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Birding New Hampshire (1 Viewer)


Senior Moment
Birding New Hampshire USA

I'm visiting Rochester, New Hampshire from 30 March - 8 April next year (dates not firmly fixed yet but unlikely to vary more than a day or two). Most of the time I'll be haring round like the proverbial bluebottle, but there's a good chance that at some point I'll have a day free. Assuming I do, I'd like to do some birding if possible. Does anyone know of any good sites within easy reach of Rochester?
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Glen Tepke

United Nations

With those dates -- too early for most spring migrants -- your best bet is probably birding on the coast for loons, grebes, ducks, gulls, perhaps alcids. Rough-legged Hawk, Short-eared Owl, Northern Shrike would also be possible. You should be able to find most of the common non-migratory resident and early migrant land birds in coastal thickets or any old woodlot around Rochester. You could monitor the NH.Birds email list to find out what's around:


I have done only a little birding on the NH coast, so I can't suggest a detailed itinerary. You might start in Great Bay (I would guess a 30-minute drive from Rochester):



and then proceed to Odiorne Point State Park:


and then work south along the coast as far as time allows, stopping at any promising looking spot. If you get as far as Massachusetts, Salisbury Beach State Reservation just over the state line offer good birding at that time of year:


Wintering Bald Eagles might still be around the Chain Bridge over the Merrimack River in the town of Newburyport. I can give detailed directions if you need them.

Once you're in Newburyport, you might as well go to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, aka Plum Island, arguably the best and certainly the most famous birding location in New England:




Any of these destinations will require an automobile and driving on the wrong side of the road. Public transportation is almost non-existent in those areas. Also be aware that the weather at that time of year can vary from balmy to arctic, even within a single day.

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Senior Moment
Thanks for that very helpful link, Barbara. If nothing else, at least the Rochester Waste Water Treatment Plant could be worth a visit! Very much hoping to get down to the coast, though as I won't have my own transport I'll have to play that by ear.


Senior Moment
Not long now! Does anyone know if any of the hardier summer migrants are likely to be back in reasonable numbers yet that far north. A few things have been mentioned on the N.H.Bird list, but I'm not sure whether they are just odd sightings. It's difficult to get a rounded picture. I can always wait and see, of course, but I'd quite like to know what to look out for.


Well-known member
Hi Jason,

I'm a bit farther south than NH as you know but here's the report from around me. Pine Warblers are slowly arriving. Fox Sparrows seem to be coming north - all at my feeders and at my local patch at the moment. Blackbirds are on the move so good chances of finding some Rusty Blackbirds. I think you are just a little too early for most of the early arrivals - Phoebe and Tree Swallow are good possibilities but it's still really too early for YR, Palm and B&W Warbler, or Gnatcatcher. I would imagine that your best bet is finding northern birds that are still lingering (Shrike, Waxwings, Siskins, Redpolls, Purple Finch - although having a feeder to watch helps with some of these). Getting to the coast and exploring that option is a good option - Ducks are on the move as are Loons and Grebes - always a good time to look for RN Grebe. Bonapartes Gulls should be heading up that way soon of course the interest of finding a BH or Little gull with them is probably less for you though I imagine. Egrets are also returning and it's a good time to find owls along the coast. It's still very much a birding by Rare Bird Alert time of the year here though.

Sorry I can't offer you some more exciting news.

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Well-known member
Hi Jason,

Have a great time - I'm sure you'll find some interesting stuff just a month early for the big spring push. Be interested to read what you manage to track down in the end though.



Senior Moment
Thanks, guys. I'm actually going there in a musical capacity (accompanying a choir). We've a pretty punishing schedule and I'm probably going to have to spend a lot of my spare time practising, but I'm bound to see a few things in passing. And we have one free day which I hope I can put to good use! Rusty Blackbird, Pine Siskin and Purple Finch would do me very nicely - they'd all be lifers for me. I'll certainly post a summary when I get back.


Senior Moment
Well, despite the hectic schedule, I did manage to see a few birds. Here's the report I promised. If you want to skip the narrative, there's a species list at the end.


Hall Road was where I was staying. No yard birds to speak of at my host’s house, but the neighbouring roads produced a reasonable selection. The second morning after I arrived (1 April) I stepped outside after breakfast and hit the jackpot immediately with a new tick. No sooner had I reached the road than some sharp pecks in a tree overhead drew my eyes to a female Pileated Woodpecker. Not only that, but a couple of trees further along was the male. They didn’t seem to mind my presence too much and I managed a good long look. I was over the moon. I’ve always wanted to see one and I think I’d have been happy if they’d been the only birds I saw. They’re about as wary as our British Woodpeckers and thus much less tolerant than the other American woodies I’ve seen. My host had mentioned that he’d twice seen Pileateds in his yard, but judging from the size of the holes in the neighbouring trees just down the road, I reckon they’re probably resident in the neighbourhood. I didn’t see much else that morning, but I did bag a pair each of American Robin (nice to see them back already), Tufted Titmouse and Black-capped Chickadee. I also had a good view of a female Hairy Woodpecker. Funnily enough the only other woodpeckers I could find here afterwards were all Downies which made me wonder whether I’d got the ID right, but it definitely looked long-billed in a way the Downies never did, so I’m sticking with it!

On the evening of 4 April I counted a pre-roost gathering of 140 Common Grackles just down Beauty Hill Road (it’s a species you can hardly miss in NH – they’re all over the place) and had a bonus in the form of an Osprey drifting overhead.

On the morning of the 6th I went a few hundred yards up Beauty Hill Road and had a really great time. A bird on a wire had me puzzled for a while. In the bins the pattern of white and dark had me thinking of Eastern Kingbird, but it just didn’t look right. Once I had the scope on it I was surprised to see that it was obviously a Tree Swallow. I hadn’t expected to see any of these, or indeed any other summer migrants. Perhaps the glorious wall-to-wall sunshine we'd had the day before had something to do with it. It soon joined a second Tree Swallow hawking over a neighbouring field. Then a two-note call drew my attention to a small bird at the top of a tree. My heart sank as I got a split-second view of empidonax-like plumage just as it flitted off. Fortunately when it reappeared it was far more straightforward; the dark head gave it away as an Eastern Phoebe. The yard of a nearby house gave me 4 Dark-eyed Juncos, 4 or 5 American Robins and a White-breasted Nuthatch, while just down the road I found a couple of male Northern Cardinals, Blue Jay, Mourning Dove and a Red Squirrel (the only mammal I saw the whole week). Back in Hall Road, a tree by one of the houses produced a flock of 7 Cedar Waxwings in flycatching mode, a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Song Sparrow. Five Downy Woodpeckers (3 male, 2 female) completed the morning's tally.

1 April: EXETER, NH

Two highlights for me here: Firstly, very close views of some American Robins around the church we were visiting. Secondly, in the car park there, a small bird singing its heart out from the top of a tall tree. Silhouetted against the brilliant blue sky it was hard to ID! The song reminded me of a Willow Warbler’s descending plaint, but with the tone of a Chaffinch. I worked it out in the end: House Finch.


One of the residents took me to see the heronry on the outskirts of Rochester (and if you’re reading this, Jan, thanks!) Don’t ask me where it is – I’ve no idea! There were about 6-8 Great Blue Herons on and around the snags in the marsh, where several nests were in evidence, and while I was watching them a couple of Hooded Mergansers flew in. There seemed to be quite a few birds around there, but we couldn't stop long as we were en route for Portland, Maine, and pressed for time. The crows there seemed to have quite high voices and I wondered whether they might be Fish Crows; but American Crows strike me as having higher voices than our Carrion Crows anyway, so I wasn’t at all sure and put them down as “crow sp.”


We had a free day on 4 April and my host took the day off work to take me out birding. I’ve always found Americans amazingly hospitable, but his generosity was all the more impressive as he’s not a birder himself.

I chose this place since it was reasonably local, but otherwise it was a pretty random choice and we didn’t see very much. The best bird for me was the very first one I spotted – a singing Eastern Meadowlark. The water was pretty empty except for 8 Buffleheads and 11 Canada Geese, but a Common Loon flew down river with Cormorant-like wing beats that looked quite different from the frantic wing action you see in Britain when they’re belting past way out at sea. Both the sparrows I saw turned out to be Song Sparrows (why is it that, no matter how hard I try to turn them into something else, the only sparrows I ever see in the States are Song or House Sparrows?) Otherwise it was the usual Blue Jays, Common Grackles, Black-capped Chickadees and Mourning Doves.


Some people in a car in the car park were feeding a flock of Herring Gulls so I dutifully studied them, but still doubt whether I’d ever get a smithsonianus accepted over here! Even though there weren’t many birds here I really hit the jackpot a second time with a small group of ducks feeding close in by the rocks. One was a male Common Eider and three were Long-tailed Ducks (two of them splendid males, complete with long tails), but the other six were three pairs of Harlequin Ducks. Yeeeha!! Aren’t the males just amazing? Four cormorants on the rocks also got me excited for a moment, but they turned out to be just Great Cormorants. Still, they were another USA tick for me.

4 April: RACHEL CARSON TRAIL, WELLS, MAINE (she of Silent Spring, presumably)

Again things were quiet here. Not much on the marsh other than 32 scattered Black Ducks (by no means all of them pure), a few Mallard, 2 drake Green-winged Teal, 3 Great Blue Herons, 2 distant drake Red-breasted Mergansers and the ubiquitous Canada Geese. The best bird was without doubt a ringtail Northern Harrier that was quartering the marshland and not finding anything. Numerous crows were dotted around too and, judging from the rather dog-like, yapping calls of a couple of them I was happy enough to add Fish Crow to my list – though I’m still negotiable about that! I certainly wouldn't open a book on the ratio of Fish Crows to American Crows there.

Back in the car park chickadees were calling amongst the conifers and I had another US tick in the form of Red-breasted Nuthatch – two of them in fact.


Only seen from a moving van, but I was happy enough with a flying accipiter to ID it as a Cooper’s Hawk. Sharp-shinned has proportions very similar to our Sparrowhawk and this bird was noticeably much longer-tailed. It looked bigger too, but it without the body bulk and broad wings of Goshawk.


This rather select public school (tuition fees $35,000 a year; boarding and food extra) has a BIG campus which includes a wood and lakes. It must be a great place for birds. I had a couple of free hours in the afternoon and only wish I had been there first thing in the morning. The first bird I set eyes on was the only American Goldfinch I saw on the whole trip. The trees by the chapel held three Downy Woodpeckers and a typically co-operative male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker which was quite unconcerned by me studying it only 10 feet away. At least 8 American Robins were around, Tufted Titmice and Song Sparrows were singing. A Sharp-shinned Hawk soared overhead, convincing me even more firmly that yesterday’s bird had been a Cooper’s. A flock of grackles up in the trees included a female Brown-headed Cowbird and a Red-winged Blackbird (the only one of these I managed to clinch though I’d strongly suspected others during the week). A flock of birds calling in the pines sounded like they might be kinglets, but I couldn’t see them until all 20-odd of them took off and bounced away through the air, never to be seen again. Whatever they were they were a bit too big for kinglets and seemed to have off-whitish tail-sides (and I’m not entirely sure about that either). Goodness knows what they were. I did manage to find one certain Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but it led me a merry dance before I managed to eliminate Golden-crowned. However it did obligingly lead me to a White-breasted Nuthatch.

All in all, not a bad haul for what was mostly casual, opportunistic birding done “on the run”.

Life ticks in red; USA ticks in blue

Common Loon
Great Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
Black Duck
Green-winged Teal
Common Eider
Harlequin Duck
Long-tailed Duck
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Mourning Dove
Feral Pigeon
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Tufted Titmouse
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Eastern Meadowlark
Brown-headed Cowbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
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Well-known member
Hi Jason,

Sounds like you did really well considering the busy schedule and that you were pretty much on your own - a very healthy list of birds for the time of year - some good finds in the list with some half-hardies and a couple of early migratory species. The Pileateds are a great find and the Harlequins - what a fantastic bird (and this is from someone who isn't a fan of ducks). Thanks for taking the time to write up such a detailed report - it's always interesting to read how someones trip actually went, as well as to see your local(ish) birds through someone elses eyes.


Katy Penland

Well-known member
Thanks so much for sharing this, Jason! I'm so glad you got in as much birding as you did and that it paid off for you with some new spp as well. Even more glad you're home safe and sound and back on the board. You've been missed!

Glen Tepke

United Nations
Glad to read you had a successful trip, Jason. Congrats on the Pileated and Harlequin - two of the finest birds we have to offer. A few comments: Tree Swallow and E. Phoebe are both early migrants, though they probably arrived only a few days before you did. Great Cormorant is actually considered a specialty of the northeast coast in winter; the default cormorant in most of the country is Double-crested. Song Sparrow is the most common sparrow in most of the country. Could your mystery fly-aways have been Dark-eyed Juncos (just guessing based on the white tail edges)? Glen

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