Going to the Birds in Connecticut

A squirrel dangle-dining outside my window.

For my birthday last month I received a gift certificate to The Audubon Shop in Madison, CT. The primary mission of my first visit was to find a squirrel-proof bird feeder.

Although we had a bird house in our yard where we lived in Illinois, we did not feed the birds. Our yard was postage-stamp-small and the squirrels already liked to torment our dog, Lola, so there was no way we were going to put out something like seed to tempt them to hang around even more.

One squirrel in particular would run back and forth along the top of the six foot fence we installed (our dog’s a jumper) or just sit one a nearby branch or garage and chatter at her. We  worried about Lola’s welfare as she ran full speed and flung herself at the fence to get at the cocky, urban squirrel. Lola’s head and shoulder cleared the fence…if she ever hooked her arm over the top, she’d have been able to scramble over and come closer to having squirrel for lunch.

But I digress.

Here in Connecticut we have a larger back yard and also a front yard that also lends itself to a bird feeder. My Mom’s BFF Marge bought us our first bird feeder as a housewarming gift. The squirrels here do not harass Lola (knock on wood). They seem to consider her a threat and run away like proper squirrels should when faced with an attacking mammal over ten times their size. However, squirrels being squirrels, they do go for the bird seed. So off to the Audubon Shop I went.

They carry several several squirrel-proof bird feeders at the shop and I purchased the one the owner recommended. Then I spent time browsing the hundreds, if not thousands, of bird-related utilitarian and decorative things. Included in the thousands of things is a fabulous selection of books on birds. They have books on birds from all over the world. The owner, from conversations I overheard, is an international birder and often jets off to exotic locations for the birds.

The book that I was most interested in finding was one that could help me identify all the new-to-me birds here in Connecticut. The large stack of Birds of Connecticut Field Guide drew my eye.

It’s a pocket sized book (4.5 x 6 x 0.5″) and seems like it will wear well. The paper is slick photo-quality stock that beautifully shows off the colors of birds. When you open the book the left-hand page is a full-color picture of the bird–usually of the male with a smaller photo of the female inset off to the side. The right-hand side is dedicated to details about the bird: size, characteristics of male, female, and juvenile, nests, eggs, incubation, fledgling, migration, food, and a ‘compare’ category that tells you what birds may be similar. At the bottom of the page is a note from the author that highlights some interesting fact about the bird.

Colored edges makes it easy to start looking for the bird you’re trying to ID.

The introduction has helpful information for the beginning birder about bird basics, nests, migration, and how to best use the guide. The bird categories are broken down into color categories and within each color category by size so that you can try as quickly as possible to locate the info on the bird you’re trying to identify.

So far I’ve identified the Dark-Eyed Junco, the Tufted Titmouse, and the House Finch. 

Stan Tekiela is the author of many books on birds, mammals, and nature. 
Visit his website naturesmart.com to check out the books on birds for your state. 

This small guide was obviously created with the user in mind and I cannot recommend it enough for the new birder.

Birds of Connecticut Field Guide
Stan Tekiela
Adventure Publications, Inc., 2000
Source: bought it, use it everyday.

Lola in her new yard. The green feeder behind her is the new squirrel-proof bird feeder. Notice we also now have a squirrel baffle on the little wooden feeder. Disclaimer: I love squirrels and think I may have been one in a past life.

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