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New Hampshire Audubon releases a raptor, captivates hundreds

  • Therese Smith of Hopkinton watches a kettle of dozens of migrating raptors fly overhead as New Hampshire Audobon presents information about the birds at Carter Hill Orchard on Sunday, September 15, 2013. A broad-winged hawk rehabilitated by New Hampshire Audobon was released at the event.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Therese Smith of Hopkinton watches a kettle of dozens of migrating raptors fly overhead as New Hampshire Audobon presents information about the birds at Carter Hill Orchard on Sunday, September 15, 2013. A broad-winged hawk rehabilitated by New Hampshire Audobon was released at the event.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Thirteen-year-old Evan Hamlin of Easton, Massachusetts releases a rehabilitated broad-winged hawk at Carter Hill Orchard as dozens of migrating raptors fly overhead on Sunday, September 15, 2013. The hawk was blown out of its nest this summer and was taken in by New Hampshire Audobon, which exhibited the hawk's release on Sunday at its raptor observatory at Carter Hill. Hamlin's grandfather Joseph Quinn, who passed away in April, was instrumental in establishing the observatory.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Thirteen-year-old Evan Hamlin of Easton, Massachusetts releases a rehabilitated broad-winged hawk at Carter Hill Orchard as dozens of migrating raptors fly overhead on Sunday, September 15, 2013. The hawk was blown out of its nest this summer and was taken in by New Hampshire Audobon, which exhibited the hawk's release on Sunday at its raptor observatory at Carter Hill. Hamlin's grandfather Joseph Quinn, who passed away in April, was instrumental in establishing the observatory.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Therese Smith of Hopkinton watches a kettle of dozens of migrating raptors fly overhead as New Hampshire Audobon presents information about the birds at Carter Hill Orchard on Sunday, September 15, 2013. A broad-winged hawk rehabilitated by New Hampshire Audobon was released at the event.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Thirteen-year-old Evan Hamlin of Easton, Massachusetts releases a rehabilitated broad-winged hawk at Carter Hill Orchard as dozens of migrating raptors fly overhead on Sunday, September 15, 2013. The hawk was blown out of its nest this summer and was taken in by New Hampshire Audobon, which exhibited the hawk's release on Sunday at its raptor observatory at Carter Hill. Hamlin's grandfather Joseph Quinn, who passed away in April, was instrumental in establishing the observatory.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

People in the crowd shifted impatiently from foot to foot. Some scanned the sky with binoculars or high-powered cameras. Others kept their eyes fixed on the platform above them. Behind the draped sign, they could see movement.

Crouched behind the sign, Robert Vallieres spoke slowly and calmly to Evan Hamlin as if they were the only two people in the world. Just them, and the hawk.

He showed Evan, 13, how to hold his hand, with the thumb and forefinger curled gently but firmly around the broad-winged hawk’s legs. The hawk swiveled its head side to side to see all around after having been in a dark carrying case for the afternoon.

Evan gingerly wrapped his hand around the bird’s legs and held the hawk up so the crowd below the platform could see. The bird wiggled impatiently in Evan’s hand and flapped his wings, stretching them to their full length, as long as Evan’s arm. The crowd held its breath.

About 200 people attended the New Hampshire Audubon’s annual raptor release day yesterday at Carter Hill Orchard in Concord, taking the afternoon to see live raptors, learn about the Audubon’s programs and watch the mass migration of hundreds of hawks and other birds heading south for the winter.

“Hawks are kind of the gateway bird,” said Phil Brown, director of land management for the Audubon.

“There’s something about the ferociousness of this creature that’s alluring. They look you right in the eye. They don’t show any fear,” he said.

The broad-winged hawk perched on Evan’s leather-gloved hand was born this summer and had been found in the Seacoast region, likely after falling out of his nest during a wind storm, Brown told the crowd. Wings of Dawn in Henniker rehabilitated the bird and got him ready for his big debut at the release yesterday.

Brown led the crowd in a 3-2-1 countdown.

Then Evan closed his eyes and let go.

The bird swooped down, wings open wide, and arced back up, eventually landing on a nearby utility wire.

Evan let out a sigh.

Vallieres patted him on the back and told him he did a great job.

“It was amazing,” Evan said.

Evan’s grandfather, Joe Quinn, died at age 77 this April. He was an avid supporter of the Audubon and the migration watch; this fall is the first he won’t be at the viewing platform after six years of spending countless hours scanning the skies and counting birds as they coast on the warm air rising off the Contoocook and Merrimack Rivers.

Evan and his parents, Catherine Quinn and Scott Hamlin, came to Concord from Easton, Mass., and Catherine’s brother, Ed Quinn, came from Portsmouth, to

honor his memory, they said.

“This was the thing he looked forward to the most every year. This was a labor of love for him,” Ed Quinn said. “It’s a family tradition now. I’ll be back next year. I’ll be back as long as the platform is still here and I’m still alive,” he said.

Vallieres and Joe Quinn met at the orchard several years ago. When Vallieres met Evan yesterday, he asked if the boy wanted to be part of the official release.

“It is so important, the connection with the next generation,” Vallieres said. “The next generation, we might find a way by connecting them with the nature, to do what is right.”

Bringing Joe’s grandson up to the platform and allowing him to release this year’s rehabilitated hawk was “an appropriate tribute to someone who was a big part of why we’re counting hawks here every year,” Brown said.

“It’s definitely different without him this year. He was cheerful all the time, and his message was about connecting to young birders,” he said.

Joe Quinn was one of the original organizers of The Harriers, a birders club for New Hampshire youth between the ages of 10 and 18. The club is technically separate from the Audubon, but Brown is one of the coordinators. More information is available at nhyoungbirders.org.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

A very nice story, elegantly written.

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