A Brown Booby, a rare sea bird never spotted in New Hampshire before Saturday, sits on a deck overlooking Cobbetts Pond in Windham.
A Brown Booby, a rare sea bird never spotted in New Hampshire before Saturday, sits on a deck overlooking Cobbetts Pond in Windham.
Bird aficionados and wildlife photographers from across the region are flocking to Cobbett's Pond, hoping to catch a glimpse of a rare species spotted in the Granite State for the first time Saturday.

A summer renter staying near the Town Beach noticed the large seabird — known as a Brown Booby — perched on his waterfront deck over the weekend.

"I knew it didn't belong here just by looking at it," said John Kleschinsky. "It never left Saturday. And on Sunday, it would fly away and then come back every 15 minutes."

Word spread quickly after an interested Kleschinsky posted a photo on Facebook, asking if anyone had information to share.

The responses came flooding in, and so did interested bird watchers.

Nineteen-year-old lifeguard Andrew Merchant said 15 to 20 people occupied the small beachfront area Saturday.

"People were going nuts about this. They came with telescopes," he said. "(The bird) was staying in pretty much the same area the whole time."

Naeem Yusuff, a scientist from Cambridge, Massachusetts, traveled an hour and 15 minutes to stand on the sandy Cobbetts Pond shore with his telescope and binoculars Tuesday afternoon. The temperature hovered near 95 degrees.

He was joined by retirees Lawrence Rawls, of Croydon, New Hampshire and Greg Carter of Amherst, New Hampshire. The three were strangers for just a few moments, but quickly bonded over their passion for birds.

Each said they found out about the Brown Booby sighting in Windham from online blogs and email lists they're subscribed to.

"They can migrate great distances," Rawls explained. "They spend their entire lives on the water. They are only on dry land when they're reproducing."

According to Becky Suomala, a biologist with New Hampshire Audubon, the species is "a bird of tropical ocean waters," most commonly spotted on an island off the coast of Florida.

"Right now, the only nesting we know about in the U.S. is in Hawaii," she said. "They nest in the Caribbean, too."

The bird could survive in Windham, Suomala said, but not for an extended period of time. Her hope is that it will head back south on its own before temperatures plummet.

Onlookers said the bird eats by tucking its wings and diving head-first into the water, coming back up with a fish in its mouth.

Suomala has three theories as to how it made its way to the Granite State.

"Sometimes their compass is off. If that happens, when they're migrating or moving, they're going in the wrong direction," she said. "Some birds get storm blown (typically by a hurricane), but we haven't had any large systems to account for this instance."

Most likely, however, she believes the bird just wandered to Windham.

"Sometimes it allows the species to find new breeding grounds, but most of the time it's unsuccessful," she noted.

Photographers Bob Stevens, of Littleton, Peter Cristoph of Lancaster, Massachusetts and Nancy Gower, of Westford, Massachusetts, gathered closer to Kleschinsky's cottage to set up their cameras and wait for their moment to snap some shots.

They researched different bird guides to determine the white-chested, long-beaked bird was likely a female.

Brown Booby
Brown Booby
"I've seen blue- and red-footed varieties in the Galapagos Islands (in Ecuador, near the equator)," Stevens said. "But this the first time I've seen a brown one."

For nearly everyone who made an effort to see the bird in the Windham, it's a "life bird," Rawls explained from the Town Beach.

"That means people are seeing it for the first time," he said. "It's a special experience."

The biologist Suomala asks people to be respectful of the homeowner, the bird, and their surroundings while bird watching.

"Let the bird do its thing," she said. "Just watch. It's a sight to see."