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

New Hampshire Nature Notes
by Eric Orff

On the cusp of spring

Saturday 03/16/2019

Oh ya. Boy are we in for a ride down the hill from winter. Things really pick up speed in the next days and few weeks. It is always amazing how fast winter can turn into spring and really on to the edge of summer. Fasten those seat belts.

First. Now I find myself turning out of bed in the morning and lifting the shade that faces the road and looking south I can gaze at the hay field across from my house. This morning it is still all snow covered except the north end under the pines nearest my house. But there is often bare ground there much of the winter as the pines shield the ground and the sun just lays in there. But I bet within this next week the snow will disappear from that field by week's end. And most years I can watch the bare ground march down the field almost by the minute. Yes spring does arrive that fast.

And how it seems like winter, at least the worst of winter came late this year. When I got back from a few weeks in Florida in mid February the ground was pretty much bare around Epsom. Then I headed late February to Mexico for a week and found mostly bare ground when I returned March first. 

Then winter set in. By last week we clearly had the most snow since winter began with maybe eight or ten inches on the ground and huge snow piles, by far the biggest of the winter, from plowing.  But the sun has really fought old man winter this past week. In Yeaton's corn fields nearby the cut off corn stalks are rising above the snow once again. All of the south facing slopes have also yielded their snow cover to Sol. Stand outside and listen by day and you can hear the snow trickle away and even into some nights the last few days. Oh yes we may start with a trickle but a full gushing flow is at hand.

The local brook was ice covered just three days ago and with yesterday's mid 60's here on my thermometer the brook is pretty much ice free by yesterday afternoon. And the Suncook River. Now here is a story of its own I need to tell another day. Come this July 4th I will have lived here on River Road in Epsom forty years. Plus I lived in Allenstown five years before that. So I have observed the Suncook River nearly fifty years now in winter. This is the FIRST year that the Suncook River did not entirely freeze over at some point in the winter. Unbelievable! Here I set high overlooking the river as it makes a 90 degree bend below my house to the west. I have been a keen watcher of the river all these years. Mother's Day Flood and at least two other "hundred year" floods. When I first lived here in the 1980's the River turned into a snowmobile track for much of the winter. By the 90's that went away as the ice formed later and not as thick. But the river was still ice covered completely for at least three months. And we could walk on it most of the winter. By the two thousands ice only lasted a couple months. So I have witnessed these changes from decade to decade.

So now in my life time I am witnessing a dramatic change  in the local environment. Yes I am witnessing the results of climate change first hand. 

On the wildlife end of things. I still have about thirty hen turkeys I am feeding every day. But the song birds kind of disappeared a month ago. I have only a couple blue jays, chickadees and woodpeckers regularly coming to my feeders. The titmice and cardinals are gone. I did have a beautiful cock pheasant one morning last week. The Fish and Game Department stocks about 14,000 each fall for the hunters, who pay for them with a special license. I bet only maybe half of them are taken by hunters based on my 30 year experience in stocking them. Hawks and foxes and all sorts of predators no doubt welcome the pheasant feast while preparing for winter. So to see one in the spring is surprising. Although, what we called "Native" pheasants were common in my youth in the 1960's while growing up in North Londonderry.  In fact if you stopped or walked along South Willow Street in Manchester, around where 293 is today, you could here the cocks crowing every spring. Numbers of pheasants survived year round back then. 

I did see a few red winged black birds in Allenstown this past week. None yet here at my house. This should be the week that ducks by the droves start coming through. So be on the look out for ducks stopping in nearly any open water. Woodcock will return too. Geese will be milling about with some higher formation soon to be sweeping past overhead soon. 

Hold on to your hat and pay attention to your view as we roar into spring.

Previous Note

Looking more like spring than winter.

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Next Note

Time to "moose" the candidates

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