Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Reader right on when he says The bald eagle is 'ever so beautiful''

STACEY COLE August 23. 2013 9:16PM

One of our Moultonborough readers on June 22 wrote in part: "Three weeks ago I was walking with a friend in Sandwich and saw several bunchberry flowers on the left of the trail and on the other side, on the right, were several pink lady's slippers. Beyond them several feet, another patch of pink ones, and one white lady's slipper. It was shorter with a smaller blossom.

"Many years ago, while driving across the Sandwich Notch Road, we saw a white one a few feet away from some pink ones. Have never seen any yellow ones."

Not everyone is familiar with the bunchberry, sometimes referred to as dwarf cornel. Roger Tory Peterson and co-author Margaret McKenny in their book "A Field Guide to Wildflowers" published by Houghton-Mifflin Company Boston in 1968, wrote of the bunchberry: "Dogwood Family — Note the four white bracts that surround the center cluster of insignificant greenish flowers, giving the aspect of a single showy blossom. Leaves in a whorl of six. Fruit a tight cluster of scarlet berries. 3-8 in. May to July. Cold woods, mt. slopes North Canada to northern edge of U.S. in mts. to West Virginia."

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My apology for not timely publishing the following letter from a reader (no address or postmark; stamp was canceled, however). When the letter was received, there had been a great many bald eagle sightings, reported in the Union Leader.

The March 23 letter read in part: "My friend and I were travelling north on the turnpike from Nashua and just before the Queen City Bridge, sitting on the bank of the Merrimack River was this beautiful bald eagle. This is the first time I have ever seen one other than on TV. They are ever so beautiful — so close you would want to pet him if you could! I would like to have seen it in flight."

That letter brought to mind the first time I ever saw a bald eagle. In the early 1930s, I attended Camp Belknap, a YMCA boys camp located on Lake Winnipesaukee near Wolfeboro.

Not too far north of the camp a pair of bald eagles nested and occasionally I would see one of them flying over the lake searching for a meal. In recent years bald eagles have returned to the lake and once again are nesting.

Infrequently, I'll see a bald eagle flying over the Ashuelot River that runs alongside our farm. And, a few times, while looking out one of my front windows, I've caught sight of a mature bald eagle as it rested at the top of a tall, dead pine, still standing on the riverbank.

One fall afternoon a few years ago I had a sad experience. After I completed a visit to our beaver pond and had begun walking across our meadow back toward the house, suddenly, I was surprised to see a bald eagle clumsily trying to take flight from the ground. When it did rise into the air, one of its legs hung down, obviously broken. The eagle did attempt to land in one of our old apple trees but it just tumbled about, unable to get a grip on a branch. When it finally got untangled, it gained enough height to fly across the road. Reaching tree height, it once again tried to land on a branch. This time it gained a firm grip with its good leg, then it half roosted and half leaned against the smaller branches. It was almost upright with its bad leg hanging down. After a short rest, it again took flight and followed above the river, south. Whatever became of that bird, I'll never know, but hoped it was captured in time for a wildlife rehabilitator to help heal its injured leg.

With respect to our national bird, I certainly agree with our reader: "They are ever so beautiful!" Indeed so.

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A few weeks ago a Whitefield reader phoned to say that a number of parrot-like birds had escaped into their area.

He did not know what species they were but several individual birds came quite close to people, he reported.

Early bird books said little if anything at all about parrot-like birds. The latest "Peterson Field Guide to Birds, of Eastern and Central North America" was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2010. After Mr. Peterson's death, his son, Lee Allen Peterson, and six ornithologists contributed to the book's contents. A dozen parrots and parakeets are described and pictured in color within its pages.

In New York city from about 1967 into 1970, several crates of imported monk parakeets accidentally or intentionally were released. Those escaped birds spread rapidly and caused damage to telephone and power transmission lines by their building large, bulky stick nests on the poles. Sometimes each nest was large enough to hold as many as 20 pairs in separate compartments.

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

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