A Season of Change: Fauna on the Move

Migration is the periodic movement of an animal from one region to another. Animals migrate to mate, escape extreme temperatures of different climates, and to find resources that become scarce at different times of the year Did you know that even insects migrate! Many insects migrate south from New Hampshire in winter, including several species of dragonflies, fireflies, butterflies, and moths. The most commonly studied of these is the monarch butterfly. Interesting note: monarch caterpillars feed only on milkweed plants and incorporate toxins from this plant into their bodies, making them poisonous to any hungry predators. At the end of each summer, the year’s last generation makes an epic journey south to overwinter in the forests of Michoacán, Mexico.

Not all animals migrating away from New Hampshire are headed South! For some animals, New Hampshire is a winter destination. The snow bunting is well adapted to cold and snowy conditions, spending its winter in the northern half of the continental US. When spring ensues, this bird heads North to more arctic climes.

The journey isn’t always long… When New Hampshire’s lakes start to freeze over, the common loon travels to the Atlantic Ocean to spend the winter. Loons can be spotted in their gray winter plumage off the coast of Maine, less than 100 miles from their summer locale.

There are some animals whose migration is measured by altitude, not latitude. Pine martens, which are members of the weasel family, live at or above tree-line during the warmer months. Once the weather turns colder, they migrate down in elevation. Many birds are also known to do this, including Dark-Eyed Juncos, which frequent the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center birdfeeders every winter.

Interested in learning more about the natural history of the White Mountains? Join a Naturalist Guide at the AMC’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center for a guided walk or hike. Call ahead (603-466-2721) for program times and details. Have a natural history question that you would like answered in this blog? Send out an e-mail to amcpnvcnat@outdoors.org.

Kassie Fenn
AMC Naturalist Guide

Fall Foliage Update 2009
Check in for weekly fall foliage updates from AMC Naturalists. We will post weekly photos from Pinkham Notch and across the AMC backcountry huts. Check back and follow fall across the White Mountains.

Sept 4 photo from Square Ledge, Pinkham Notch, NH