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.

Questions from the past week


The subject of this weeks most frequent question is Robins.  I've been getting several calls and emails a day asking if they could be seeing Robins at this time of year or to  report a sighting.  While it's common to see a few linger every winter in Southern New Brunswick there seems to be more than usual.  I've also had calls from farther north and there's been several reports from folks who've been birding the area for years and not seen Robins at this time of year. 
I doubt it means anything other than a fairly easy winter and lots of fruit left on trees and shrubs from our wet summer.  We could still get some expected winter weather so I wouldn't pull the boats and motorcycles out of storage just yet.  
Another question I received this week was about the lack of an expected feeder bird, the Evening Grosbeak.  If I was to go by my own experience I'd have to agree the numbers are down, when I first moved here Grosbeaks were one of the most common feeder birds in our yard.  They gobbled up a disproportionate amount of my seed budget as well, they've been observed eating 96 sunflower seeds in 5 minutes, that's selecting the best seed, cracking the shell, dropping each half and swallowing the kernel every 3 seconds.  It would be an understatement to say their bills were well adapted to eating seeds.  
Although I don't get the large flocks coming to feeders like in the past there seems to be lots around, other folks are still getting them regularly and in North America, populations are high and their conservation status is listed as "Least Concern".  They do eat a lot of insects, fruit and wild seeds, the flocks we had this fall didn't come to feeders, they were quite happy foraging in the maple trees.  Keep an eye out though, as winter progresses we'll likely have more at feeders.  
There're even more Bald Eagles around this winter, I received a picture today with 9 in one tree, at least 4 different stages of their plumage represented.  The attraction...truck loads of fish arriving at the Cardwell Farms composting facility in Penobsquis.  I often notice a few eagles from the highway on route to Sussex, I've always been rushing to get somewhere and it's a dangerous place to stop, the facility is actually accessed on route 114 (not the same 114 that takes you from Moncton to Alma, we have two, my luck when my wife calls the ambulance to come for me, it'll go the the wrong route 114). 
Over the years the eagle numbers seem to be growing, a group of birders this January counted 90 and figured there were even more.  Some pictures on Birding New Brunswick (birdingnewbrunswick.ca) show the large pieces of waste fish that were being eaten in the top of trees.  If this keeps up we'll rival the Annapolis Valley's Eagle Festival.  
The best Eagle watching is on days the fish arrives, you may rely on luck or you may want to give Cardwell Farms a call if you have a long drive. 
There are always a few to be seen around our second most popular Eagle attraction, the Westmoreland Albert Solid Waste Corporation, which isn't all that far from the fish feast.  I wonder if the fish truck drives down Berry Mills Road and the Eagles follow it out to the farm...it would be interesting to see how long it takes for 100 Eagles to arrive, from how far away they come and what exactly alerts them to the arrival of the chow.  
At the end of last year I wrote about the best birds of the year and asked for you to let me know if I missed any and I'd include them in a follow up column, I was reminded of the Sandhill Cranes spotted last fall on the Tantramar Marsh.  One or two of these guys show up every now and then in New Brunswick, sometimes when they find a field or lawn they like they stay put for quite a while, allowing lots of us who don't travel much, a first time look.  
Not to be confused with the Great Blue Heron which isoften referred to as a crane, this is a true crane.  The main difference would be noticed in flight, while the heron flies with its neck folded back on itself, the crane flies with the neck fully extended.  A closer look shows a difference in standing and resting posture, (a Sandhill Crane looks like it's wearing a bustle.)  If you can get close looks at the bill, the crane's is long but made more for probing, not the dagger-like weapon the heron sports for catching fish.  
I was also reminded of the invasion of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, I hadn't forgotten this species, I left it out because I had just written about them and mentioned them in two other columns, but they should have been included in the best birds of the year, along with the good numbers of Red-headed Woodpeckers that moved up at the same time.  I still have a male Red-bellied but no luck attracting a Red-headed to the yard.  If you see any different woodpeckers, let me know.

Contributing to Nature, Helping Ourselves

As bird lovers, there are easy things we can do to lend a hand to our feathered friends, of course the bird feeder is the place most of us start.  Feeders help more birds survive winter and in summer, have larger, healthier broods, but that's just the beginning.  For some, protecting birds and their habitat has become a life long campaign that benefits all wildlife, including us.  I don't just mean by having cleaner water and air, although that is a nice by product, I'm thinking of the economic spinoff from ecotoursim, I wonder how many rooms would get booked in the Inns and B and Bs on Mary's Point Road if not for the Sandpipers and just how big of a boost was the Eco-Centre at La dune de Bouctouche is to the local economy.  
So when you're out birding remember to tell as many people as possible why you're in their community spending money, you don't need to carry a soap box, just carry your binoculars...everywhere you go, like a badge of honor.  I'm guilty of slipping my binoculars off when I go into a store or restaurant, now I try to remember to leave them around my neck, they're safer there anyway.  How many binoculars have been stolen off the seat of a car, only left unattended for a minute while you pay for your gas and visit the little birder's room.   They're also less likely to be broken if you wear them, this happens a lot, you'd be surprised....you take your binoculars off to go into a business, then you drive down the road a bit and see an interesting bird, use your binoculars and set them on your lap.  The next time you get out of the car, you forget that you took the strap from around your neck and your new, expensive binoculars are smashed on the pavement.  Binoculars are synonymous with birdwatching, so leave them on and advertise your hobby.  
Some birders and clubs have cards printed that say something like, "I'm a birdwatcher who came to your area because of it's natural resources.  Protect the area, and the birds who live here and I'll be back."  This can be left on the counter of service stations, convenience stores or table of a restaurant (unless you're a cheap tipper, then it may do more harm than good.)
Other ways to help may be as simple as a polite phone call to the manager of a tall office building to tell them the importance of turning the lights off at night, especially during migration.  Maybe they weren't aware of the birds that are killed when they're attracted to the lights.  (I've actually picked up dead warblers in Moncton.)
Educating friends, family and neighbours on the importance of keeping cats indoors helps birds tremendously, (cats too).  If you don't want to wade into that debate, at the very least lead by example, I once tried to convince someone that outdoor cats are one of the leading causes of population declines for many birds.  Their reply..."our neighbour is the president of the nature club and his cats go outdoors!"  Touché.
Did you know your choices in hot beverages can impact bird populations?  I don't mean you should donate a percentage of your "roll up the rim" winnings to habitat protection, I'm referring to "Bird Friendly" coffee.  This is a certification that first the coffee is grown organically and also the plantation has to have a minimum shade coverage, it's sometimes referred to as Shade Grown, a lot of coffee plantations clear the forest so they can plant more coffee per acre, taking away habitat and increasing erosion and pesticide run-off.  Not to say that all coffee that doesn't have this certificate is grown in a way that has harmed birds or habitat.  Certification is an expense that some of the smaller growers can't afford, it's also likely they can't afford pesticides and fertilizers needed to grow coffee in an unsustainable way, some coffee is grown right in the forest and is hand picked, although this way of growing is best for birds, it's impossible to get certification.  Ask your favourite coffee shop/roaster how their beans were grown.  
There are other fun ways to contribute, simply getting out birdwatching and reporting your finds to various sites, participating in any of the "Citizen Science" programs like The Great Backyard Bird Count, Project Feeder Watch, Christmas Bird Counts and more, show trends in bird populations at various times over the year.  A couple weeks ago I mentioned noticing an increase in Mallards and decrease in Black Ducks in both PEI and Moncton when we did our little Christmas morning bird outing.  After reading more about the Christmas Bird Count on the Audubon website I learned it was because of the annual count this trend was discovered and measures were put into place to correct the decline.  
It would simply be impossible to conduct such a wide spread survey in such a short time without volunteer help.  I also mentioned not being able to access some of the rural bird counts.  I looked into it and it's because there's a $5 fee per counter to submit count data, half of the fee goes to Bird Studies Canada and half to The Audubon Society, this helps cover the cost of analyzing, publishing and maintaining a the website with the data for everyone to access.  
I think if you're going to do a count, pay the gas and spend a day in the cold, you'd want your data to be used as widely as possible.  Also, there's the personal satisfaction of looking back years from now, perhaps with my grandchildren and saying, "Your father and I found this bird, it was the first time ever on a Christmas Bird Count."  A small price to pay for future bragging rights, if it ever happens.  
If there are ways you help birds or their habitat, send them to me and I'll pass them on in a future column.  

Owls of New Brunswick


I was reading a book about owls to my son last night, he kept asking, "Do we get that owl?"  I'd look at the picture and say yes or no but when I'd read the page on each owl I found out we only got one of the owls that were written up in the book.  Many of them looked like our owls but were different species from other continents.  
He said I should write a column on owls and I replied that I didn't really know enough about owls to write a whole column.  By the time we finished he had me convinced to write a column on New Brunswick's owls.  
The first owl in the book was the Barn Owl, he didn't ask me if we got it or not because he was sure we did.  It took a minute to realize he was doing what many people do, he confused the Barn Owl with the Barred Owl, which is his all time favourite owl.  
When he was very young, before he could walk, we had him parked on a blanket on the floor and I was keeping him entertained with my excellent renditions of owl calls. (I know 4, actually 5 if you count two that sound the same but different cadence).  I was doing the Barred's who-cooks-for-you , who-cooks-for-you-all, when I sneezed at the end.  It came out as who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-aaaaaachooooo, he went wild and when he settled down he was asking for more, I hooted until my lips hurt and for the next few years I'd use it to get him out of a bad mood and to entertain him on long drives.  
Reading the kids book he asked me what sound the Barn Owl makes and I said I can't do that one, it's a kind of screech I think.  He said no, no you know how and did the Barred Owl sneezing.  That's when I clued in to the common confusion.  After we got that straighten out, I said, "Is that why you hang around the Barn Owl cage at the zoo so much?"  
He said, "Yeah, I was waiting for one to sneeze."
I vaguely remember one Barn Owl being reported in the wild since I moved here, it was over a dozen years ago and it was either found dead or died shortly after.  
The Barred Owl (lots of emphasis on the "d") is fairly common, as far as owls go.  We hear them quite a bit, I got in trouble one night for waking my son up to hear one.  My wife got up to see what was going on and we were sitting in his bedroom with our heads out the window, in February.  He went right back to sleep and in the morning thought he'd had a dream.  No harm, not even a sniffle, thankfully since my wife watched very carefully, so she could say, "Told you so."
There are 12 owls on the New Brunswick bird list, 8 or 9 could be expected in any given year.  The Barn, Screech and Burrowing Owls are rare, I didn't even know we ever hosted a Burrowing Owl, too bad I lost my copy of New Brunswick Birds, An Annotated Checklist, maybe somebody'll send me the details.  
I know some of you will say, "I hear Screech Owls all the time."  But, you have to remember that all owls that screech aren't Screech Owls, the same as all owls that hoot aren't "hoot owls".  The Great Horned both hoots and screeches.  The Long-eared hoots and makes a noise that could be called a screech, if that's how you'd describe a cat with it's tail caught in a fan belt.  Google it and imaging being alone at night, deep in the woods and hearing that directly overhead.  (I just played it from BirdTunes and the Guinea Pig is still flipping out.)
I went my whole life, and the last 20 odd years searching without luck, for an owl pellet, last winter my son was literally finding them everywhere.  An owl pellet is a small oblong package containing the bones and fur of the owls meal, the ones he was finding looked very much like a single piece of poop about 2.5 inches long.  The first was in the driveway on the way to the car, silly me, I look in the woods.  He said he thought it was a pellet, I glanced and agreed but said I doubted there'd be one in the middle of the driveway.  When I stepped back and looked up, it was directly under the power line coming into the house, which was also directly over the ground feeder, full of rodent attracting cracked corn.  I went back to take a closer look, he'd already teased out a skull and several bones.  Chalk another one up for the 6 year old.  
Then he just started showing off, he was finding them everywhere, I don't know if it's because he's so interested in scat (fancy naturalist term for poop) or because he's so close to the ground.  We'd be walking down a trail, he'd fan out his arms and legs like a crime scene technician that found an important piece of evidence in a crowded room, and yell, "OWL PELLET".  So, now we have a bag of owl pellets in the freezer that I'd just as soon not know the origin, (the skulls are large and they're rodent) and I have a whole new appreciation for owls, as I've not seen any of these large rodents around myself.  
Most of my owl knowledge and everything worth writing about comes from hanging around with my kid.  I'm sure I can say that about a lot of things.   

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.