THIS COLUMN IS an installment of my occasional “roadside wildlife viewing report.” It is not about roadkill although, sadly, there is no lack of that. But I am always amazed by the array of live animals I observe while driving around, a true testament to how they have adapted to the human takeover of their environment.
Turkeys are on the list these days. Gone from sight while they incubate, hatch, and raise their young, those tiny turkeys are now a size where they can wander the world with their parents. That includes crossing the roads, the most common traffic jam I witness.
I have learned to not stop and wait for the turkeys — once they know you are an easy mark, I swear they will hold you up on purpose. I slow way down but keep moving while keeping tabs on the side of the road from which they are coming to make sure no straggler suddenly runs out in front of me. It is endearing to watch how much the hens take care of their young ones and the toms take care of the whole flock.
Hawks are everywhere. I saw one on the top of a utility pole on the Miracle Mile in Dover the other day. What it was going to find to dive for there I am not sure. I use Exit 15 on the Spaulding Turnpike frequently — there are a couple of tall dead trees at the head of the ramp going south that are frequent lookouts for hawks. Someday I am going to get a picture and identify at least one large hawk I see regularly. There is also a swamp at the bottom of the southbound Exit 15 ramp that has a few dead trees that I browse for hawks and am often rewarded.
On the powerlines at Exit 15 northbound is a flock of pigeons. I wave to them as I drive by. Every highway overpass has a flock of pigeons living underneath. I enjoy them all. Some underpasses have some pigeon-deterring apparatus installed but that only seems to keep the pigeon occupancy rate down, it doesn’t seem to eliminate them … thankfully, from my perspective.
A week or so ago I was driving to Moultonborough on Route 109 and a doe stepped out into the road in the opposite lane. I stopped. From the bushes came first one fawn and then a second. They were big but still had spots. Mom stood in the road and waited for the two to safely trot across. What a lovely way to pass a few quiet moments. On the way back, a pileated woodpecker streaked across the road and slapped his large self against a large pine tree on the roadside.
Another spot I have been seeing a variety of birds lately is around the pond between the road and the parking lot at the Rochester Walmart. While it is likely that the intention of this pond was not for bird habitat but for catching run-off as we continue to pave paradise and put up parking lots, the birds are flipping that proverbial bird and using it for their own purposes. I was pleased to see not only one but a pair of quite healthy and robust kingfishers sitting on the perimeter fence fishing in the pond. And there is a tall dead tree at the top of the hill overlooking the pond that I have seen used by several different birds, including a collection of cormorants, ravens and — on the same evening I saw both kingfishers together — a lone grackle. While humans continue to ravage the landscape in the name of our own uses, it is encouraging to see wildlife adapt giving hope that some of them at least will survive in whatever world we are leading ourselves to.
Special exhibit, speakers
Speaking of extinction and endangered species, an unusual and interesting exhibit just opened at the Patricia Ladd Carega Gallery in Sandwich. Called “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,” this unique exhibit by several artists calls attention to endangered species and will hang for the month of September. As part of the series, my talk will wind its way (as I often do in this column) from my early interest in birds to the story of the now-extinct passenger pigeon. My talk is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. which will likely be over by the time most of you read this. However, the one you should definitely plan to attend is on Saturday, Sept. 18, when Brendan Clifford of the non-game program at New Hampshire Fish & Game will talk about the state- and federally protected piping plover and the nesting that goes on at Hampton Beach and Salisbury Beach State Parks. A percentage of sales from the exhibit will go to the Rainforest Climate Action Project.
Cheryl Kimball is a freelance writer who lives north of Rochester. Email her at email@example.com.