Stacey Cole: Reader's sighting a rare one, indeed

April 05. 2013 7:49PM

Occasionally, a rare bird sighting is reported to me, and I was sure pleased to receive this one. Members of the Osborne family of Pittsfield have been readers of this column for many years, and I was delighted to receive a telephone call from Mrs. Osborne on March 9 stating that she had seen a northern lapwing. This incomparable bird, visiting on their farm, was accompanied by "a plover with yellow legs," she said. Mrs. Osborne described the bird as being primarily black, similar to a crow, with a pointed crown on its head.

How fortunate to see such an infrequent visitor to New Hampshire!

Wandering northern lapwings frequently move from place to place, thus birders should be on the lookout for it. It appears to me that this bird, after leaving Pittsfield, moved southward.

The N.H. Audubon's "Rare Bird Alert," column, published March 16, on the front page of the Union Leader's "Saturday Features," reported; "A northern lapwing was seen and photographed on Upper City Road, about two miles from Route 28, in Loudon on March 10. Birders are encouraged to scan farm fields in the area from the road to attempt to relocate this rare European visitor. It may be seen in the same bare-ground habitat utilized by early returning killdeer."

Pictures and text of the northern lapwing can be found in several, oft referred to "field guides." For example, according to "The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America," under the heading northern lapwing, I found the following: "Eurasian species, casual primarily in late fall in northeast states and provinces, accidental elsewhere in east, recorded south to Florida. Most sightings in winter plumage dark and green glossed above, white below, with black breast, wispy but prominent crest. Wings broad and rounded, with white tips, white wing linings." Good Luck searching!

In our column of March 9, pussy willows was a subject told of by a New Ipswich reader. On March 11, a longtime reader and friend, the Hon. Marilyn Campbell of Salem wrote in part: "I was interested in the 'pussy willow story.' Many, many years ago someone gave my mother a cutting from a pussy willow tree. Well, it sure grew!! In a few years it was about 30 feet tall. It had one trunk but hundreds of limbs and when it bloomed, it had large pussy willows! Then one summer we had a terrible wind storm and the tree blew over. My husband tried to stand the tree back up, but it eventually died and we cut it down. We left its roots in the ground and after a year or two it started sending up sprigs as if it was a bush. It grew and grew and, as you can see by the enclosed picture, it has become a large bush, almost 30 feet high with several trunks that are about 8-10 inches in diameter. I am enclosing a sample of the pussy willows. The plant is loaded and the leaves are coming out. Everyone comes to cut them for bouquets and you can't even tell where they were cut. Right now this 'bush' is at its peak."

My late wife, Mildred, had a ritual of picking pussy willows each spring. I still have the last vase she filled with them as I have never felt the need of throwing them out. Mildred picked them back in the mid-nineties, and although many of the "pussies" have dropped over these many years, enough have been retained so that, to this day, they still make the filled vase attractive.

N.H. Audubon has released a report on Project Nighthawk that read in part: "It was another very busy summer for Common Nighthawk activity. We had three confirmed nests, two in Concord and one in Keene, yielding at least three fledged chicks. Coordinated watches were held in Concord, Keene and Ossipee. Nighthawks were seen in familiar locations and a couple of new spots. We also received reports of some very unusual nighthawk behavior including a successful nest on a patio at a private home in Massachusetts and a late season migrant trapped in a warehouse in Franklin, N.H. Each year brings exciting challenges and opportunities for gathering information on nighthawk activity. We plan to continue our monitoring efforts in Concord, Ossipee and Keene in partnership with the Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory. We will also monitor the two East Concord nest site locales for nesting activity. We would like to expand our monitoring efforts to include new areas where nighthawk activity has been reported. These include the towns of Franklin, Grantham, Lempster and Antrim. If you have an opportunity to be in these areas and would like to spend a little time looking for nighthawks please contact Becky Suomala for location details at 84 Silk Farm Road, Concord, N.H. 03301. (603) 224-9909 Ext. 309."

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

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