Friday, July 31, 2009

In Search of Upland Sandpipers

On Wednesday July 29, Diogo Godoi, a wildlife technician with the NH Audubon Society surveyed fields on Fox Point for upland sandpipers with Dorene Stern and I on behalf of the Newington Conservation Commission.

Upland sandpipers are present on the Pease Development Authority runway, but there have been no other sightings of upland sandpipers in New Hampshire and it is on the State's list of endangered species. I understood that the PDA was interested in whether the species is present in other areas so that those living on the runway might be re-located to other suitable habitat.

Fox Point has some favorable characteristics in that I have observed bobolinks and other grassland species there. However, Fox Point, unlike the Pease runway, has a tremendous number of predators such as coyotes, foxes, raccoons and others. It is, after all, Fox Point. We learned from Mr. Godoi that of the 140 or so sites that he surveyed, no upland sandpipers were found at any locations in NH.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Town Forest & the New Road

On Wednesday Morning I stopped by the Old Town Hall to pick up the Newington Conservation Commission's Town Forest Sign. It is a 5 by 3 foot sign styled after the existing sign's at both the old and new Town Halls. Established circa 1710, it is the oldest Town Forest in the United States.

There is a road, likely established years before the PDA or even the Pease Air Force Base was established, called New Road. It runs through the Newington Town Forest from the Parsonage opposite the Old Town Hall, until it dead-ends at one of the enormous ditches constructed by the Air Force when the base was created. I believe New Road is approximately 4,000 feet to one mile in length. Its remnants can still be seen as a faint line if you look at aerial photography or satellite images of Newington, running more or less in a straight east-west direction from the parsonage to the area north of the "North ramp".

Walking its length is quite an experience. One begins at a late 17th century, or early 18th century parsonage, skips around some boulders rescued by the planning board from developed sites for future town walls, and enters an open woodland of pines and hardwoods growing on the sands typical of elevated areas in Town.

At first, it seems little more than a pleasant open woodland. However, in a short distance one crosses the former boundary of the Pease AFB, then Arboretum Drive and gradually one enters denser and denser woodlands. On the day I walked New Road, the humidity became more and more intense the deeper I entered the forest, reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkein's description of the Old Forest: hot, oppressive, and containing a hidden power.

Crossing Arboretum Drive, however, its hidden power is revealed. It gradually transforms from an open, almost tame woodland, to a secluded, savage and impenetrable fortress of leaves, branches and clinging wet tentacles, reaching over New Road as if to bury it in a memory more ancient than the years counted by men.

There are, however, roads and trails almost too numerous to count waiting for those willing to explore. One does not need to enter the savage wilderness to see it here. It lies open to view to any brave enough to venture therein.

Walking this old "New Road" you might discover something new about yourself and your perception of the world where the protection of signs, streets, brick and pavement disappear step-by-step.