Dragonflies, Damselflies, Frogs...

Pam Hunt holds up a newly caught dragonfly for inspection.

On August 13 the Harriers went out with NH Audubon biologist Pam Hunt to search for dragonflies, damselflies, birds, and other denizens of the woods and water. Here are the official "Field Notes" as kept by Harriers member Charlotte Marchione:

Turkey pond, Concord.
1. Amberwing (dragonfly)
2. Fragile forktail (damselfly)
3. Swamp spreadwing (damselfly)
4. Whirligig beetles
5. Frog
Turee pond, Bow.
 1. Tree swallow
2. Slaty skimmer (dragonfly)
3. Widow skimmer (dragonfly)
Turkey River.
1. Slaty skimmer (dragonfly)
2. Violet dancer (damselfly)
3. Fish
4. Frog

The Dragon-Fly 
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1833)
Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.

A Birding Adventure at the New Hampshire Seacoast

By Brynlee Kimball

The morning of Sunday, December 06, 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. After watching the scaup a bit longer, we started again towards the back of the Wastewater Plant. Along one of the pools were some scrubby clumps of grass. A little high note was heard and our club leader Henry Walters identified the call of the White-Throated Sparrow. Then the little brown sparrow revealed himself by flying to another clump of scrubby grass. Then two more joined the first. They hid in the reeds not displaying themselves until we had ambled on. 

At the back of the Wastewater Plant, there were some bushes, long cattails and a small low-to-the-ground tree. A few rustlings and an occasional movement told us some American Tree Sparrows were hiding there. Then Henry noticed a cattail shaking violently. Then a little black and white head poked up. A Downy Woodpecker! He moved up and down the stalk and tapped on it as they normally do when looking for bugs! What a strange sight! We moved quickly to finish the end of our walk, stopping occasionally to observe a few rustling in the trees above. We were just at the end of the loop when Henry thought he heard a bluebird. We speedily went on a hunt for the bluebird. He was quickly found chirping at the top of a tree. A nice bird to finish off our walk! 

We then hopped into our cars and drove to the Seabrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. Sadly, we found almost nothing there, so we headed to Hampton Beach. On the way, we saw a Great Blue Heron and a HUGE flock of European Starlings. When we arrived at Hampton Beach, we saw many seabirds including two types of Loon, three different types of Scoter, a Red-necked Grebe, a Bonaparte’s Gull, and a Long-Tailed Duck. Then something adorably cute caught our eye in the spotting scopes. Seals! They were on a rock jutting out of the ocean. They even had pups! The pups were delightfully cute and fuzzy. Soon we had to leave but we have great memories to remember the day by!

An Adventure at the Kennebunk Plains

By Brynlee Kimball
Photographs by Rob Mumford

We were the first to arrive at 4:47am.  It was dark and cold. As we waited for the rest of the group, the eastern Maine sky bloomed orange and the gray fingers of fog released their grip on the blueberry barrens.  It is just astounding how many birds are singing in the very early morning. Upland Sandpipers, at least five different species of sparrow, Prairie Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, and a few more were all awake and singing their little hearts out.

After everyone had arrived, we listen for a minute or two and then started walking on the trail through the savannah. Almost immediately to our left in a scrubby little bush we heard a babble of song and turned to find a Field Sparrow hopping amongst the branches. We walked for a few minutes, just listening to the birdcalls when suddenly we saw little heads bobbing in and out of the grass. Then we heard the whooping call of the Upland Sandpiper, its speckled head briefly visible in the tall grass as we peered through binoculars. To our left we spotted an old tree snag with two large birds: a pair of Red-tailed Hawks waiting for the thermals to carry them aloft for the day. 

At last we came to the tree line of the woods surrounding the plains. First a dark shape came overhead winging its way past us. It was a Double-crested Cormorant. Then a small yellow shape flying to the right of us caught our eye. As our binoculars followed it we realized that it was our first Prairie Warbler, although it was definitely not our last. We were searching for a bird that we heard sing in the trees right next to us when one of the kids said, “Look, a Scarlet Tanager!”  There, up near the top of the tree, was a Scarlet Tanager, its wings the color of night and its body the color of blood. We only saw it for only a few seconds before it took off, but still it was exciting. Then either our loud exclamations or the Scarlet Tanager’s flight startled a woodpecker-sized bird out of a nearby tree. The bird had yellow shafting in the wings and a white rump. So we consulted the bird guide. It turns out we saw a Northern Flicker, a woodpecker whose Western cousins have red shafting in the wings.

A moment later a Baltimore Oriole flew to a pine tree in the savannah close to the path we were on. We watched it as it took off again, its bright plumage visible. Then a bright flash of blue landed on the top of another tree. An Indigo Bunting. Not a second later about four branches down to the right a Prairie Warbler landed. Not even two seconds after that a Brown Thrasher landed about nine branches down and to the left of the Indigo Bunting. A triple shot of fabulous color. It seemed as if the birds were posing for the camera. We watched them until one by one they flew off. A while after the triple shot I looked up and saw a Chestnut-sided Warbler perched at the end of a branch on a tree a foot away from the path. The little warbler sat there and chirruped for a second or two before winging away.

Not a few paces away Kelsi spotted a pine branch sticking out, low to the ground. On the branch was a Luna Moth. Its wings were a minty green, its body was snowy white and its tails were twisted. Henry told us that the tails were twisted because the Luna Moth had just emerged from its chrysalis and was still unfurling its wings. Everyone crowded around, snapping pictures of the Moth.

A bit later we heard a Common Yellowthroat, although it decided not to be seen. Despite our best efforts, it did not show itself.  But when we heard the next beautiful call, we spotted the caller. At the tippity top of a pine tree was an Eastern Towhee. It had a black back, rusty sides, and a white belly. The spotting scopes were brought out and we got the prettiest looks at this handsome bird. A second later we saw another towhee hopping around on the path. But it was accompanied by a Gray Catbird. We watched the two birds hop around before they disappeared into the undergrowth. We completed the trail that circumnavigated the barrens and led us back to our cars, seeing more of the same species spotted earlier.

We then had a break before crossing the road to the plains to the south. We walked through the tall grasses. The field was ideal for Tree Swallows and so of course we saw a few. Tree Swallows’ aerial flight is amazing as they swoop and turn. We then spotted two dark shapes ahead, Eastern Kingbirds fluttering around together. They wove around the grasses chasing each other and then flying away. The river was only a few hundred feet in front of us so we looked for ducks and surprisingly, there were none! But from the trees on the farther bank a twittering was heard and a small flock of Cedar Waxwings flew directly over us as if to say, “Hey people, look at us!” A couple of people saw them in the spotting scope as the posed in a nearby tree. We poked around a bit more but found private property, so we headed back.

Harriers_Rob Mumford.jpg

Back to the cars to take a break and drive to Maguire Road, just a few miles away, where we parked and got on a trail through more grassland. Despite an intensive search of a clump of red pines, the smaller birds were not showing themselves. But then a Red-tailed Hawk appeared above the tree line and soared overhead. A few Turkey Vultures were spotted. Suddenly we noticed the Red-tailed’s smaller cousin, the Broad-winged Hawk, as it soared into view and began harassing the Red Tail. For a while the two circled before connecting, then separating, then repeating the process. Over and over. We watched the hawks and the vultures for a while then we headed back to the cars where we hung out for a bit, discussing the sightings of the day. This birding adventure was amazing and well worth the hours and miles invested. I saw 45 species of birds that day and added several to my life list.  It was a day filled with color.  The bright orange of the Baltimore Oriole, the brilliance of the Scarlet Tanager, the lovely blue of the Indigo Bunting, and the brilliant green of the Luna Moth.  No one will soon forget them.

Dancing Woodcocks

By Brynlee Kimball

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 bat, bog sucker, big 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.

Harriers, including Brynlee Kimball, and their parents listen and look for woodcocks at the McLane Center on April 17.
Photograph by Henry Walters

December's Bird of the Month: Hooded Merganser

By Katie Nelson
Harriers' Bird-of-the-Month Editor

Hooded Mergansers are small-bodied ducks that live in bodies of fresh water, primarily wooded ponds and lakes. The Stokes Guide to Birds describes them as having long tails and comparatively large heads with crests. The males are described as having brown flanks and black heads and backs. They have white breasts with a vertical black bar. When their crests are up they are white and span broadly, when they are down the head is black with a white streak behind the eyes. Females' crests are smaller and reddish brown, along with their flanks, breasts, and heads, which may also be light brown or gray. Juveniles look similar to females and will mature around the summer of their first year.

Hooded Mergansers can be seen anywhere from Alaska to Florida all across America depending on the time of year. Some are present year round in New Hampshire, while others migrate here. The Sibley Guide to Birds describes their call as alternating between wrrep, ca ca ca ca ca, and, pahhwaaaaa.  I have personally observed these birds in the calm upper waters of Vilas Pool in Alstead, New Hampshire. Their grace and beauty transfixes me, and although I have spent many mornings watching them, they never cease to amaze me, I hope everybody else also experiences observing these wonderful birds. Happy birding!

Please report any sightings of Hooded Mergansers to Katie at nhyoungbirders@gmail.com. Any member of the Harriers who manages to snap a photograph of a "hoodie" in the month of December will receive a special holiday prize. Find some open water and start looking!


Harriers Hike the White Mountains

A White-throated Sparrow, bringing food home to little ones along the Nancy Pond Trail in Crawford Notch
Photograph by Aiden Moser

By Aiden Moser, Harriers Photography 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.

Boreal Chickadee, Cannon Mountain
Photograph by Aiden Moser

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.

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.

A Day on the Water

YBC Officer Madison Christgau oars her canoe out toward the loons of Newfound Lake.

By Alan Chretien, Young Birders Club Secretary General

On May 31, I went on the annual canoe/kayak trip at Newfound Lake in Grafton County, New Hampshire. It was a fun day full of birding, boating, and enjoying the company of my fellow Harriers. Over the course of the day, we saw 26 different species of birds. Notable mentions were an Alder Flycatcher, an American Robin carrying its "modular nest" to its tree, and a Canada Goose hidden away in a bush on the water's edgesitting on her nest. Also deserving of mention were a Wilson’s Warbler (migrant), a Blackburnian Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, and the distant sounds of gray tree frogs. I definitely enjoyed the day and loved paddling one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever been on. Of course being with friends made even better. 

Species List
•Tree Swallow
•Red-wing Blackbird
•Alder Flycatcher
•Chimney Swift
•Yellow Warbler
•Canada Goose
• American Robin
• Blue Jay
• Common Grackle
• Warbling Vireo
• Swamp Sparrow
• Veery
• Gray Catbird
• Cedar Waxwing
• Red-eyed Vireo
• Black-capped Chickadee 
• Wilson's Warbler
• Black-billed Cuckoo
• Chestnut-sided Warbler
• Tufted Titmouse
• Blackburnian Warbler
• Common loon
• Eastern Kingbird
• Common Yellowthroat
• Hairy Woodpecker

Many thanks to New Hampshire Audubon's Emily Johnson, Director of the Newfound Center, for volunteering to lead us on this great trip!

Harriers Pick Up Prize at 2014 Birdathon

The 2014 Birdathon competition, sponsored by New Hampshire Audubon, brought together a Harriers team eager to defend its statewide victory in 2013. Team captain Aiden Moser, 13, was joined by Paul Bourgault, Henry Walters, and Cynthia Nichols. Starting at 4:45 a.m., the team carried out a thorough survey of the southern Connecticut River valley, not stopping till dusk. Though falling short of the overall title this year, they found 107 species of birds (including the male American Redstart pictured above) and won an award for the greatest number of species of "conservation concern." (Another Harriers member, Adam Burnett, along with YBC Coordinator Phil Brown, captained another team who came in first overall.) The team raised over $360 in donations to benefit NH Audubon's Raptor Observatories and the Young Birders Club itself. 
Photographs by Cynthia Nichols

The team checks out a Solitary Sandpiper foraging in the wet fields near Krif Road in Keene.

A male American Redstart posed handsomely for us along the rail trail in Hinsdale, overlooking the Connecticut River.