Harriers and their parents gather in fields near NH Audubon's McLane Center in Concord to listen and watch for the display flights of American Woodcocks on April 17. Read a description of the event by Harriers member Brynlee Kimball, below!
Photograph by Henry Walters

DANCING WOODCOCKS

By Brynlee Kimball, age 10

The night of April 17, 2015 was spectacular. As we waited for everyone to arrive, we all watched the bird feeders. A White-breasted Nuthatch, a Black-capped Chickadee, a Downy Woodpecker, a Hairy Woodpecker, a Northern Cardinal and a little Pine Siskin are what our eyes beheld. Then we started inside the McLane Audubon Center. Our guide Phil Brown told us about the American Woodcock (what it eats, how it eats, its size, etc.) and we all learned its nicknames: mud batbog suckerbig eyes, and my personal favorite, the timberdoodle.

Then we were off along the Concord bike path right up the road. A few of us spotted the Red-bellied Woodpecker (including me!) on our way there. Next we walked up the path that was next to the field. In the field we saw many American Robins, an Eastern Bluebird, and heard a Killdeer. Above us flying was a Brown-headed Cowbird, Mourning Doves and even one of the largest raptors, the genuine Osprey. As darkness fell we all listened over the song of the robins but the woodcock’s “peenting” could barely be heard. So we walked into the field, hoping to get closer to the woodcocks on the outer edge. Then we all heard the woodcock. Then we saw it spiral upwards. It circled around above us and then dove in a zigzag spiral. A breathtaking sight to see. Then we heard another one towards the path. Then it did its little “dance” and actually landed on the path. Everyone got a chance to see the Timberdoodle (a.k.a. American Woodcock). He was a beautiful light, rusty-brown red. Very pretty. We counted five Big Eyes (a.k.a. American Woodcock) in total, judging by sound and sight. This exhilarating performance by the woodcock made for a night no one will soon forget.

For a full list of the Harriers' sightings on April 17 (spring peepers and wood frogs excepted), 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.

     

    Ospreys are on their way northward from South America! Check out Project OspreyTrack, initiated by our own Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, where you can follow the day-by-day migration of a few special individuals, including "Donovan," from Tilton, New Hampshire.
    Photograph by Aiden Moser
    Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory

    Any of these fellows hanging around your crab-apple trees lately? New Hampshire has recently seen a surge in sightings of Bohemian Waxwings--as their name implies, a wandering and irregular visitor in flocks that can number in the hundreds. Listen for the Bohemian's repeated, descending siirrr call, and look for the rich chestnut color beneath its tail.
    Photograph by Aiden Moser

    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.

    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

    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?

    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