A White-throated Sparrow brings dinner home to some little ones along the Nancy Pond Trail in Crawford Notch.
Photograph by Aiden Moser

Harriers in the White Mountains

By Aiden Moser, Young Birders Club Photo Editor

This week my mother and I traveled north to Crawford Notch for a camping trip with the NH Young Birders. The first part of the trip was a hike up the Nancy Pond Trail just north of the notch. The 7.1 mile hike traversed brooks and took us up past cascades. During the hike we heard the songs of several Swainson’s Thrushes, warblers, Winter Wrens, and many more. On the descent we ran across a flock of birds and discovered three fledgling Golden-crowned Kinglets sitting together midway up a tree, and two Boreal Chickadees being a lot more shy than their typically tame cousins. When the hike was over we were all tired but I did enjoy the hike and it was interesting exploring new terrain.

After spending the night at Lafayette Campground we went to Cannon Mountain to take the Tram to the top. Before boarding the tram we spotted a Black Bear with two cubs on one of the ski slopes, a Merlin soaring above us, and at least three Broad-winged Hawks putting on a show, soaring and screeching. Riding to the summit of the mountain without having to hike at all was a nice change of pace compared to the grueling day before and I had a good feeling that we were going to see some nice birds. After walking around the summit for a few hours we decided to leave early so we could bird at Trudeau Road in Bethlehem for a while. Some of our highlights at Cannon was Boreal Chickadees, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, a couple of Bicknell’s Thrushes, several species of warblers, and one or two White-winged Crossbills. I think we all had a great time at Cannon with nice birds and beautiful weather.

Boreal Chickadee, Cannon Mountain
Photograph by Aiden Moser

Our final stop of the day was Trudeau Road, located in Bethlehem, north of Crawford Notch. This is one of the best spots in the area to see Black-backed Woodpeckers, a northern species that inhabits cooler climates. We saw a pair feeding chicks last year at this location on a different Young Birders trip. During our hike we observed Nashville Warblers, Canada Warblers, Hermit Thrushes, Brown Creepers, and many Common Ravens making all sorts of strange calls. And finally after we had all said our goodbyes and as we drove back my last bird of the trip crossed the road in front of us: a Ruffed Grouse.


New Hampshire Audubon biologist Pam Hunt prepares the Harriers for an evening walk to listen for Whip-poor-wills under a nearly full moon. We saw one male feeding as dusk fell, and up to five of these nightjars were heard calling simultaneously, in and around Mast Yard State Forest in Penacook. Their chorus was joined by the eerie yodeling of coyotes, the swirling songs of Veeries, and our own shouts of excitement, picking handfuls of lowbush blueberries among the fireflies by moonlight!
Photographs by Cynthia Nichols

 


Meet Our Sponsoring and Partnering Organizations!

Since the fall of 2013, the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, based in Holderness, NH, has been giving their organizational backing to the Young Birders Club. The Science Center's sponsorship is invaluable: there would still be harriers to see, but no Harriers to see them! In addition, the larger New Hampshire community of birders and environmental educators continues to support the Club in numerous ways, both by leading field trips, advertising and hosting events, and spreading the word about all our activities.

The Harris Center for Conservation Education, based in Hancock, has been a terrific partner in this regard, as has New Hampshire Audubon, the state's largest and oldest conservation organization, now celebrating 100 years of history!

To all these organizations and individuals who have helped build and support the Young Birders Club, we thank you! If you are not yet acquainted with the good work they are doing around the state, visit their websites to learn more:

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

Harris Center for Conservation Education

New Hampshire Audubon

Stay tuned for our upcoming calendar of events!
The Winter 2015 schedule will be out soon...
 

Tom Young led the Harriers on their inaugural dragonfly expedition on August 24. Combing the pond edges and fields around Joe English hill, they had plenty of success catching, studying, and learning about these agile flyers.
Photographs by Kate Kallfelz


Join The Harriers!

Do you like the outdoors? Do you like exploring in woods, fields, tidal pools, swamps? Are you interested in seeking out the birds and wildlife that live there, and learning them by name? Do you think you might be half-bird yourself? Join The Harriers and connect with other kids who feel the same.

New Hampshire’s Young Birders Club will open up to you  some of the region’s most ecologically rich and diverse habitats. If you’d like to see new birds, learn to identify them by sight and by sound, and understand more about how they fit into the larger web of life around us, sign yourself up!

    The Harriers welcome all kids under the age of 18 who live in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, or Massachusetts. You don’t need to pass any test! If you’re interested in the natural world, we’d love to have you. Ask your parents if you can get involved, and have them contact the club's coordinators to find out more about us.

    Because the Young Birders Club (YBC) is run by kids, there are plenty of chances to play a leadership role within the organization. Your photographs and writing are needed for the website; your ideas for group excursions make our field trips happen. And by becoming a member, you will become one of your school’s “Lead Birders,” with the chance to be in charge of collecting and recording data about the bird-life on and around your campus. By comparing that information with that of other schools, we can get a more complete picture of what’s happening, year by year, to New Hampshire’s avian species. 

    Join the Harriers! 

    Membership in the Harriers lets you attend any and all of our field trips. Annual dues are $25, which help make our events possible. When you become a Harrier, you’ll also receive:

    • Your own copy of the brand-new Stokes Field Guide to Birds (Eastern Region) [$20 list price]
    • One "Rite-in-the-rain" notebook for your field notes and observations
    • A checklist of New Hampshire’s birds
    • A subscription to the YBC’s newsletter, The Harrier
    • A membership patch featuring the Harriers' logo
    • Best of all, you’ll be able to participate for free in any YBC event you like: look for nesting peregrine falcons in the White Mountains; watch young loons on New Hampshire ponds; hammer together nest-boxes for wood ducks; learn how to band migratory songbirds…the opportunities are endless! Check out our list of upcoming events to learn more.

     

    Aiden Moser, Harriers' Officer and photographer extraordinaire, traveled to Cape May, New Jersey in April, where he caught this American Oystercatcher in mid-sentence. Or was it mid-yawn?

    Leica Sponsors Essay Contest for Young Birders

    The optics company Leica, in partnership with BirdWatching Magazine, are holding an open essay contest for young birders and their mentors. The prize? A new pair of binoculars, and not just any pair...

    Read more about the contest and the prizes at the BirdWatching Magazine site.

    Have you been seeing massive piles of woodchips in your woods? The culprit may be our largest woodpecker, the Pileated. Harriers' member Paul Bourgault spotted this individual, posing beside its latest project. Photograph by Paul Bourgault

    Have you been seeing massive piles of woodchips in your woods? The culprit may be our largest woodpecker, the Pileated. Harriers' member Paul Bourgault spotted this individual, posing beside its latest project.
    Photograph by Paul Bourgault



    What’s a Harrier, anyway?

    Adult Male Northern Harrier
    Photograph by Len Medlock

    The Harriers include a number of species of birds of prey (Latin genus name, Circus). At least one type of harrier is native to each continent other than Antarctica. They are long-winged birds with acute senses of sight and hearing. They usually hunt their prey (which includes small rodents, reptiles, or birds) by flying very low over a patch of open ground, such as a marsh or stubble field, looking and listening for any movement beneath them. In New Hampshire, our native harrier is the Northern Harrier, which used to be called the Marsh Hawk. It is a species of  some concern, as populations appear to be declining in parts of the country, including New England. Adult males are very pale gray, with black wingtips, colors which give them the nickname “Gray ghosts.” Females are brown above and pale below. A young harrier’s plumage is like the adult female’s, only its belly is a luminous rusty-orange color, making it one of the few species in which the juvenile birds are more colorful than their parents. Birders will do well to take after this gorgeous animal!

    Adult Female Northern Harrier
    Photograph by Lillian Stokes