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September 13. 2013 8:31PM

Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: September peak month for hawk migration

Hawk migration is at its peak this month. I have always thought of the month of September as being the month of the hawk. Past records indicate that October frequently has only five raptor species that outnumber those seen in September. Those include: turkey vulture, northern harrier, peregrine falcon and both the red-tailed and the red-shouldered hawks. A few late-migrants do appear in early November.

Hawks journey over many thousands of miles from their summer breeding grounds to their winter quarters. The broad-winged hawk, the most common of these raptors seen in New Hampshire, is apt to winter in Texas, Brazil and the West Indies. The red-shouldered hawk flies to Central Mexico, and the red-tailed hawk to Panama. The northern harrier (formerly marsh hawk) flies from Labrador to Columbia and the West Indies. The rather diminutive American kestrel (formerly sparrow hawk) ventures to south Chile, the osprey or "fish" hawk to South America, turkey vulture, south of New England through all eastern states and from Florida to Texas.

One does not always need a beautiful, clear sky for a successful hawk watch. During periods of light rain or on foggy days, hawks often migrate close to the ground, hunting as they go. In real rough weather they seem not to move at all, remaining huddled in trees, frequently close to the trunks for protection, while awaiting a break in the weather.

As of now, I'm sure the media has pointed out the best places to visit to see and count these far-travellers. For many years, my late wife, Mildred, and I traveled to Mount Tom, located a little south of Northampton, Mass. Close to the summit was a small knob known as Goat Peak with an observation platform that provided a panoramic view of a large section of the Connecticut River Valley. On more than one of those trips we counted as many as 1,500 hawks in less than an hour. Others reported greater numbers.

Large congregations of hawks may be seen in unexpected places. For example: in Concord, within a 15-minute period one September morning, I counted more than 500 hawks, mostly broad-wings, circling above our state capital. They circled, drifting high above the golden dome of the State House. The birds appeared completely unhurried as they circled. Birders call that "kettling." After attaining the correct height the birds caught a thermal and rode it south.NH Audubon has experts who attend several locations where large numbers of migrating raptors may be observed. For further information, phone NH Audubon at 224-9909.

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A Hampstead reader wrote in part: "I hope that you may have an answer for a problem that my next door neighbor has. She has red squirrels getting into her house by chewing the screens on the first floor and even on the third floor. They don't want to leave the windows closed because they do not have air conditioning. They thought about traps but I don't think that would do it. They called an exterminator but they said they had never heard of this problem. Any help you can offer will be most appreciated. Thank you."

I suggest when your neighbors gets the "chewed" window frames re-screened with regular window screening, that on the outside (covering the new screens) l/4 inch (possibly 1/2 inch) hardware cloth be added. With those windows open that arrangement will allow outside air to pass through and ventilate the rooms. I doubt the red squirrels will be able to chew through that hardware cloth and gain entrance into the house. Good Luck! Further suggestions readers?

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A New London reader who lives in a retirement community raised an interesting question. She wrote in part: "We do not have very many birds here. I don't know why. We have some trees around. We have flowers, suet and a bird bath. It is a rather closed-in outdoor courtyard. We have lots of chipmunks, several goldfinches that are really noisy and a few chickadees. It was cute watching the baby woodpecker being taught to eat. Maybe the birds don't like people sitting out back with them." Our reader did not mention a bird feeder or feeders containing a good bird seed mix. If there isn't one or more, at least one should be added.

The species of birds that have visited this courtyard are the most friendly that I know. Suet attracts many so-called "feeder" birds including white-breasted nuthatches, all species of woodpeckers, and tufted titmice as well. These birds are not as skittish as many so-called feeder birds. In addition, a hummingbird feeder, kept well filled each day with fresh sugar water (colored or uncolored), probably would attract them as hummingbirds do not seem to mind being close to people as long as they are quiet and move about slowly.

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



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