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Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Special nongame appeal to benefit terns research


Ever since its inception 25 years ago, I have been a contributor and supporter of the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife program, a division of the NH Fish and Game Department dedicated to the monitoring and protection of our nongame wildlife.

The Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program celebrated its 25th anniversary last June 29, having been established on June 29, 1988, when NH RSA Chapter 212-B:6 became New Hampshire law. This chapter created a separate nonlapsing fund known as the "nongame species account" that included any state funds appropriated, any federal money available, plus all donations received to be used for the development and implementation of a comprehensive nongame species management program.

With respect to public donations the RSA reads: "The state treasurer shall deposit annually from the general fund into the special nongame species account an amount equal to the money donated during any fiscal year under this paragraph up to and including a total of $50,000 annually."

In November I received a letter from John Kanter, the program's coordinator, that read in part: "Your help is needed to support a special project to further protect and improve the breeding populations of common, (state threatened), roseate (state and federally endangered), and Arctic terns on Seavey Island at the Isles of Shoals.

"This special project appeal is the only request for your financial support outside of our spring annual campaign.

"If you have seen terns near the beach or along the Pistcataqua River, you've witnessed an example of remarkable success in nongame wildlife management. If you've visited the Granite State coast in recent summers, chances are you have seen a delicate white bird with pointed wings, often hovering briefly before plunging into the water to catch the small fish upon which it feeds.

"Common terns were once abundant along the New Hampshire coast and offshore Islands — but habitat loss and ballooning gull populations led to a dramatic decline of terns here and up and down the Atlantic coast. Since 1997, your nongame program has coordinated the overall protection and research efforts necessary to restore the tern colony, and as a result the Shoals colony is once again the largest tern colony in the Gulf of Maine!

"Our tern research will rely om state-of-the-art "nano tag telemetry" to learn more about the foraging behavior of common terns. Information transmitted by these nano tags and captured through the Northeast Regional Migration Monitoring Network will allow biologists to analyze tern foraging behavior including where and how far they go to find food, and how long they forage. Since tern chicks are born helpless, they depend upon parents to find food for them.

Our research will help us better understand how seeking food influences tern reproduction, and will form our future management decisions in an effort to sustain the New Hampshire tern colonies.

"Importantly, this work is also a part of an emerging network of tern research in the Northeast involving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, University of New Hampshire, University of Massachusetts, and Bird Studies of Canada — working together to track and monitor the movement of terns after the breeding on the Isles of Shoals."

Checks should be made payable to: "Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Special Tern Project" at 11 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH 03301-6500.

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As a matter of curiosity, I turned to my computer and asked: "What is nano tag telemetry?" I found that Lotek Wireless has introduced Avian Nano Tags, the smallest coded transmitters available to bird researchers today. By employing their coded transmitter technology, these unique tags allows the tracking and identification of hundreds of birds on a single frequency. These field-proven "tags" are "designed to deliver a highly stable signal and a long operational life that permits ornithologists to collect data on smaller bird species, over longer periods of time, than ever before." Based upon a proprietary coding scheme, their coded telemetry systems allow hundreds of transmitters to be assigned on a single frequency while retaining the ability to identify individual animals. This capability reduces the need for additional frequencies typical of conventional pulsed/beeper systems."

How to catch the terns and attach a nano tag to each one? Will terns fly into so-called "mist nets"? I have no idea. At age 6 or 7, I took a fairly large wooden box, a string attached to a stick to hold one end up, and visited a feed and grain store to catch a pigeon. I always failed!

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

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