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Birding on nature trails this fall: A tale of caution!

Ah, the glory of a crisp Autumn nature walk amongst the rainbow of spectacular fall foliage! With the Black Flies of early summer and summer mosquitoes gone, autumn in New England is ideal for getting out onto nature trails and birdwatching. You’re not alone.

This year, with the pandemic, the interest in escaping outdoors is greater than ever. As your rising interest in your local birds lures you on or off the trails this season there are a few precautions to take.

Birding in New England

Watch for hunters

First, in many areas, hunting season is underway. Check your state’s fish and game department’s website for the dates of open season for such categories as deer and big game, waterfowl and upland game birds. Most birders often wear neutral or dark clothing at this time of year so as to not alarm nearby birdlife. However during hunting season you are urged to wear a bright orange hat or jacket to stand out.

The main color to avoid on your person is a WHITE hat, WHITE scarf or white anything. Deer hunters are at the ready for even a glimpse of the raised white undertail of a White-tailed Deer prancing away. If you believe you are in a hunting area in season do consider talking (such as “look at that hawk”) to alert possible hunters of your presence.

Beware lingering poison leaves

Another danger lurking in the woods is our dangerous poisonous to touch plant, poison ivy. It may lurk as an herb, shrub or vine. Do not touch their beautiful scarlet autumn leaves nor any woody parts at any time.

Tick alert!

Finally, do wear tick-proof clothing and repellents if likely to wade into tall grass or shrubbery off clean trails where ticks may be waiting. The tick we worry about most in our region is smaller deer tick, which can carry Lyme disease. Ticks are most active in late spring then again in autumn when adult ticks are looking for a winter home. Deer ticks can remain active above 40 degrees, even in the winter.

Best of luck finding lingering summer birds, the many fall migrants en route south and the arriving winter resident birdlife. Invite some friends to join you, tell them about Spark Birding and stay safe.

Peter Alden, October 2020


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