for waterfowl migration, one of the first to show up will be the Ring-necked Duck, then others will be joining, maybe the merganser trio, Common, Red-breasted and Hooded, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Black Duck, Wood Duck, Northern Shoveler, Pie-billed Grebe and the Greater and Lesser Scaup.  A little later and the teals will make an appearance, Blue-winged and Green-winged.  Not to mention the more rare species that may turn up, somewhere there’ll be a Redhead Duck, maybe Eurasian Wigeon or Teal, maybe a Gadwall (although maybe not all that rare, I’ve never seen one, so I’ll list it here).  
Don’t forget to check the long grass, when the snow melts, you’ll maybe see Sora, (you’ll no doubt hear this secretive little bird first, they’re hard to spot), you might see other rails as well, American Bittern, Great Blue Heron and maybe some of the more rare herons, Little Blue, Tricolored, Least Bittern, the Night-Herons, who knows, but if you see any of these last mentioned “more rare” herons on your first trip out, I don’t want to hear about it.  Everyone has a few birds they can’t seem to get lucky with, these are mine.  When I was younger and more foolish, I spent hours at Waterside Marsh when one of these were reported.  
If you venture toward the brackish marsh and salt water you’ll find a whole other world of ducks.  The Bay of Fundy is a major migratory route for sea ducks, and since it narrows nicely, the ducks get funneled in as they fly up the bay and into the rivers, making it easy to spot them from shore.  You could see thousands of ducks flying over Moncton/Dieppe as they cross overland, to the Northumberland Strait.  (I’m the guy holding up traffic in the left turn lane at Champlain Place, counting ducks while you lean on your horn).
Most of the sea ducks you’ll see will be Common Eider, and the Scoters, (pronounced with a long “O”), Black, Surf and White-winged.  They are usually flying, but you may see some riding the incoming tide or rafting in a sheltered area in the bay.  You may even step outside on a calm night and hear the wing whistle of migrating scoters.  One of my favorites is the Long-tailed Duck, they’re around in the winter but you’ll see them migrating as well.  There are some rarities that’ll show up in this crowd too, a King Eider, Tufted or Harlequin Duck would definitely raise my heart rate and make my day. 
Although there are some challenges when it comes to identifying ducks, most of them have big, obvious field marks that jump out at you.  You’ll still need a field guide or very good memory, but differentiating them (especially the males) is doable.  Mother Nature has messed with our minds a little, some ducks are hybridizing with other species, so keep that in mind.  If you see something that looks like someone photoshopped two species into one, that’s quite possible what it is.  The Mallard x Black Duck is the common one, and often shows up as an identification challenge, the males usually show some green on the head, but the females can be difficult.  A female Mallard can be hard to differentiate from a Black Duck, a quick gaunt around the internet and you’ll see many such errors.  One good field mark is the white tail feathers on the Mallard, the problem is if they’ve been dragging their butts up the banks of the Petitcodiac the tail’s no longer white, making them look even more like a Black Duck.  A special challenge for area birders.  

Red-breasted Nuthatch in New Brunswick

The first bird to eat out of my hand was a Red-breasted Nuthatch, I was trying to convince some Chickadees to come to my handful of sunflower, I took the feeder down and held my hand out in the same location.  The Chickadees were having nothing to do with that, they did however continue using the feeder that I was holding between my legs.  I was watching this when I felt the faintest weight change on my palm, when I glanced back at my hand, there was a Nuthatch staring me right in the eye.  He chirped a little thank you and darted back into the tree.  Him and a couple of his Nuthatch buddies came to my hand regularly from that day on, for some reason the Chickadees wouldn't join in.  When one finally came to my hand, it was only a matter of minutes before a dozen were alternating turns with the Nuthatch.  By the middle of that winter the two species were following me all over, even jumping into the seed bucket when I walked around filling feeders.  
It's been a few years since I've had time to slow down and let these little guys train me to always carry a pocket full of sunflower seeds.  I do have to work on it though, there's no better therapy than holding a tiny bird in your if I can just get my son to sit still long enough. 
I saw a neat tip for hand feeding wild birds, a lady stuffed a pair of coveralls, made a fake head with one of those realistic rubber masks, (I think it was Clinton) and a fake hand.  It was all placed on a lawn chair and the "hand" and lap were filled with sunflower seeds.  The birds soon got accustom to the face and would land for the seeds.  Any time the creator wanted to experience hand feeding she just sat in Bill's lap with a handful of seeds.  Clinton of course, denied the whole arrangement.
I've seen pictures of Blue and Gray Jays coming to feed in people's hands, I'm sure that takes a lot of time and patience and I've seen hummingbirds coming to hand held nectar feeders and recently a video of them coming to a bit of nectar held in a cupped palm (really cool, it's on YouTube).
The Red-breasted Nuthatch still holds a special place, being my first, we still have a few dashing to and from the sunflower feeders or hanging, usually up-side-down from the suet feeder.  Like the Chickadee they grab a seed and take it to a nearby branch to open, unlike the Chickadee who holds the seed between its feet to beat them open, the Nuthatch finds a suitable piece of raised bark or crevice to hold the seed while it hammers it open.  (Somewhere on the evolutionary chain, the Nuthatch must have hit its thumb one too many times.)  If the seed pops out the bird wastes no time zooming to the ground to retrieve it, honoring the 5 second rule.  Once my old Golden was sleeping under a tree, a Nuthatch dropped a seed on her back, it rummaged through her hair, teased the seed out and was back in the tree before she woke up (although I'm pretty sure it was our laughing that woke her). 
    The Red-breasted is our most common nuthatch, we're often privileged to spot the odd White-breasted in our yard, although not even once a year on average.  When they do stop by our yard they usually stay for a few weeks, it gives us a chance to get familiar with their similar but different calls.  Their behavior is pretty much the same as their cousin, but they are larger, the breast is all white and they have a big white cheek that appears even larger because they don't have the black eye-line breaking it up, like the Red-breasted.  
The last time we had one, I called my son to sneak over for a look, when he saw it he said, "yeah, must have followed us from Grandpa's..." and walked away unimpressed, he'd just returned from Ontario, where White-breasted are the common Nuthatch. 
There are other nuthatch species, but none of them come to New Brunswick, yet anyway.  We have a couple other birds you might subconsciously think are Red-breasted Nuthatch, only because of their size and the way they forage around the tree bark.  By taking a closer look you might find new bird for one or two of your various lists.   
Last spring my son called me to the window to see a bird he thought might be a Nuthatch by the way he was scooting around the tree, but it was all "stripy", when we relocated the bird we found a Black-and-white Warbler.  They are among the first warblers to return each spring, because it forages for food in tree bark it can migrate earlier, before there are many flying insects that most warblers dine on.  
From a distance, at a quick glance, the Brown Creeper resembles a Nuthatch, watch it for a bit though and you see a difference in the way it moves, more mouse-like and it goes up the tree head-first.  Not the way the Nuthatch comes down the tree, head-first, giving it a local nickname, that when I first moved here thought was an Albert County thing, but now I hear it in most of South Eastern New Brunswick.  The first time I heard it was from my 80-something neighbour who told me she had one in her yard yesterday.  ("I had an ___-__ in my yard yesterday!")  All that summer I avoided pointing my binoculars in that direction.  Raise your hand if you know what I'm talking about.  

Identifying the Little Brown Birds that will be coming along any day..

We’re only a couple weeks away from another major migration, unlike the hawks that I mentioned last week, this one won’t be specks in the sky, it’ll happen right on the ground.  Well, not the migration, it’s not like they walk north, but you’ll see them on the ground and with very little preparation, you’ll be able to see a lot out of your own window. 
I’m talking about sparrows, we have a few around now, the American Tree Sparrow is one that we really only see in winter and they are in good numbers.  There could be the odd representative of almost any sparrow over winter, Song and White-throated Sparrows aren’t uncommon in winter and the odd rarity will show up and decide it’s easier to stick it out here than try to make the long, dangerous journey south.  
Soon though, we will have thousands of sparrows passing through and if you don’t have them on your various lists, it’s a good time to brush up on field marks and get ready with a little feed.  So many people simply pass over sparrows when birding, lumping them into one category, LBB’s (little brown birds) or LBJ’s (little brown jobs).  I remember hearing the latter for the first time, a birder from the US, I thought he was saying this beautiful Savannah Sparrow reminded him of their former president.  I just let it go.  
If you don’t take a closer look you’re really missing out, and now is the time to see them at their best and brightest.  They’ll be wearing there finest plumage and the differences will be standing out (and outstanding), later in the summer and fall they’ll have worn feathers, be molting and those pesky immatures will be hanging around in their drab feathers.  Spring is the time, once you are comfortable with identifying adult males move on to adult females, then after a few years and many hours studying you might get proficient with the fall sparrows.  If you say you just can’t tell the difference between a spring Savannah, Song and a White-throated male, then you aren’t really trying. 
Start by narrowing the groups, does it have a streaked breast?  Yes, then it’s a Savannah or Song.  That was easy... does it show yellow through the streaks on the head?  Then it’s a Savannah.  You say, the White-throated also shows some yellow, but the White-throated has a clear breast, it’s an elimination game, you just need a few broad clues to greatly narrow the choices.  
The other broad group is the rusty capped sparrows, Chipping, Tree, Field or Swamp would be the first choices.  Dot on the breast...Tree.  Black line through the eye, white line over… Chipping.  Pink bill, white eye ring… Field.  White throat, no wing bars... Swamp.  I know that’s simplifying it, but it’s a great place to start.  There’s always going to be some that will leave you scratching your head, but if you don’t dive in you’ll never get it.
For beginners I’d recommend an “Eastern” guide, even checking facts for this column I had to ditch the “big” Sibley’s guide, there are so many species included, it’s hard to keep them straight.  I still go to Peterson (but Sibley’s Eastern is great too) for our common sparrows, I’m familiar with the layout and without Peterson, I’d still be glancing over the LBB’s and really missing out.  Soon I’ll get with the times and have all the guides on an iPod or iPad so I can have all the experts in my back pocket.  It’s about time, all my (very) much older birding friends have one, and I can always get my 6 year old to teach me how to find things.  
Now that you’re ready with guide in hand, you’re really going to need a pair of binoculars, they don’t have to be great or even good for that matter, but if the bird is much more than 20 feet away you won’t be able to see the subtleties.  Find that old pair you inherited from WW1, dust them off, polish the up, and put them on the window sill.  
To make things easier and to increase your chances of attracting many of our sparrow species, pick up some white millet.  It can be fed on a raised platform, (fancy name for a board nailed to the top of a post) or just spread on the ground.  Put it within viewing distance of the window you spend the most time.  All winter I throw it on the snow, in evergreen trees and in the middle of a very dense honeysuckle bush.  Some gets eaten by our winter sparrows, juncos and Mourning Doves, but I know a lot of it get covered by snow.  No big deal, it’s very waterproof, compared to some things like cracked corn, and as the snow melts and the sparrows arrive, it’ll be exposed and eaten.  If you do feed cracked corn, put it in an area separate from your sparrow setup, it’ll be attracting all kinds of black birds and jays, not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just they will be needlessly chasing the sparrows away from the millet. 
Once you attract the sparrows and have some identified, watch them, you can learn a lot more by observing their behavior, seeing them from all sides and how they compare to the other sparrows in the bunch than you ever will from a photograph.  
There might be some other interesting birds show up to ground fed millet.  Here’s a short checklist of what you might expect, in loose order from “likely” to “probably not” then “unfortunately”:
Clicking the bird name links to a picture on Birding New Brunswick.

  • Song Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • American Tree Sparrow
  • Field Sparrow
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Lincoln's Sparrow
  • Lark Sparrow
  • Snow Bunting
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Mourning Dove
  • Rock Pigeon
  • House Sparrow
  • Dickcissel
  • Bobolink (F)

Decreasing Black Ducks, Increasing Mallards

Last week I mentioned birding around my old home town on Christmas Day, it reminded me of the changes that I've noticed since I was a kid. I used to do some hunting and my father and brother were fanatical, I don't recall seeing many mallards back then, now we're finding Mallards anywhere there's still open water. If PEI is anything like the Greater Moncton area, when the water freezes they move into parks and bird feeder yards.
The Mallard is well known for hybridizing or crossbreeding with other species of ducks, perhaps the most common cross is the Mallard x Black Duck. The males of the cross are rather easy to spot, they usually look like a Black Duck with variable amounts of green feathers on the head, especially if you're looking at a backcross (offspring of a hybrid mating back to purebred) and they often have the Mallard's curled tail feathers. The females tend to be more tricky to identify but when found with female Mallards, she will be darker, or the speculum (the bright patch of metallic feathers on the wing) will have white but not as much white as the rest of the Mallards.
When the Mallard chooses the Northern Pintail the male offspring are spectacular, it reminds me of a science fiction movie about gene splicing, the first time I saw this photo by Denis Doucet I thought it was photoshopped. It has the shape of a Pintail but the head's green, there's a ring around the neck and the long "pin tail" is curled a bit like a Mallard's.
Mallards will cross breed with the much smaller Green-winged Teal, the result being confusing at first but once you start thinking hybrid it's easy enough to pick out the characteristics of both parents.
In 1822 JJ Audubon shot a duck he'd never seen before, after careful observations he decided it was a new species and named it the Brewer's Duck, after an ornithologist friend of his, Thomas Brewer. He proceeded to prop it up in a typical Audubon pose and paint it for the record. He describes this "species" in depth (easily found online), but mentions that it may be, and he hit the nail on the head, "a hybrid between that bird [Mallard] and some other species, perhaps the Gadwall, to which also it bears a great resemblance."
So what's the harm in the Mallard spreading their genes far and wide, other than confusing and perhaps embarrassing the most accomplished birder (I'd never be embarrassed, some of these are way over my head). The problem is, and it's more a function of captive-raised Mallards being released into the Black Ducks breeding range and taking over. The Black Duck's populations decreased greatly in the middle of the last century, I hadn't known this until I was looking at an Ontario hunting license and noticed the daily bag limit for Blacks was 1 when Wood Ducks were 3 (they're 2 now), I'd been away from hunting and not yet into birding and didn't know the Black Duck was in decline.
Decreasing daily limits was one of the solutions implemented in 1983 and in 1989 the Canada and the United States started the Black Duck Joint Venture. The BDJV monitors populations, researches and educates groups to conserve habitat and manage Black Ducks and other species that share its range. The Black Duck population is increasing but remains below the desired level.
A quick check of the Christmas Bird Count historical data found on the site shows more of what I've been noticing locally. (If you can find and figure this site's loaded with great information.) In the 1984-85 count there were 434 American Black Ducks and 185 Mallard in the Moncton count; in 1991-92 it was 109 to 52, then it skips to 2002-03 where it flips to 1016 Mallard to 46 Black and last year, (this year hasn't been compiled yet) it was 1551 Mallard to 36 Black Ducks.
It doesn't, by itself, spell doom for the Black Duck, it may be the Mallards are heading to urban areas for hand outs. The rural NB counts that I could get into don't show such a change in populations.