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Solving Problems with Nature - Naturally

ERIC P. ORFF
Certified Wildlife Biologist
Wildlife Author - Wildlife Lecturer - Wildlife Photographer
Non-Lethal Control of Bats since 1983
nhfishandwildlif@aol.com

NH Nature

New Hampshire Nature Notes by Eric Orff

Wednesday 01/03/2007 Winter came and left and flying for ducks.

Well winter came in the form of about three inches of snow last Saturday. An unpredicted snow at that. So my view was of a winter wonderland for the New Year celebration. But now it has quickly melted and is practically gone. Temperatures are expected to be 15 to 20 degrees above average the next several days. The smaller ponds have at least refrozen again. For now. But I went past parts of Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam Lakes on New Years Day. No ice that I could see. Nada. Although Northwood Lake has again refrozen over most of its surface.

Today I got a better view of things. That was from the air during the NH Fish and Game's mid winter coastal waterfowl survey. I have flown this census since 1989 I think. We took off from Concord in a Cessna 172 at 8:30 this morning. There was NO snow visible the whole two-hour plus flight. And darn little ice. Although Northwood Lake was largely iced over, the broader Pleasant Lake just to the south in Deerfield was essentially wide open. The Merrimack River and all rivers were nearly ice free. The Exeter River had some skim ice in spots. Great Bay was wide open except for a little ice along parts of the shore. In fact it looked kind of weird at one point when our little plane made a steep sharp turn on the southeast side by the Portsmouth Country club. As I gazed straight out of the window at the ground directly below it looked more like a view of some distant planet or moon, save for the dark streak of water in a small stream through the middle of my view.

Duck and goose counts were down.We had total count of 3,446 ducks and geese, with 3,026 from Great and Little Bays or 88 percent of our count. Geese made up a significant portion at 2,398. This years count was 51 percent below last year and 24 percent below the 56-year average. For instance out at the Isle of Shoals we counted only 184 eiders as opposed to our usual count of 500 to 600. So these birds have just not migrated south and will be counted by the Maine or New Brunswick team.

It was a bizarre flight in that the ONLY snow I could see from the air was that which was sitting on the top of Mount Washington. To see rivers and lakes I have seen ice covered year after year in the nearly twenty years I have been doing this census, not covered with ice, was astounding. Is this global warming I kept asking myself? Today's flight left this thought gnawing at me.

On the way back to Concord I had the pilot jigger our path to fly us over the Suncook River avulsion, where it changed last May. What a view of the now dead riverbed jutting off into the pine covered banking as the dark river now turned to churn through the sand pit. So much has changed since my last flight in January 2006.


   

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