Hancock author publishing guide for New Hampshire birdwatchers.
Unlike many birdwatchers, Eric Masterson can recall the exact day he became fascinated by birds.
“It was a day when I was 11, on a farm in County Wicklow, in Ireland, where I grew up,” Masterson recalls. “A friend took me out, and he showed me a treecreeper, a fieldfare and a pied whitetail. A lightbulb just went off. Each one had an identity and a story. That got me hooked.”
Masterson, 45, went on to get a degree in zoology from University College, Dublin. He moved to Hancock in 1999, after marrying an American, Tricia Rose Burt, and worked in the field of environmental conservation, first at N.H. Audubon and for the last two years at the Harris Center for Conservation Education, where he’s the Center’s land protection specialist and resident bird expert. And this spring, he’s published his first book, titled “Birdwatching in New Hampshire.”
That introduction to birding in Ireland showed Masterson that each bird species is unique.
“What I’m trying to do with this book is to tell the best stories of New Hampshire’s birds and help point people in the right direction, at the right time of year and in the right conditions, so they can experience these stories first hand,” Masterson says.
In addition to tips on how to recognize the best birding weather, what times of day are best and how to use binoculars or telescopes, Masterson devotes a chapter to each of six regions of the state. Maps show how to reach many of the best birdwatching sites and Masterson includes descriptions of what birds are likely to be seen at each location. Each chapter includes Masterson’s personal anecdotes about his own experiences in the area.
He also writes at length about how weather can impact a day of birding — how wind patterns, cold fronts and warm fronts at different times of the year can make all the difference when it comes to spotting birds in the field.
“It’s really hit or miss if you don’t follow a plan,” Masterson says about birdwatching. “This is a guide that tells you when and how. There isn’t any other like it that exists for the state.”
Masterson says field guides like the ones written by Don and Lillian Stokes of Hancock are invaluable for identifying birds, but they can’t provide the detail that really helps people find birds in a given locality. “Birdwatching in New Hampshire” is an effort to narrow the focus to just New Hampshire.
The book includes a section of species accounts that show the arrival times for each species, the peak months when they are in New Hampshire and their preferred habitats.
“The bar charts show exactly where each birds of each species are,” Masterson says. “They will tell you in much finer detail whether what you are seeing is reasonable or not.”
Masterson will be talking about the book and signing copies at a launch party on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Harris Center. He will also be reading on April 27 at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough at 11 a.m. and at the Hancock Public Library on May 2 at 7 p.m.