Hope For The Future

Posted by Jane N on

I had an encouraging sighting recently in Pittsburg, a Ring Necked Pheasant. What makes this a hopeful sighting is that NH Fish & Game has been trying to reintroduce pheasant to the Great North Woods for years now. Though it's main reason is to provide game for hunters, they also had hopes that some of the birds would survive hunting season and the harsh winters to establish themselves in the area. I will admit that in my late teens I did partake of Pheasant Under Glass ( tastes like chicken) but that was before I knew better, chalk it up to youthful ignorance.

I have been searching for this pheasant since late April. I was at the campground watching the flocks of ducks that had gathered in what little open water there was near the mouth of the river, as the rest of the lake was still covered in ice when a man approached me. He saw me with my binoculars and asked if I knew a lot about birds. I told him I knew a fair amount but was always learning more, he asked if I could help him identify a bird he just saw.

He describes the bird as chicken like brown streaked body, long tail, greenish neck, and a bright red patch on its face. He said he had just seen it walk across the road to the campground sign. He tells me he has never seen such a beautiful bird in the area before. I knew right away what it had to be, I told him it sure sounded like a Ring Necked Pheasant. I told him why this could be such a hopeful sighting and he told me he wasn't a bird hunter as he held up his fancy camera. He said he would be on the lookout for the bird again and hoped to take some pictures.

So, of course, I headed right to the area he had seen the bird. There was still snow on the ground in the woods so I was hoping I could track the bird, or at least find tracks to confirm it was a pheasant. As I was tromping thru the snowy woods looking for tracks I heard a strange unfamiliar sound, I've never heard a pheasant so I wasn't sure if that was what I heard or not but I knew it was different than any other bird I've heard. Unfortunately, the noise I was making crunching thru the snow and snapping branches was surely scaring the bird away. The snow in the woods was getting deeper and was over my boots, my feet were getting wet & cold. I was getting further into the woods, that little voice in my head told me it was time to turn around and follow my own tracks back to the cabin.

When I got back to the cabin I listened to the call of the Ring-Necked Pheasant on my bird app, and yup what I heard was the pheasant. Since that day in April every time I have been to the cabin I have been on the lookout for that pheasant but to no avail. I heard his call a few times but couldn't spot him. Then this last visit to the cabin I scored! I heard his call, closer than ever this time, I rushed out and there in the pine grove he was in all his colorful glory. The Ring-Necked Pheasant! Ahh, there was hope for the future this bird survived the winter.

Over the next few days, I saw the male pheasant a number of times. He was always calling, it felt sad, he was searching for more of his kind, were there any others out there? You would think such a colorful bird might have trouble hiding from its enemies. But one day I spotted the bird in the tall wildflowers of the field, one of their favorite habitats. The wind was gently swaying the colorful yellow, red & white wildflowers. There in the field was the pheasant. All that was visible was his face and neck, his green neck blended with the greenery and his red face patch looked just like a flower, now his coloring made sense. I saw him again later in the woods out of the sun, now I could see that his neck and face patch was more subdued, again he blended in easily, his brown body and long tail looked like the branches around him and his face patch looked like a fall leaf.

After the excitement of seeing this beautiful bird wore off, I began to wonder if there really was any hope for the future of this bird. Was it just a fluke that this farm raised bird released in the Fall had survived the harsh winter in the Great North Woods? Were there any others out there? More important were there any females out there in the woods? For there to really be any hope for the future we all know Mother Nature's rules, it takes a male & a female to ensure a species future.

One morning as I walked past the field I flushed the male pheasant, he startled me and I jumped. Then suddenly a female pheasant ran out of the tall grass and followed the male across the road! Could I really believe my eyes? Wow! Then before my heart rate could even go down I flushed the second female from the tall grass and she also ran across the road towards the others. This was incredible, three pheasants made it thru the winter. There was indeed hope for the future now!

I won't be reporting my sightings to NH Rare Bird Hotline or recording my sightings on E-Bird, this species is too delicate to draw attention to their location. Now I'm not knocking you Hunters out there, Daddy was a Hunter, I live with Hunters. I understand that it is the very money that Hunters spend on the extra Pheasant stamp that funds the Fish & Game efforts to bring these birds back to our woods. I understand that Hunters bring much-needed money into the struggling economy in the Great North Woods. It is a mental tightrope walk to balance my feelings on these issues. But for there to be hope for the future we have to learn to compromise.

So remember when daily life seems stressful & hard when the evening news is full of doom & gloom, when the future seems bleak & uncertain we have to hold on and believe there is Hope For the Future.

Happy Birding, Jane

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