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Solving Problems with Nature - Naturally

Certified Wildlife Biologist
Wildlife Author - Wildlife Lecturer - Wildlife Photographer
Non-Lethal Control of Bats since 1983

NH Nature

New Hampshire Nature Notes by Eric Orff

Friday 10/29/2004 Only Spam left for the birds. Last pheasant stocking for the year in NH.

Admit it, OK? If you are from the baby-boomer generation, just after WW II, I bet there is a can of Spam in your cupboard. You have moved it several, probably many times, looking for another canned product. But you have one, "Just in case," that is just in case there is not another scrap of food in the house to survive on.

And so it is with the birds this fall. It wasn't a banner year for lots of the normal fruiting shrubs. Some of the autumn olive was plentiful for a while. But, for the most part, I didn't see lots and lots of red berries this fall to fatten the birds up for winter. Even the winterberry holly shrubs are only partly glowing red now that the leaves are off the swamp maples. Usually the swamps are glistening with these berries by late October.

The spring or two after I mover into the Region 3 office in Durham I started planting fruit bearing shrubs around the office which was largely open field lands. I wanted to provide cover for wildlife and kind of set our building apart from the one or two nearby and separate it from any that might be built close by. A huge cement block building has been built, in fact two since we moved in in1988. Thanks to my shrubs, we are kind of isolated from them.Birds fill the surrounding shrubs each fall and through the winter when there are lots of berries on the honeysuckle, autumn olive, high bush cranberry and vibunums I have planted.

This year all but the highbush cranberry has been striped. The cranberry shrub's limbs bend with lush, but very bitter, fruit. Consequently the cranberry is the shrub that berries stay on until the worst of winter, or even into spring. They are the Spam of the wildlife fruits. Last winter was mild and there was more fruits so a good portion of the cranberry fruits were never taken. They simply withered on the shrubs this summer. I doubt that will happen this year.

Over the weekend, as I was waiting for moose, I noticed the cranberry bushes bobbing with life. A closer look showed what appeared to me to be juvenile sparrows hopping from branch to branch "testing: a berry here and there. You could almost see the look of disgust on their faces as they sampled, but didn't eat the bitter fruit. I'm sure they though they were in heaven when the first saw the fruit laden shrubs. They just couldn't help but stay in them sampling the fruits I'm sure hoping for one that was worth eating. But the shrub remains fully colored and the birds have moved on. Spam anyone?

Yesterday was the last day of pheasant stocking in New Hampshire for the year. We all met at headquarters at 7:00am, just as the sun was rising. I took pheasants to the Hopkinton Everette Flood Contro Area only. The last stocking is for the larger selected sites only. So much has change for a view since I first released birds at these sites a month ago. The lush green canopy of leaves has vanished in places. I had a friend ,Jean Brochu, give me a hand releasing the birds as he lives near the release sites. I also wanted him to show me a nearby Fish and Game tract of land that we issue trapping permits for, but looked too small on the map. You need to travel through several private roads through an old lakeside youth camp to get there. A guide was in order. Still, there is lots of color for the eye to catch on these cristal-clear fall days and I love every one of them.


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