Thursday, November 12, 2015

Kayaking McDaniel's Marsh Wildlife Management Area - Springfield, NH

Two friends and I picked a cloudy day in early November to kayak McDaniel’s Marsh in Springfield, New Hampshire.  We put-in at 9 am and took-out around noon. Indeed, there is a diversity of wildlife at McDaniel's Marsh. 

We began our paddle close to the western shore. McDaniel’s Marsh is generally shallow water with many floating islands of grass and muck.  Its name “marsh” is very appropriate.

Two Bald Eagles
Within five minutes of our put-in Mike spotted a bald eagle.  We sat quietly bobbing in the water, watching our symbol of American freedom on her/his tall treetop perch.  Mike whispered again, “Look, another eagle.”

We watched both birds and listened to the second bird call from its perch.  Then the first eagle flew to the tree of the second eagle.  The birds sort of danced along the same branch in a "let's get to know each other better" fashion.  

 My bald eagle email inquiry to the NH Audubon Society was responded to by Chris Martin, Raptor Biologist.  The bird on the left is a 3.5-yr old (hatched Spring 2012) based upon its whitish head and dark mask and some dark spots on tips of tail feathers. It is probably a female based on its slightly chunkier size. The mottled brown bird on the right is a 1.5 or 2.5-yr old (hatched Spring 2013) based on its yellowing beak, whitish crown, and overall mottled appearance. Possibly a male as it appears to be slimmer. It’s pretty unlikely that they are related to each other, in fact they are probably in transit, as most younger-aged eagles are during the Fall.”

Chris asked if I had any other pictures that might show if the eagles had leg identification bands.  Upon receipt of my additional pictures, Chris emailed he could not see bands on either bird.

Beaver Lodge in left of picture
Signs of beaver were everywhere – from floating beaver chews to lodges both close to shore and self-standing. The shorelines showed beaver paths into the woods where they were seeking trees and limbs for their winter food sources.

Muskrat Pushups
Later we would see muskrat pushups – they somewhat resemble smaller beaver lodges neatly protruding two or three feet above the waterline.

Muskrat Pushup

 Is this a Snipe?

Nope. We saw a greater or lesser yellowlegs, which are two rather similar-looking species.

Statistics and References on McDaniel’s Marsh Wild Management Area

  • Approximately 2 miles in length and ¼ mile max width.
  • Town:Grafton, Springfield County: Grafton
  • Acres:609
 Acquisition History: Acquisitions to create this WMA began in 1957, and a water control structure was built shortly afterwards. Additional acreage was purchased and added to the WMA over the years using Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration funds and state duck stamp revenues. Department ownership protects nearly three quarters of the marsh's shoreline.

Description: Three hundred acres consists of a diverse wetlands system located along Bog Brook. A water control structure built in 1958 maintains the conditions for quality waterfowl nesting and feeding habitat on the property. The wetland types on the property include: bogs, forested wetlands, shrub/scrub wetlands, emergent vegetation and deep-water wetlands. The uplands adjacent to the wetland systems are primarily forested, and consist of spruce/fir.

Common Wildlife: There is a diversity of wildlife at McDaniels Marsh. Upland species include moose, white-tailed deer, black bear, mink, ruffed grouse, snowshoe hare and woodcock. Nesting waterfowl include mallards, black ducks, wood ducks, hooded mergansers and Canada geese. The migrant waterfowl at the marsh include blue- and green-winged teal, common goldeneyes, scaup, ring-necked ducks, and scoters. Look for belted kingfishers, yellow-rumped warblers, common yellowthroats, and song sparrows. The wetlands have warmwater fish, including bullheads, Eastern chain pickerel and yellow perch.

Directions: McDaniels WMA is located between Washburn Corner and Route 4-A in Springfield. From Route 4-A in Enfield, turn south onto Bog Road at George Pond. Follow the road for four miles to the junction of George Hill Road at Washburn Corner. The dam, marsh, parking lot and a launch ramp will be on the left.

Bald Eagles
 Bald eagles are legally protected in New Hampshire. Possession and take (which includes harming, harassing, injuring and killing) is illegal.

Distribution: Bald eagles are present year round in NH with pairs breeding and raising young in the spring/summer and many wintering in areas with open water such as Great Bay.

Description:3' tall with a 6-8' wing span. Females weigh up to 14 lbs; males weigh 7-10 lbs. Immature bald eagles are mottled light brown, tan, and white until age 3 or 4. They have brown eyes, a black beak, and yellow feet. Adult bald eagles have a distinctive white head and white tail feathers, and a dark brown body and wings. Their eyes are pale yellow and the powerful beak and unfeathered feet are bright yellow.

Voice: Weak, high-pitched, chatters or whistles.

Habitat: Bald eagles breed in forested areas near bodies of water and winter near open water (i.e. coastal areas, rivers, and lakes with open water).

Nesting: Bald eagles can live up to 30 years old and can begin breeding between 4-6 years of age. They build large nests in tall trees near the water’s edge. Females lay 1-3 eggs in March - May. Both the male and female incubate the eggs and young hatch after five weeks. Bald eagles often retain the same mate for many years and reuse the same nest from year to year.

Diet: Primarily fish; occasionally other birds, small to medium mammals, turtles and with carrion.

Muskrat families build nests, called pushups, to protect themselves and their young from cold and predators. When we first spotted from a distance these muskrat pushups we thought they were beaver lodges as they are somewhat similar, but not as large.  In marshes, push-ups are constructed from vegetation and mud. These muskrat push-ups are up to 3 ft in height


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