A Birder from the Beginning
Katrina, a southern New Hampshire native, was aware of the Harris Center at a very young age. She went hiking with her family on Harris Center trails as a child and has very crisp memories of seeing Evening Grosbeaks there.
“Early on, my mom recognized my love of the outdoors. She likes to credit my love of nature with a time a spider was on my play set when I was a toddler; she chose to teach me about the beauty of the spider, rather than to fear it.”
Katrina was homeschooled by her mother, as were her two younger brothers. This allowed Katrina to spend a lot of time outdoors, immersed in nature. As an adult, she has created a work life for herself that is something of a continuum of her earlier outdoor experiences. She does contract work for various nonprofit, federal, and private organizations as a seasonal field technician.
“I conduct bird, plant, vernal pool, and other wildlife surveys. I love being out in the field and collecting data. I like analyzing it, too.”
Scanning the Skies
Katrina has been deeply involved in the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory, run by the Harris Center in partnership with New Hampshire Audubon. She remembers attending her first hawk watch many years ago with her family, when she saw a Golden Eagle. From that point on, Katrina wanted to spend every spare moment up on the mountain counting raptors. During the intervening years, she has contributed countless hours to the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory and other hawk watch sites, both as a volunteer and as a paid hawk counter.
“One of the things I love about hawk watching is that as you spend day after day watching the sky, you get to feel the heartbeat of the season. You also get to be an ambassador of the natural world.”
As Pack Monadnock’s lead hawk counter for four seasons, Katrina would stand atop the Observatory’s viewing platform for a minimum of eight hours a day, five days a week, scanning the skies for raptors and other birds during the migration season: hawks, falcons, eagles, ospreys, geese, warblers, crows, and other migrants. Katrina typically observed 75 to 90 different species of birds each season.
Counting birds of prey helps scientists keep track of long-term population and migration trends that can show if a species is declining and, if so, lead to further study. Each day’s count and a daily summary is entered into the Hawk Migration Association of North America’s database, found at hawkcount.org.
“In our best season, we counted almost 20,000 migrating raptors, mostly Broad-winged Hawks.”
An Ambassador for Nature
Along with collecting data, one of the goals of Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory is public outreach. To this end, Katrina has spoken to thousands of visitors, sometimes hundreds a day, on top of Pack Monadnock. She answers questions about raptor biology and migration, discusses the impacts of human activities (like pesticide and land use) on birds, and shares the importance of bird protection efforts. Katrina’s sense of reverence for the birds shines through as she shares her wealth of knowledge.
“Watching for raptors opens the public’s eyes to the natural world in a way so few other things do. They might sight a bald eagle, for example, which can catch their imagination and open up a universal appreciation of nature from that point on.”
Sometimes school groups come to the Raptor Observatory on field trips to participate in the Hawk Watch. Katrina enjoys working with the children and introducing them to her passion. Her excitement is contagious.
“It’s so exciting to see a flock of turkey vultures put on a show for the school kids!”
The Big Picture
Travels to Alaska, Florida, Arizona, Canada, and Peru have added to Katrina’s love of seeing birds. She enjoys seeing the diversity of bird life, as well as immersing herself in different cultures.
Katrina generally reaches for her binoculars before her camera, as photography can distract from observing behavior and other details. Although birds and other wildlife occupy most of Katrina’s attention, she finds time in between to knit and sell various original creations, often incorporating — you guessed it — a bird theme.
With Katrina’s heart for winged creatures and her love and sensitivity for wildness, the natural world is fortunate to have her as an ambassador.
“There are so many big issues with the environment, and I really believe that unless people develop an appreciation for nature, they won’t care. As people learn about the issues, they can be helped to see that even small steps they take can make a difference to the world around them.”
For more information on the Harris Center’s 50th anniversary celebrations, please contact Lisa Murray at (603) 525-3394 or by email.