For the Birds: Supporting conservation this giving season

One of my favorite places is a small pond in northern New Hampshire near the Canadian border.

It is miles from the nearest house and, in fact, miles from the nearest utility pole. It is truly wild, and over the years I have seen a lot of wildlife there, including dozens of moose, otters, bald eagles and osprey. The pond (technically it’s a fen) is too small for loons to nest on, but there is usually a loon or two using it for hunting and rest.

One morning, I was canoeing there, and as I made my way through a serpentine-like creek that feeds the pond, I noticed a sign attached to a tree. This is a strange place to see a sign, I thought, out here in the middle of nowhere and particularly this far down the creek.

As I got closer, I noticed it was a sign for the Nature Conservancy. I hadn’t really thought of it before, but some entity had to own the land that I enjoy visiting so much. In this case, obviously, it was land owned by the Nature Conservancy.

When you think of it, all land that we enjoy our nature watching, hiking, or any other outdoor recreational activity on is owned by someone or some thing. One of my favorite photos that I have taken is of a Baltimore oriole sipping nectar from a crab apple blossom. I took the photo many years ago in the spring on land owned by a local land trust. Without that land trust’s passion for conservation, I never would have gotten the opportunity to photograph the beautiful bird, and the land likely would have been a house, condominium complex, or strip mall.

Pretty much any photo or memory of the outdoors that I can think of will have a similar story. The land on which the photo was taken or the memory was made is owned by an entity that cares about land conservation and the importance of outdoor recreation. In many cases, the land is owned by a nonprofit organization that relies on philanthropy to support its mission.

Many people wait until December to make their charitable gifts for the year, and indeed, most of these organizations receive the bulk of their gifts at the end of the year. I certainly am not about to tell people how to spend their money, but if you are planning to make contributions to nonprofit organizations this year, I would encourage you to at least consider one of the many valuable conservation organizations out there. 

There are terrific conservation organizations at the international, national, state, and local levels. I am usually partial to the smaller state and local organizations, but all of these organizations are worthy of consideration. The Nature Conservancy, which I mentioned at the beginning of this column, is an international entity that has preserved land throughout the world.

I have been looking for years to purchase some land for camping and birdwatching but have been priced out of the market with the recent surge in real estate value. Land is expensive, finite and valuable. I am grateful for the organizations that understand the importance of outdoor recreation and keep their land available to the public. 

These organizations are certainly worthy of support.

For the Birds: Thankful for a lone moose sighting

Photo by Chris Bosak A cow moose and a calf eat aquatic vegetation from a pond in northern New Hampshire, July 2020.

It’s going on 30 years that I have been making frequent trips to the northern tip of New Hampshire to look for moose and other wildlife. Thirty years? Hard to believe.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in the Great North Woods over the decades, some positive and some negative. Granted, the trips have become less frequent lately, but I still try to make it up at least once a year.

A positive I have noticed is an increase in loon and bald eagle sightings. Both those species have bounced back from low population numbers and now seem to be doing much better. That is thanks in large part to groups like the Loon Preservation Committee, which Continue reading

A heartening moose sighting

Photo by Chris Bosak A cow moose and two calves eat aquatic vegetation from a pond in northern New Hampshire, July 2020.

People come to the North Country for a lot of reasons: fishing, hunting, endless ATV and snowmobile trails, wildlife watching, etc. Those who are here wildlife watching (and I think I can speak for many people) have moose as their primary target. Unfortunately, the moose population throughout New England has declined dramatically over the last several years. Biologists blame most of the decline on winter ticks, which are thriving in the warmer winters and wreaking havoc on moose.

A fair number of moose remain, which is the good news, but the decline makes it that much harder to find them. Driving along Route 3 in Pittsburg, N.H., for instance, used to be a guarantee for moose sightings. Cars would line up in the evening around the salt licks and wait for the moose to show up. The salt licks are no longer and the remaining moose are scattered throughout the vast forest. It now takes a lot more skill, knowledge and luck to find a moose in northern New Hampshire. Mostly luck.

I was lucky and fortunate enough the other morning to find a moose — three moose, actually, as it was a cow with twin calves. I launched the canoe on a popular pond (fen, really) in Pittsburg, N.H, Monday morning, waited out a heavy rainfall under the cover of evergreens, relaunched after the rain, paddled around a corner and saw the three moose. They were the first moose I had seen in years and I stopped the canoe a good distance from them and admired the scene. I was beyond thrilled to see the moose, of course, but I was equally happy to see the twins. I hope they both grow up to be healthy adults and do not succumb to winter ticks like so many other moose. I hope they are a sign that things are turning around for New England’s moose population. That’s probably being naive, but I can always hope.

That’s been my only moose sighting on this trip north so far. I’ll keep searching.

Photo by Chris Bosak A cow moose and a calf eat aquatic vegetation from a pond in northern New Hampshire, July 2020.

Back to the North Country

Photo by Chris Bosak A common loon swims in a lake in northern New Hampshire, July 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A bald eagle looks over a lake in northern New Hampshire, July 2020.

With work pleading with employees to use vacation time and half (or more) of the country pretty sketchy at the moment, I did what I’ve been wanting to do for years: take another summer vacation to northern New England — specifically northern New Hampshire and the boreal forest.

The trip started in Errol on Lake Umbagog and now continues in Pittsburg, which borders Canada. Here are a few photos I’ve managed so far. More to come — of course.

The main target is moose. New England’s largest mammal, however, is having a rough go of it of late. Here’s why.

Photo by Chris Bosak A ruffed grouse stands near a field in northern New England, July 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak Pitcher plant at pond in northern New Hampshire, July 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A common loon swims in a lake in northern New Hampshire, July 2020.

Ticks decimate New England moose population

Photo by Chris Bosak

I would never turn down the opportunity to write a story about New England moose, even if the subject is a bit somber. So when The Keene Sentinel asked if I would do an update story on the moose’s decline, I happily obliged.

Moose are my favorite New England wildlife watching target. Unfortunately, winter ticks and brain worm are taking a heavy toll on moose throughout New England.

Click here for the story, which appeared in today’s Sentinel.