Column completes 52nd year, will now run biweekly

STACEY COLE March 28. 2014 8:10PM

THis column completes 52 years of writing my weekly "Nature Talks." Having recently passed a quarter-way through my 93rd year of life here in my beloved New Hampshire, my columns will now appear every other week in the Saturday Union Leader where published, and also in the "Saturday Features" supplement in its Friday edition.

I am pleased to report that my book, "Stacey Cole's New Hampshire, A Lyrical Landscape," is now in its second printing and is, or will soon, be available at many book stores. If you have difficulty finding out where my book can be purchased, visit or contact the publisher George Geers, directly at or by telephone,(603) 226-1020. George will tell you the closest store to you where my book may be purchased.

Dedicated to our "Nature Talks" readers, the book contains several past columns, each of which have been requested by readers to be published in book form. The Plaidswede Publishers of Concord are planning to put out a second book, and possibly a third, dates to be selected in the future.

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A Feb. 28 letter from a long-time Northwood reader-friend read in part: "Big news this week was seeing an eagle fly over our place last Sunday afternoon! Some of our family members who were out in the yard saw the eagle when it was low enough to clearly see its white head. I arrived when it was far up in the sky. Eagles now nest on an island on Bow Lake, just over a hill or two from our place. ... All water in the area is frozen now, so no fishing for the eagle. Perhaps he was just checking his territory.

"How much does specific habitat influence the variety of birds different ones of us have at our feeding stations? Our mutual friend Arlene Johnson lives a scant mile from me, 'as the crow flies.' (Note: Truth to tell, it seemed that my car automatically stopped at Johnson's Dairy Bar whenever I traveled Route 4 to and from Durham.)

"Arlene lives near a good-sized brook, while we have just a farm pond, frozen in winter. The distance from our feeders to a good patch of woods is about double that of hers. My husband keeps everything around us pretty well mowed. Arlene has some unmowed areas near her. On a regular basis she has a far greater number of interesting, less common visitors at her feeders than do we. For instance, of recent weeks she's had Carolina wrens, a red-bellied woodpecker and a red-headed woodpecker. I so love our cardinals, chickadees and woodpeckers, but it is exciting to have something new! I'm curious and envious."

Well, let's see what habitats Arlene's birds like. Historically speaking, red-headed woodpeckers rarely breed in New Hampshire. They are seen here, but infrequently.

According to Arthur Cleveland Bent in his "Life Histories of North American Woodpeckers": "The only one I have seen in southeastern Massachusetts in 50 years of field work was chased across the line from Rhode Island. Throughout the northern part of its range, it is a summer resident only, though in mild winters, when food is abundant, it may remain all through winter. The red-headed woodpecker is essentially a bird of the open country and not in any sense a forest dweller. The birds are attracted to open burns, 'slashings' and newly cut lands. They do not object to city streets and nest in telephone poles along them. They enjoy eating several types of fruits like cherries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and these woodpeckers have been known to clean out large plantations."

Carolina wrens and red-bellied woodpeckers are also birds of states to our south and, until fairly recently, these species have rarely, nested in New Hampshire.

With respect to the habitat of the Carolina wren, Dr. Frank M. Chapman is quoted by Bent as having said: "The cozy nooks and corners about the home of man which prove so attractive to the house wren are less commonly chosen by this bird. His wild nature more often demands the freedom of the forests, and he shows no disposition to adapt himself to new conditions. Undergrowth near water, fallen tree tops, brush heaps and rocky places in the woods where he can dodge in and out ... are the resorts the Carolina wren chooses."

With respect to the habitat of the red-bellied woodpecker, Bent quotes Major Charles Bendire as saying: "Throughout the northern potion of its range it prefers deciduous or mixed forests to coniferous. Newly cleared lands in which numbers of girdled trees still standing are favorite resorts for this species."

My guess is that these relatively new southern visitors will continue to spread out and both our Northwood friends will eventually welcome these species as visitors.

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

Nature Talks

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