Changing climate brings newcomers to our area |
New Hampshire Wildlife News
by Certified Wildlife Biologist, Eric P. Orff

Changing climate brings newcomers to our area

Dick Pinney
Friday, Feb. 8, 2008

There's no getting around the fact that our climate is changing. Last week we wrote about the great opportunities for winter walks and recreation on some of the state-owned land around Great Bay
. We never mentioned the fact that you'll see changes that, as young people using the bay, we would have never dreamed of!

A couple of years ago in late winter on one of our bayside walks, my dog was worrying and very curious about an old boat pulled up onto the shoreline, well above the high tide mark. When we tipped the boat over to see what Balm's curiosity was all about, we were greeted by an angry stare from an opossum that was all balled up in a nest of oak leaves. We quickly dropped the boat back down and grabbed Balm and left the scene.

"Possums here in New Hampshire?" we questioned ourselves. But we've seen both live and dead ones in our travels, enough to know that they have definitely colonized the area.

Each year, for about six or seven years, we've had screech owls nesting on our duck nesting boxes on our property and in some boxes that we'd given our neighbors to hang up. We didn't think that was any big deal until Jane learned from a person involved in bird counts that it was always unheard of to find screech owls north of Massachusetts.

A couple nights ago, when taking Balm out for his last visit to our front lawn, we were very happy to see a screech owl peeking out of one of the duck nesting boxes. I don't presume this bird was getting ready to nest, and I don't know their nesting habits, but if it's not nesting, it sure was checking things out.

Our neighborhood, for the last decade or so, has seen resident robins by the hundreds. Yup, right in the dead of winter. And they don't leave, either. They stay the whole winter long. Never happened just a few years back.

At our bird feeders we have several new kinds of birds that have followed the warm weather northward. Tufted titmice, cardinals, red-bellied woodpeckers and a pair of Carolina wrens as well as often having mockingbirds winter over here. Sightings of ravens and vultures are also quite common. Never had any of these birds in the neighborhood as a youngster.

As we write this, Great Bay in front of our house has open water right up to the shoreline. This in early February is so different from the ice that used to be measured by the foot in the same location, forming in December and not leaving until early March.

We'll not get into the debate about what is causing this global warming that is so apparent here at our home's location, but we are of the opinion that human beings are contributing to it.

Recently in the Nature Conservancy's monthly newsletter, we read an article about the changing of the ocean's chemistry. It's starting to become more acid, presumably from the acid rain and airborne pollution. This news is not very good, indeed! Our lives on earth as we know them are very much threatened by this change, not next week or next year but in the next few centuries.

My good friend Eric Orff, recently retired wildlife biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game, tells us the National Wildlife Federation is seeking to support national legislation to address the threat to wildlife caused by global warming.

New Hampshire Fish and Game's own Wildlife Action Plan includes a whole list of species, including pine martins, that would be threatened by this change in temperature. Eric says there is also current state legislation, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, that will attempt to address this issue from a 10-state perspective. Congress is also working on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act that is also trying to address these issues.

We're not trying to pull a "Chicken Little" here. The sky isn't falling but stuff is falling from the skies and our world is changing because of this.

We've enjoyed seeing all these new species of birds and other wildlife that have migrated north, but we were just as happy without them. Realizing why they are here is important.

A couple of weeks ago we were on the phone with a waterfowling friend who lives an hour's ride west of Nashville, Tenn. "Do you believe we've got armadillos here in Tennessee?" he asked me.

Now that sure is a stretch of your imagination and isn't a good thing!

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