Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: It's '51 years and still counting'

STACY COLE March 29. 2013 11:59PM

Today's column completes 51 years of "Nature Talks," a weekly column that first appeared on the editorial page of the Manchester Union Leader on March 31, 1962.

What a pleasure it has been to have received the hundreds of letters from our readers recounting their experiences with wildlife. Especially helpful to this writer were questions as to how to identify a particular bird, mammal, insect or other undomesticated animal and the hundreds of interesting questions about their behavior.

As my good friend John Harrigan would say: "51 years and still counting." It is my hope to continue writing these columns as they have become an important part of my life.

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One of our Epping readers wrote: "Enclosed are yet two more photos of red-bellied woodpeckers which shows their rufous undersides. My wife took these at our feeders in December. You and perhaps your readers should know that these striking birds can be destructive. A pair opened up the seams of the vertical cedar siding on my late father's Florida home and these have been tapping at our trimboards."

The enclosed photos did show the rufous underbelly of these red-bellied woodpeckers very well.

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A Laconia reader wrote: "I have been watching a pair of gray squirrels out our living room window for over a year, up and down the street. The squirrels live down the street and come up the street on the telephone line to our bird feeder that is around 5 feet off the ground. I am curious on how they live."

Gray squirrels frequently live in holes that are formed originally as nesting holes for woodpeckers or are caused when rot sets in as the result of old limbs falling off close to the trunk. They also build nests of leaves, often called "summer dens"high in trees. New Hampshire gray squirrels breed in mid-winter. The gestation period is about 44 days. One to four young are usually born sometime in March. Another litter often arrives in late summer. Most wait until their second year to mate. The squirrel's chief enemies are great horned and barred owls, foxes, bobcats, some hawks and martens.

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As long-time readers know, for many years I have written book reviews of nature books published by Houghton Mifflin of Boston, the world's largest publisher of text books. A few years ago Harcourt, a British publisher, purchased Houghton Mifflin, and I have continued to write book reviews for the combined company. In doing so, my policy has always been that I only review a book when the final copy of the book is in my hand. It is important to me that my readers know what they are getting if they purchase a copy.

Rarely do I quote from press releases sent by the publisher.

A few days ago the Union Leader mailed me a copy of a press release promoting a book published by the University Press of New England of Lebanon, entitled "Birdwatching, A Guide to Birding in the Granite State" (Publication date March 9, 2013.) The book was written by Eric A. Masterson, who has worked for 12 years in the field of environmental conservation, including eight years at New Hampshire Audubon. He currently serves on the New Hampshire Rare Bird Committee that publishes a weekly report entitled "Rare Bird Alert." That column is usually published each week on the same page in the Union Leader as this column appears. Masterson has also been a seasonal editor for N.H. Audubon's quarterly journal: "New Hampshire Bird Records."

According to the publisher's press release: "'Bird-watching in New Hampshire,' is a guide to when, where, and how to see the best of the state's birds with tips on how to recognize the best birding weather, how to choose the best birding optics, and how to find the best birding locations.

"Drawing on his extensive knowledge of the habits and habitats of New Hampshire birds, Masterson has divided the state into six regions, each with a rich diversity of birdwatching destinations. The guide also features informative accounts of the more than 300 bird species regularly seen in the Granite State, including preferred habitats and graphs illustrating when each is most likely to be encountered."

The publisher's press release quotes very favorable recommendations from Don and Lillian Stokes, authors of "The Stokes Field Guides," Jamie Trowbridge, president of Yankee Magazine, and Mike Bartlett, president, New Hampshire Audubon.

I have not seen a copy, but as a long-time subscriber of "New Hampshire Bird Records" and a regular reader of the "Rare Bird Alert" report, this sounds like a book worthy of consideration by our readers.

Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.

Nature Talks

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