New Hampshire Wildlife News
by Certified Wildlife Biologist, Eric P. Orff

New Hampshire Nature Notes
by Eric Orff

Its just ducky here

Friday 04/17/2009

As I gaze out my home office window right now a flock of common mergansers is bobby, diving and chasing their way down river right at me. There are several pairs with the drakes doing their best to guard "their" mate. This is the time of year you will see females with their mate in tow and another male doing his best to change things. This is the time of year in NH when our ducks and geese are laying that clutch of a dozen eggs. By the end of this moth the female will be incubating her clutch for 28 days and nights until they hatch in late May. Soon it will be the solitary males posted along the territory with the hen secreted away close by. Each year Fish and Game wildlife biologists scan some 60 one-kilometer square plots all across the state to gauge numbers of nesting ducks and geese. In NH it usually runs something like 20,000 pairs of mallards and 13,000 pairs of wood ducks.

It has been dry, very dry the last two weeks. No doubt the NEXT night time rain will be the time the spotted salamanders will be scattering back into the forests. Toads will be moving in numbers on the way TO the wetlands to breed. Wood frogs will be going silent soon, though the spring peepers will be in full chorus for some time yet.

I am happy to announce that the last pile of plowed up snow melted on my front lawn on Wednesday. But there are still piles of white at other homes nearby so the winter of 09 has not fully left us yet. Here's to hoping that it doesn't return either. How quickly the fields are greening up. Deer are every where at dusk it seems. And my morning hikes this week has me seeing turkeys or at least fresh sign. In fact a couple of mornings ago when I approached the top of the hill I like to climb a big old tom had already laid claim to it and was standing on my favorite perch where I sit a few minutes to rest and enjoy the magnificent view. Off to the north I can see Kearsarge Mountain. How I remember this mountain well as on a slope there is a bat cave. I first was in it in the winter of 85 or 86 counting hibernating bats, one of whom was tagged. We learned that it had been tagged in that cave 27 years before. A decade later it was in the exact same spot in the cave and now was at least 37 years old sine it was an unknown age when first tagged.

Seems like a turn of my head in so many places brings back memories of wildlife encounters. Yesterday afternoon I gave my global warming and wildlife presentation to a group of teachers at the Plymouth Regional High School. I am in envy of these teacher's students as they described their outdoor teaching experiences. I had no teachers like that. In fact when I was in second grade in Easton Maine in 1957 my teacher stopped letting me outside for recess. You see a nice river was a quarter mile behind the school through the forest and I kept a fish pole there. Once the morning bell rang for recess I simply headed off into the woods and didn't come back. Beyond the river was Canada. These were big woods, but I felt comfortable in them even at that age. And back to Plymouth. I was named the Fish and Game Departments first "bear biologist" in late October 1978. On the second day on the job we got a call about a bear up a tree in the middle of the college campus in Plymouth. Up Rt 93 went Henry Laramie and me. High in an oak was a bear surrounded by students. We called the fire department for help and got a ladder right up close to the bear. Henry shot her with a tranquilizer dart and climbed the ladder to try to lasso her before she fell out. Well, she fell before the rope was on her, but sort of cascaded down the ladder into the clutch of firemen holding the base of the ladder. Not a one scattered. I pounced on her and we soon had her tagged and in a cage and released her on Plymouth Mountain. She was seen with three cubs that next summer. And there was the first moose I caught in Concord and we carted her over to the side of Kearsarge and she had twins that next summer too. So many memories of wonderful times working with NH wildlife. All documented in my daily diaries!

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Summer has arrived. The sweet smell of fresh tilled soil in the garden and giggling grand daughters in the dirt.

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