These five young birders had a long tramp to reach the beautiful Cherry Pond at Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge, but it was worth it! The Harriers celebrated International Migratory Bird Day by traveling to this jewel of New Hampshire's North Country, where they spotted 81 species on the day. A partial list of their sightings can be seen here.
Photograph by Henry Walters
By Brynlee Kimball
The morning of Sunday, December 6, 2015, began at 7:02 when the sun came up. However, we are not early birds so we began to arrive at the Exeter Wastewater Treatment Plant at 9:00 a.m. As we waited for two more people to arrive our first “excitement-causing bird” of the day showed up. It was the male Red-bellied Woodpecker. He was noticed clambering elegantly up and down on a tree with its bark stripped clean, hammering his little heart out. Then a few minutes later another species snagged our attention, the Northern Harrier, our first raptor of the day. He was spotted soaring gracefully over our heads; heading in a southeasterly direction. This sighting is exciting for our group because our club’s namesake is The Harriers. Now with a little more spring in our step, we exited the parking lot and were off to see our first waterfowl and hopefully (something rare) shorebird of the day.
The first birds that were seen were gulls. They were soaring around in a feathery tornado. There were two species we were able to identify, the Herring Gull and the Ring-Billed Gull. Sadly, we did not catch a glimpse of any Iceland Gulls. In the water of the first pool, we discovered a single little clump of Mallards. Hiding cleverly within this group, we located a few American Black Ducks. That was all we managed to spot in the first pool. So we promptly headed to the second pool. Again, we found Mallards and American Black Ducks. Then, we saw something very peculiar about two ducks way on the far side of the pool. For one, they were diving. That is not typical Mallard behavior. Two, they had different plumage. Therefore, we whipped out our bird guides and looked. After a bit more observations of the birds and checking our guidebooks, we identified them as Lesser Scaup. A stunning sight indeed...
(More of Brynlee's account can be read here at our Field Notes blog...)
For a full list of the Harriers' sightings on December 6, click here.
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) [$15 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.
A male Black-backed Woodpecker (top) at Little Cherry Pond on May 14 was one of the highlights of International Migratory Bird Day. The Harriers' contingent was the only one to find this rarity of the north country, first spotted by our own Steve Kimball! Earlier in the day, this handsome Bay-breasted Warbler (below) posed for us, one of 20 warbler species identified for the day!
Photograph by Henry Walters
The "Soaring Raptor Kids" represented the Harriers at the 2016 "Superbowl of Birding," an annual event held on the New Hampshire and Massachusetts coasts each January. The team recorded 43 species of birds, including Snowy and Short-eared Owls, on and around Plum Island, which was good for 63 "points" and the Parker River NWR award. (You can check out a full list of their sightings here.) Congratulations to Brynlee, Charlotte, Steve, and Etienne!
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, whether by leading field trips, advertising and hosting events, or spreading the word about all our activities.
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:
The Harriers' March 14 outing to the southern coast of Maine turned up sightings of a whopping 27 Harlequin Ducks! In a March landscape still overwhelmingly gray and white, these were a sight for sore eyes!
Photograph by Len Medlock
What’s a Harrier, anyway?
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!