BIRD CALLS – Do Feeders Create Dependency, Part 2



In our last article, we described how an extensive 4 year wild bird feeding study by Professor Margaret Brittingham from the University of Wisconsin was conducted from 1984-1988.  This study was set up to track the survival rate of two distinct, controlled groups of chickadees during two straight winters.  One banded group had sunflower seed feeders removed after 20 years of existence.  The other banded group of birds, verified outside the accepted range of the feeder group, had never received their food sources through human contact.

The winters were average in terms of temperature, snow cover and wind conditions. In terms of survival rates, which were about 85%, the exhaustive study concluded that there was no marked difference between the two groups of chickadees. The other 15% were presumed to have perished, since chickadees remain in the same area throughout a winter.

Birds that had used feeders in the past were no less able to survive on a natural food supply, even though feeders were constantly available for the preceding 20 years.  This is not surprising.  During the preceding two winters, at the site where there were sunflower seed feeders, the banded chickadees were tracked as they obtained some 79% of their daily rations from natural food sources.

Chickadees are truly opportunistic.  In winter, they will search out insect eggs and larvae, mites and other anthropods, seeds, carcass remains and all sorts of available energy sources.

Both the controlled and experimental sites were in relatively undisturbed rural locations in Wisconsin composed primarily of deciduous woods.  The study did not see what the effect would be if the feeders were suddenly removed or left empty right in the middle of winter.  However, birds are used to food sources disappearing in winter, due to snow, ice or foraging by other birds.

There is one interesting note about the study.  It was determined that during abnormally severe weather conditions, five days of more of temperatures below 18° F, there was a marked difference in survival of the controlled group of chickadees.  Birds with access to feeders maintained higher weights and were able to replace depleted energy reserves with minimal foraging.  During periods of extreme cold, the ability to get a large amount of energy in a short period of time with minimum effort may be critical to the survival of the weak and older chickadees.  Logically, this holds true for humans as well.

People who feed birds can indeed help extend the range and survival rates of wild birds during times when natural food sources are scarce.  However, when nature provides an abundance of food, your backyard is just considered one more food sources, never the primary food sources.

Our advice for almost two decades of service to our customers is to enjoy this hobby for what it offers.  Peace, tranquility and the joy of sitting back and watching nature right outside your window.  Have fun with your backyard birds.

Wild Bird Depot is located on Rt 11 in Gilford, NH.  Steve White is a contributing author in major publications, a guest lecturer at major conventions in Atlanta and St. Louis as well as the host of WEZS 1350AM radio show “Bird Calls” with Lakes Region Newsday @ 8:30AM.  Wild Bird Depot has donated over $5,000 to local rehabilitators and local nature centers since 1996. Be sure to check out our website  Like us on Facebook for great contests and prizes.

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FROM THE FARM - Names for cows

03 16 Dexter From the Farm

Dexter, a yearling Scottish Highlander calf. (Courtesy photo)


"Why do you name your cattle?" I've been asked. All cattle need some identification. If one of my 80 head of cattle gets sick, pregnant or injured, it is critical to identify that bovine so treatments can be recorded. It's also important to know which are aggressive cattle and which are not. Effective herd management requires animal identification.
At first, I tried using numbers instead of names. As babies were born, each received a numbered ear tag. If I noticed odd or aggressive behavior, I would read the bovine's number and make a mental note to write down my observations. Of course, when I got to the writing part I would not remember if #86 or #68 was the problem! Even today I can't remember what happened to cow #107 – did I ship her or sell her?
Names are memorable and help define a cow's personality. Maya is the mother of Topper - a working ox, whereas Laverne is Curious Bleu's mom. Luna was named by an AirBNB guest who was staying at the farm when Luna was born. It's easy to remember Luna because she often acts like a luna-tic. I also think animals appreciate having names. During feeding, I'll say, "Hello" to the black heifer, Riley, or working steers Ben and Snuff. Don't you like to be called by your name? Same with animals.
There are some like yearling heifer, Betty who I watch for at feeding-time. She's smaller than the rest, so I want to make sure she gets enough to eat. Lately, I've been paying close attention to Maya and Misty, two cows due to give birth soon. I need to know if they have trouble in labor and help them if necessary. Each animal has a name just as each has a personality.
Last week I shared a story about a heifer named Brooke who, after she was processed, was used in a meat-cutting demonstration. Her purpose in being born was to provide beef, and because she was handled with care during her lifetime - the end was not dramatic. Just as names help me connect and care for each animal, it would be intolerable it if the animals I raised left this world in pain or anguish.
I encourage you to think of each steak you eat as a former personality. While you may not know the name of the beef on your plate, when you buy from a local farm you'll know who raised it.

Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, in Loudon, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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The Lakes Region Triple Traverse


Summit of Mt. Majora


Reuben on Summit of Piper Mountain


By Gordon DuBois


Maybe you’ve heard of the Triple Crown of horse racing, winning the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and the Preakness. There’s also the Triple Crown in long distance hiking, The Appalachian, Pacific Crest and the Continental Divide Trails and the Triple Crown of baseball.  In the Lakes Region we have our own triple crown, traversing the three major mountain ranges, Belknap, Squam and Ossipee. Traversing end to end of each range is not only a considerable challenge, it is also a rewarding accomplishment. Last week I set out to begin my attempt to complete the Winter Lakes Region Triple Traverse in 5 days. The total mileage for the traverse is over 40 miles, while summiting 19 mountains. I began the week with a warm-up/conditioning hike to the summit of Mt. Carrigain (4,700 ft.) via the Signal Ridge Trail, a 15 mile round trip ramble. Two days later I began the Lakes Region Triple Traverse (LRTT) by driving to the Mt. Major Parking Lot, off Rt. 11, to commence the trek across the Belknap Range.

The Belknap Range lies to the west of Lake Winnipesaukee and stretches across three towns, Alton, Gilmanton and Gilford. The highest peak in the range is Belknap Mountain (2,380 ft.). Other lesser peaks include Clem, Mack, Straightback, W. Quarry, E. Quarry, Anna, Piper, Whiteface and Major. The Belknap Range Trail (13 miles) traverses the entire range from Mt. Rowe in the north to Mt. Major in the south. The traverse features stellar views of the Ossippee and Sandwich Mountains. The trail also passes along the shores of Round Pond with several campsites on the south end of the pond. The Belknap Range Trail (BRT) is blazed with distinctive trails markers to guide the adventurous hiker along the path. 

It was a warm, gloomy day when I started, cruising up the blue blazed trail to the summit of Mt. Major, with Reuben leading the way. However, my cruising ceased when I was met by ice flows covering the trail. I put on my trail crampons and safely made it to peak. The low lying clouds hung below me covering the lake. Above the cloud cover, the Sandwich and Ossipee mountains rose up, out of the clouds. It looked like the ocean had flooded the area and only a few mountainous islands stood above the sea. After this brief pause I continued on the BRT to Straightback- South Peak.

From Straightback Mountain Reuben and I trekked to Mt. Anna and onto Mt. Mack and Clem, following the BRT blazes and snowshoe tracks from previous hikers. I was surprised to find them, as this section of the trail is rarely used in winter. I dropped down off Mt. Clem to Round Pond, where I had lunch. My journey then took me to the Boulder Trail. I was reluctant to climb the Boulder Trail, as it climbs steeply, through an enormous rock slide. With the warming temperatures ice chunks the size of a minivan were breaking free off the rock cliffs and careening down the mountainside. It was a quick, “no brainer” decision to forego climbing the Boulder Trail, and we headed to Piper Mountain. Reuben and I then took the long climb to Belknap Mountain, eventually landing at the summit of Gunstock Mountain, close to the summit chair lift. Reuben seemed tired and ready to sleep, but with a number of kids willing to play with him he came to life, frolicking in the snow, showing off and prancing around the skiers who were taking his picture. One little boy asked me, “Where are Reuben’s skis?” We finished the Belknap Traverse on Mt. Rowe, where Karen met me for the final push to the Gunstock parking lot. 

Two days later Reuben and I were heading to the Ossipee Range to meet Tom and Karen for the circuitous traverse, along the western ridge. The Ossipee Mountain Range lies across from the Belknap Range on the east side of Lake Winnipesaukee. If you were to view the Ossipee Range from above it would look like a giant circle, 40 miles around. The mountain range is what’s left of an extinct volcano, the subsurface remains of the magma chamber. The center of the mountain range is the bottom of the caldera, the volcanic cone that collapsed.  The traverse of the western side of the Range falls almost entirely within the Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area (Lakes Region Conservation Trust). It runs from Mt. Roberts (2982 ft.) to Mt. Black Snout (2803 ft.). The High Ridge Trail, which is aptly named, traverses the upper reaches of the conservation area and follows the crest of the mountain range.

Tom, Karen, Reuben and I climbed to the summit of Mt. Roberts (2582 ft.), where we were met by outstanding views of the Sandwich Range. This is my favorite trail in the Ossipee Range, because of the outstanding views and the diversity of the forest along the path. After a brief pause we then glided along the High Ridge Trail, eventually making it to Mt. Shaw, following a series of carriage roads and snowmobile trails that slice through the area. At the summit of Mt. Shaw (2,990 ft.) we were met by darkening clouds, wind and light snow. It reminded us we were still in the throes of winter. We ambled along carriage roads to Black Snout and Turtleback Mountains, finishing the traverse by bushwhacking the western slope of Turtleback and Bald Knob Mountains, eventually ending our day at Shannon Pond. We covered five summits and fifteen miles in about ten hours. One more traverse to go, the Squam Range. 

The Squam Mountain Range, running east to west is primarily a ridge of peaks rising above the northern end of Squam Lake. It’s the remains of ancient volcanic action millions of years ago as the Pangea Super Continent was breaking away from what is now North America. The major peaks are Doublehead, Squam, Percival, Morgan, Webster, Livermore and Cotton. The entire ridgeline has outstanding views and also features rock scrambles, ledges, summit ponds and waterfalls. 

Two days after completing the Ossipee traverse Reuben and I met Ken, Karen, Dick and Dave in Holderness. It was another warm, spring-like day, filled with sun and some clouds. The “Weather Gods” were with me again. We dropped cars at various trailheads along the range on Rt. 113. Reuben and I were the only ones in the party planning to hike the entire Squam Range. We all hopped in one car and drove to Mead Base Camp in Sandwich. We began our trek on the Sandwich Notch Road, hiking to the trailhead of the Crawford-Ridgepole Trail.  The trail was a steep and challenging climb to the ridgeline.  Ken set a blistering pace, knowing it was a long slog with difficult rock climbs and surprisingly deep snow. The Squam Range held several surprises: “glacial ice” on the rock climbs, significant snow cover and infrequent blazes.  After changing from crampons to snowshoes and back again we summited Doublehead Mountain. We continued to push on knowing that the going was slow and we were at risk of being benighted. We continued to push forward hiking over Mt. Squam, Mt. Percival, Mt. Morgan and Mt. Webster. We only stopped occasionally to take in the spectacular views of Squam Lake, the mountains to the southwest and to grab an occasional snack. 

As dark was approaching Ken, Karen and Dave took a side path off the ridge to their waiting car. Dick had left us earlier at the summit of Mt Percival to begin the trek back to his car. I was now left on my own to finish the traverse. Reuben and I continued our journey climbing Mt. Livermore. As we reached the summit the sun was sinking in the west, giving off an orange glow that reflected off the snow. The mountainside was dimly lit by the residual light of the setting sun, but soon darkness consumed the forest and I had to don my headlamp to complete the traverse, ending on Rt. 113, where Ken and Karen were waiting for Reuben and me. 

Reuben and I finished The Lakes Region Triple Traverse in 3 days, hiking 44 mountainous miles and climbing 19 summits. Our tired muscles and achy bones cried for a hot shower (not Reuben) and a warm bed (for Reuben it’s the sofa). If anyone has completed the LRTT please let me know, or if you are planning to take the challenge I would like to hear from you at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Gordon has hiked extensively in Northern New England and the Adirondacks of New York State. In 2011 he completed the Appalachian Trail (2,285 miles). He has also hiked the Long Trail in VT, The International AT in Quebec, Canada, Cohos Trail in northern NH and the John Muir Trail in CA. Gordon has summited the New Hampshire 200 Hundred Highest peaks, the Northeast 111 highest peaks and the New England Hundred Highest in winter. He spends much of his time hiking locally and in the White Mountains with his dog Reuben and especially enjoys hiking in the Lakes Region due to the proximity to his home in New Hampton.


Summit of Mt. Percival

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UNH researchers study effects of warmer, snow-free winters

DURHAM — New England’s warmer, snow-free winters may increase carbon dioxide losses in forests, where deciduous trees can’t take advantage of warm temperatures before their leaves emerge. However, farms cultivating grasses have a greater potential to start growing in the winter “dormant season,” perhaps partially offsetting the increasing winter carbon losses from forests, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.

“New England’s winters are becoming increasingly variable, but the effects on different ecosystems, such as forests and farms, are poorly understood,” said Rebecca Sanders-DeMott, a postdoctoral research associate supported by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station. “We are trying to determine how changing winter conditions will affect how plants and soils in these ecosystems process carbon. The flow of carbon provides a unique picture of the health and function of ecosystems: uptake of carbon dioxide occurs when plants photosynthesize and grow, while carbon dioxide losses are a result of respiration by both plants and the microscopic organisms that live in soils. Forests and agricultural lands provide critical services for the people of New Hampshire and New England, such as energy, food, and support for tourism and lifestyle,” said Sanders-DeMott.

To evaluate the impact of warmer, more variable winters on New England ecosystems, Sanders-DeMott and her collaborators have been using sophisticated instrumentation since 2014 at the experiment station’s Thompson Farm forest in Durham and Kingman Research Farm hayfield in Madbury to continuously monitor how much carbon dioxide is moving into and out of the ecosystem. Automated sensors mounted on towers above the vegetation canopy measure wind speed, air temperature, and carbon dioxide concentrations 10 times every second. By examining the uptake and loss of carbon at each site across several winters with variable weather conditions, scientists are learning about how winter climate affects ecosystems that are important components of the New England landscape.

In addition, they have been making daily measurements of snow and soil frost depth at Thompson and Kingman farms. These data will help researchers understand how the effect of snow on soil temperatures and frost depth affects the patterns of carbon dioxide uptake and loss from forests and grasslands. “We have experienced a lot of variation in winter weather in just the last few years. While winter 2014-15 was quite cold and snowy, winter 2016-17 was on the warmer side of what we consider normal, and in the winter 2015-16 we saw the warmest air temperatures ever recorded in New England,” said Sanders-DeMott. “Conditions in winter 2015-16 were so warm that the grasses began growing in February and kept growing into the summer. This early growth resulted in the grassland becoming a sink for carbon dioxide—taking up and storing more carbon dioxide than it released—in February to April of 2016, whereas in a typical year the grassland would be a carbon dioxide source during this period.”

In contrast to the grasses, she said the Thompson Farm forest showed a more sluggish response to the warm 2015-16 winter. Although the evergreen pine trees started to grow earlier than normal, the deciduous maples and oaks hadn’t yet produced new leaves and couldn’t capitalize on the warm weather. Instead, the warm temperatures and lack of snow caused unusually high levels of respiration in soils and a very large loss of carbon to the atmosphere. Although the forest usually loses carbon dioxide to the atmosphere during this time of year, in 2016 the amount of carbon dioxide lost was three times greater than a typical year.

This material is based upon work supported by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station, through joint funding of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 1006997, and the state of New Hampshire. Sanders-DeMott also is supported by an experiment station Postdoctoral Scientists Support Program Award. Additional funding for this project comes from NH EPSCoR/NSF Research Infrastructure Improvement Award EPS 1101245 and NASA Carbon Cycle Science NNX14AJ18G.

03 02 UNH Forests Study

Automated sensors mounted on towers above the vegetation canopy at the Kingman Research Farm hayfield in Madbury measure wind speed, air temperature, and carbon dioxide concentrations 10 times every second. (Courtesy photo)

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