Monday, June 11, 2007

New Hampshire

June 16, 2007

New Hampshire was my weakest starting point; the listing software showed three species seen. At least I didn't have to waste time on duplications. But it would prove a test of concentration. Since I was already at the north end of Vermont, it was pretty simple to get to the north end of New Hampshire. I was following the ABA Birdfinder for the state, by Alan Delore, already scanned and plotted in the GPS software. I got on Route 3 headed north and took a back-road loop that turns north at Happy Corner. It was pretty good, since every bird was a tick, but not spectacular. Four sparrows and Juncos. There are a series of Lakes up there, called First, Second, Third and Fourth Connecticut Lakes, which are the source of the CT river. I went to the Third one and found my Loon, then started back south and stayed at the little primitive state Campground there, pricey I thought, but ended up worth it. After getting checked in and getting some birding info, I headed back down to another Boreal boggish wetland area called Scott Bog. I met a man from Massachusetts there, Carl Goodrich, who was getting photographs of Boreal species. He was a great birder, and would complain about his hearing, when he was picking out things I couldn't detect, but it may have been familiarity was giving him an edge. We tried to get Gray Jays and Boreal Chickadees, a species he needed for his pictures. Dipped on both. But the book said the Chickadees could be found at the State Park, and Jack the manager confirmed that they were seen regularly on their feeders. Carl and I agreed to meet up the next morning.

Back at the park, I sat down to stake out the chickadee. Jack and his wife Rose made me feel at home, and after awhile invited me to dinner, a really good home-cooked dinner with chicken and potatoes and veggies, and salad and dessert. They told me stories of the years they had been in the area, living without many amenities, deep cold winter when he maintains snowmobile trails, and their cabin is a base camp. What a treat after almost two weeks of road food and grocery store snacks. I used to cook in camp before I became a fanatic birder, and it's something I miss, but now all daylight is used up seeking. And the BOCH showed up. In camp I found some more good birds, including a Ruby-crowned Kinglet singing, sounding familiar, but I couldn't get it. State dependent memory, since it's a song I know in the winter at home, but somehow had it locked out in the summer. I walked back to a small pond, but was driven away by the evening mosquitoes. They had a bonfire later, Jack was burning a brush pile, and I fiddled with it a visited with the camp neighbors. I was pretty beat, had been up before first light, but woke in the night long enough to hear a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

June 17, 2007

When I met Carl at Scott in the morning he was still elated from seeing a Spruce Grouse less than a minute before I arrived. Just my luck, and later in the morning while I was scanning a regrowing clearcut, he saw a Fisher run across the road, behind my back. O well. You could smell its den on the roadside, skunkish. We had a really good morning there, the Jays made an appearance. We found Alder and Olive-sided Flycatcher, which he photographed, and Mourning Warbler singing, but it stayed hidden. We covered that area pretty well, but it's a place I want to go again, maybe with a kayak so I can get back on some of the ponds. I added another fifteen ticks to the forty or so from the day before. Late morning I headed on south, first stopping at a more developed State Park at Lake Francis, where I got the big and needed shower and head service. From there I worked my way south to Coalbrook and then east to Umbagog NWR. There's a beautiful road heading south following a wide shallow river with lots of pull-offs to check, but it had started raining.

I took the back way around Mt Washington via Jefferson Notch. I hiked in there a ways hoping for Bicknell's Thrush, but the rain and the foot pain drove me back. I did find Blackpoll Warbler and a raincoat lost in the road. Let me make a point about the trails in northern New England. They're not smooth. They are basically boulders with the brush removed, so that every step has to be watched, usually uneven and sometimes slick. Very tiring too, especially for out of shape southerners like me, and I'm fit in my own habitat. Another BITH dip, back down the mountain, and go north to a small campground at Crawford Notch State Park, not very birdy and a dripping wet evening. I was whooped. At the end of the day I had 64 species, including 16 warblers, for NH.

June 18, 2007

I followed the Connecticut River birding Trail map to two very good sites which I caught early in the morning. The first was Whitefield Airport Marsh. A small pond with good viewing as the morning fog lifted, and some productive wet woods on the other side of the road, mostly accessible by some old railways. Beyond that a few miles was Pondicherry NWR, a new unit and not in the New Hampshire bird-finder. The first part of the trail was through very tall and mature conifer woods, where I was able to get Cape May and Bay-breasted Warblers, the only place on the trip for those two species. After the trail broke out of the big woods it followed an abandoned RR roadbed, trackless, for over a mile back to the big pond, a serious lake actually. It took awhile to figure out how to access it, again by railway, but I finally found the viewing platform, flushing a Ruffed Grouse in the process. The entire walk was soaking wet from the rain the day before, parts of the trail were flooded, but judicious quick and high stepping avoided the worst of soaking. Still had to change shoes when I got back to the truck. These were some of the most satisfying and memorable places on the whole trip.

It was only a little way west and then south on the Interstate to Cannon Mountain, with a tramway that wasn't too dear. I got to the top and started finding some birds and birders. One reported hearing the BITH, and the conductor on the tram said another guy had found it that morning. There are some loops around the top, with shortcuts, and trails down the ridge, and I went around the loops twice and tried some of the side paths. Finally on the third loop, I got a thrush type sound out of thick brush. Sorta climbed in between limbs, and found the bird. Still not done. One of the books had warned that Swainson's Thrushes are also found on the mountaintops, so it was vital to make sure the bird had no eye-ring. And it didn't. It was my first lifer in sixteen months. That's a long dry spell. When I was starting birding I once got thirteen lifers in a morning on my first visit to Anahuac NWR on the Texas coast. Even a trip to Alaska won't get those kinds of results, at least not that quickly.

I made a pretty long run on the Interstate to Paradise Point Nature Center on Newfound Lake, which was very productive, the beginning of a more southern kind of habitat for the state, not mountain nor Boreal. From there I made it to another Audubon Center, and then to the Silk Farm headquarters of NH Audubon, another fine place. I was there until around 5 pm, they were closing and I was still getting birds, but needed to settle down for the night. The book had recommended another State Park near the coast, Pawtuckaway, but when I got there the gates were closed. Sort of a quandary, so I just kept moving, headed for the coast. NH doesn't have a lot of coast, but it's birdy if you hit it right. I didn't, came in at Hampton Beach, a big dismal mistake, endless traffic, lights, summer tourist Babylon. So it took awhile to get far enough up the coast to start even finding places to stop and look for gulls and whatnot. Found a Herring Gull, and was fried from trying too hard in a bad situation. I kept driving on into Maine, and crashed in the first Rest Area, hoping not to get roused by a cop. Rest stop type rest, which isn't.

For about two and a half days in NH, I had 96 species seen, including 21 warblers, 6 flycatchers, 8 sparrows, 6 Thrushes and lots of others. But I would still have to come back to get the 100, which seemed like it would be easy on the coast if I did it right.


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