Gilford Public Library

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A Knight In Shining Armor

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer 5/17/22


A tiny, returning migrant to NH announces its arrival with a flash of iridescence and a tell-tale buzzing of wings. The Ruby-throated hummingbird’s name reflects how the male’s throat literally glitters in the right light. Tilted one way, the throat appears dark and dull; yet when it turns towards the sunlight, the “magic” happens.

These brilliant feathers are called its gorget. The name is an ancient one, referring to the metallic collar knights-in-armor wore as protection for their throats in battle. The male hummingbirds shimmering gorget comes from iridescence in its thinly layered, layers of “platelets”, where light waves reflect and refract, creating the glittering sight which the male uses to attract the attention of female hummingbirds.


For more information:

A Hummingbird's Shining Armor

Hummingbirds found in NH


Long Distance Traveler Returns to Gilford

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, 5/10/2022



New Arrival!


A bold and beautiful member of our community arrived back this week in Gilford. It’s brilliant black, white and splash of red on its chest, plus its melodic song announced the arrival of the Rose-breasted grosbeak. An amazing concept is that these grosbeaks migrate every fall all the way to North and Central America, with most fly over the Gulf of Mexico in a single night!. They will fly singly, as couples and in groups, sometimes even with other species.


Rose-breasted grosbeaks are thought to be monogamous, sharing the process of parenting from nest building and incubation, to caring for the young.

While the male is a colorful vision, the female’s appearance is much more subtle , with brown and white streaks.


An Avian Eyeful

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, 5/3/2022


Birds depend on keen sight for survival and have two eyelids, an upper and a lower. Nocturnal birds like owls, close the upper lid, while the daytime (diurnal) birds raise the lower eyelid when shutting their eyes. 


What’s even more interesting is that birds have an additional physical adaptation to protect their eyes from being scratched when hunting prey, flying through foliage against damage from dust and wind. It’s a third, semi-transparent eyelid, called the Nictitating (blinking) membrane. Hinged on the inner side of the eye, it closes horizontally across the cornea. Along with protection, this eyelid will also keep the eye moist and clean.


Fun fact: When an osprey dives for fish, the nictitating membrane acts as goggles, allowing the fishing bird to see its prey.



To learn more about this annual phenomenon:

Birds Have Built-In Goggles


Turkey Vultures - Nature's Clean-Up Crew

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, 4/26/2022

A common sight soaring above our heads every spring are the ubiquitous turkey vultures. Similar in size to eagles, turkey vultures fly at lower altitudes with their wings in a V-shaped angle called a dihedral, rocking side-to side as they glide on thermals.



Turkey vultures are scavengers, eating only carrion (dead animals), providing an important service in preventing the spread of dangerous bacteria to the environment.


Turkey vultures have several adaptations in their job as nature’s clean-up crew.


Although their legs and talons are weak, their excellent eyesight and unique sense of smell (unusual in birds) allow it to spot the carcasses, preferring freshly killed animals. Their bald heads prevent bacteria getting trapped in feathers and extremely strong stomach acids kill the bacteria before it hits their intestines. One other adaptation, after standing in carcasses, is that the turkey vulture will urinate on its legs, both to cool down and to to kill any bacteria that might remain.


To learn more about this annual phenomenon:

Turkey Vulture


For Kids:

Turkey Vultures


It's All in the Details

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer 4/19/22

Another welcome sign of Spring is the return of sparrows. There are 20 species found in NH, ranging from easily identifiable ones like the Junco and Towhee, to the majority of little brown songbirds. A birding walk with a naturalist surprised me when he referred to sparrows as LBJs…(little brown jobs). 
Even the most experienced birders can find it a challenge to identify which one is which. The signs can be subtle, like the Chipping Sparrow and the American Tree Sparrow. At first glance, they look like twins, but It’s all in the details. Looking closely, one notices the differences in color on the eye bars, the Tree sparrow’s bi-colored beak, and an elusive spot on the Tree Sparrow's chest. They are fun to watch and it’s even more fun to figure out their identity.
To learn more about this annual phenomenon: