New Hampshire Hawk Owl Information and Directions : LUSENET : Bird Photography : One Thread

I the winter of 2000-2001 a Northern Hawk Owl was seen, and photographed, for over 70 days in New Hampshire. The following are directions to the site of the bird. Hopefully this bird will return in 2001-02.


At the request of Charlie Nims and Linda Ferraresso, I am posting directions to the Hawk Owl, sites of Gyr sightings, and the ever reliable Trudeau Road.

General Instructions: 1. Having 4 wheel drive can be a great boon in the mountains, but it doesn't make you immune to the laws of physics. This includes stopping on an ice patch in 16 inches of snow (imagine a sheepish expression on my face here) as well as driving an extra ten or fifteen miles an hour faster than you would normally speed (imaging your own sheepish expression here). 2. Stop at Trudeau Road, Whitefield Airport, Pondicherry (requires hiking with snowshoes or skis), Jefferson Meadows, North and Grange Roads, Route 137, in that order. 3. Watch for Crossbills, Gray Jays, Boreal Chickadees, and Black-backed Woodpeckers from the Notch onward. 4. Check out Trudeau Road and the snowmobile trails on the left side of Trudeau between Rt 3 and the Ranger's station for all the above species. If you miss White-winged Crossbills here, send me your binoculars and I'll tell you what's wrong with them. (Certain models of Zeiss, Nikon, and Swarovski binoculars may require more testing, wink-wink.) 5. When you reach the town of Twin Mountain, begin to look seriously for shrikes and gyrs. If you get all the way to the bridge on 137 without seeing a shrike, send me your telescope and I'll test it and tell you what I find. 6. After checking out each of the farms at the junction of North and Grange Roads, park just past Grange Road and spend some time scanning the farms and the valley.

What to Look For: Hawk Owls like to perch high, often on a dead snag in the open. A back-lit Hawk Owl looks A LOT like a crow, but the tail will appear to be missing or pointed out nearly horizontally. A flying Hawk Owl will look a lot more like a fat-headed, obese falcon than any owl that you are used to seeing. Catching voles is a good sign that a Hawk Owl is having success at finding its favored foods. A Hawk Owl that is hunting grouse is having a hard time finding enough to eat.

Gyrfalcons also like to perch high, but the high point may be a rock in a field as well as the roof of a barn, power pole, or silo. Pigeons, Peregrines, Goshawks, pale Red Tails, and male Northern Harriers can all look like a Gyrfalcon (and vice versa) and there is at least one of each in the area. Gyrfalcons look most like super barrel-chested Prairie Falcons, which you are not likely to find NH, but experience with separating Prairie and Peregrine Falcons may help you. Peregrines have a bold mustache and a helmet, and they stroke from the shoulder. Gyrs have a smudged or indistinct mustache that curves in front of the eye and then back along the brow of the eye, and they usually stroke from the wrist like a raven. (Caution: an accelerating Gyr may use the full wing. However, it seems to me that movements of a Gyr's arm and hand are distinct from each other even with a full wing stroke.) Peregrines often look barrel chested, but never as much as Gyrs do, and they never have both barrel chest and barrel back in the manner of Gyrs and Skuas.

Goshawks and Gyrs both like the flap and glide pattern and have caps and a pale supercillary line, but a Gyr will never all three of (dark cap, bold white supercillary line, dark auriculars) and an adult Gos always will. The Gyr will also be obviously longer winged, and will have a dark eye instead of the red or yellow of a Gos.

There are at least three Red Tails in the area, and one is very pale with a belly band that consists of 5 or 6 spots that could easily resemble a white morph Gyr when perched. The trailing edge of Red Tail wings has two curves, one for the hand and one for the arm, while the trailing edge of a Gyr's wings will be straight. Furthermore, the Gyr will be more barrel chested than the Red Tail to the same degree that a Red Tail is more barrel chested than a Harrier or Goshawk. The color pattern of a male Harrier is very similar to a Gray Gyrfalcon above, but it would be hard to confuse the flight patterns of these two.

Directions to the NORTHERN HAWK-OWL at the Whitefield Airport: Take Route 93 North through Franconia Notch and past Cannon Mountain Ski Area. Then take the next exit for Route 3. Follow Route 3 through Twin Mountain Turn right on Route 115. Follow 115 for a couple of miles. Turn left onto Hazen Road, also known as Airport Road, after a 70 degree curve to the right Hazen Road will take you to the airport, which will be on the right. As you approach the airport, carefully scan the line of quaking aspen on the right side of Hazen Rd, beyond Runway Rd. The Hawk Owl is often seen perching and hunting on the southern (near) side of the hangars and around the nearby pallet plant. If you don't find it in the aspens, walk the woods road on the far side of the aspens from Hazen Road and Runway Road to the marshy area on either side of the woods road. Third, check in the general area between the power plant and the pallet plant, both of which are on Hazen Road, and in the trees at their entrances.

The second HAWK-OWL (actually, the first one that was reported) continues to be seen, although more irregularly, in the area of Jefferson Meadows on Route 115A. To reach the area from Route 115, continue east (left) from Hazen Road and turn north (left) onto Route 115A. If you are coming from Route 2 in Jefferson Village turn south onto Route 115A just past the Old Corner Store at the village center. Follow Route 115A until it drops into the Israel River valley and breaks from the surrounding woodlands about 2 miles from Jefferson. Check the pastureland and the alder swale along a brook that passes under Route 115A.

A gray morph Gyrfalcon was found and refound along the old railway that leads to Big Cherry Pond in the Pondicherry refuge, in Twin Mountain, at the airport as recently as Friday, at the barns in the vicinity of the junction of North Road and Grange Road in Lancaster, and along Rt 137 on the W/NW side of Lancaster. A white morph Gyr has also been seen at the latter two places, but not for a couple weeks.

Directions to Pondicherry Refuge: As you approach the airport from 115, there is a railway just before you get to the airport. Follow this railway, crossing a second one, to Big Cherry Pond to look for the Gyr. The railbed continues on to Rt 116.

Directions to North Road: Take 115, then 115A as for the second Hawk Owl, and continue to junction of 115A and Rt 2. (If you miss the turnoff for 115A, you can continue on to Rt 2, but you will probably want to turn back and go up 115A to look for the other Hawk Owl.) From 115A, turn Left onto Rt 2 toward Lancaster. Follow 2W and take the 3rd (if memory serves) right onto North Road. Follow North Road for a couple of miles and over a couple of hills until you reach a junction with Grange Road on the Right at a 120 degree bend to the left in North Road. Forbes Farm (where the white morph Gyr was found) is on the right just before this intersection. Rich Frechette and I saw the gray morph yesterday (Jan 1) at the first farm on the left going up Grange Road. Although this was my fourth Gyr, I was so excited that it took me thirty minutes before I could complete a sentence.

Directions to 137: At the far end of North Road (in downtown Lancaster), turn left. Take your first Right, which is 137, and start looking. Take a left just before the bridge to Vermont to stay on 137.

Scott Spangenberg Amherst, NH

-- Sean T Noonan (, May 10, 2001

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