Posted on May 31st, 2010 Add a comment >>
What has bright yellow legs and is black and white all over? And by the way you have to travel up a mountain to see it in our neck of the woods.
The blackpoll warbler leads an interesting life as far as warblers go. During fall migration most species of warbler travel down the eastern US, often following the coast or higher elevations of the Appalachian Mts. But our little blackpoll has a different route.
After nesting just below the treeline on many of our Adirondack High Peaks in the thick spruce-fir forests, the black poll will often wind its way south and east to the New England coastline or farther south to the Long Island coast.
Here, if the winds are just right-meaning a good tail wind from the north, our tiny two-ounce bird takes flight into the night-time skies. Loaded down with fat layers on its body, the blackpoll starts on an incredible migratory journey that takes it out over the open Atlantic Ocean and it may not land on solid ground until it reaches the Caribbean Islands and northern South America for it’s winter holiday. If it’s tired it may stop off in Bermuda for a brief rest and refuel….whew!…that’s almost 90 hours of non-stop flight.
If your birding pursuits take you on a search for Bicknell’s thrush on, let’s say Whiteface Mt, take a moment to stop along the trail or roadside and listen for the extremely high-pitched song of this bird. A quick repetition of “tsi-tsi-tsi-TSI-TSI-TSI-tsi-tsi-tsi” rising in strength in the middle of song.
Once you pinpoint the song, scan the tops of the stunted trees before you and look for a small black-capped bird, not unlike the black-capped chickadee, but with black stripes on the breast and dark wings. Then look for the definitive ID clincher of yellowish legs.
I often describe the blackpoll song as a fast-moving squeaky wheel going by you as you stand still (soft at first, then growing in volume, then softening) as compared to the flat, monotone squeaky-wheel of the black and white warbler.
If you look for this bird during fall migration you’ll be fooled by its appearance. Just before summer ends it will molt into light-green-yellowish colored feathers with some white and dark striping.
Hopefully you’re planning a hike up your favorite Adirondack Mt. this early June, maybe in search of a Bicknell’s thrush, and as you do you’ll take the time to look and listen for this little, inconspicuous, black and white bird, with the unpretentious song.
Photo Credit: Blackpoll warbler-Wikipedia
Posted on May 15th, 2010 1 comment - Add a comment >>
While traveling along the wonderful “wildlife-watching ” roads of St Lawrence County, I stumbled upon this red fox as it trotted through a dandelion-covered field. On my return trip on this road, about a half-hour later, the same fox came up to the roadside, this time it’s long pointed snout held 3-4 “meadow mice” packed in a toothy grip. Putting 2 and 2 together, I figured it was heading to a nearby hedgerow which most likely was a the site of the family den…many young mouths to feed!
On another note, this weekend appears to have all the makings for great migrant bird movements. So far I’ve tallied up some great sightings of warblers, vireos, and other migratory birds. Two highlights so far are a Scarlet tanager, and a Philadelphia vireo
Along Lakeshore Road, just north of Westport, some friends and I found a Golden-winged warbler, and a blue-winged warbler, both singing their hearts out in a second-growth field on the west side of road. A description of this area can be found in Adirondack Birding by John MC Peterson and Gary Lee. Chances are these birds are on territory and so they’ll be singing for a while longer. Hope you get to see them!
Photo Credit: Red Fox-Brian McAllister
Posted on May 8th, 2010 Add a comment >>
Birds returning north each spring are anxious to get on breeding territories so they spend every clear night, with south winds, migrating north.
If you look here you will see a US radar map from Friday night showing bird movements (the big blue blobs again!) all over the eastern US…those are migrating birds passing over a Doppler radar site But as the map progresses check out what happens as that big yellow-green blob moves in from the west and “eats up” all the little blue blobs in New York.
-just kidding, no birds were harmed in the making of this blog.
So, what we’re seeing is a storm move into the Adirondacks and totally cut off northward migration.
What happens to the birds? Well they stop flying and find a protected spot in the nearest woods or wetlands to wait out the bad weather.
As a result the birds congregate into feeding groups that can contain many species. When this happens it’s often called a “fallout”, and it’s a birders dream come true.
On a bird walk this morning, along the trails of the Paul Smiths Visitor Center, we encountered a “mini-fallout”-not so big-but fun to see the different warbler species in the trees. 9 species in fact.
Our best-bird-of-the-day was, without a doubt, a warbler species called a bay-breasted warbler and what a beauty it was!
The Adirondack’s weather for the next couple of days shows rain and north winds, which most birds don’t want because it’s hard for an object that weighs about .5 to 1 ounce (2 or 3 pennies) to fly against strong headwinds.
But the flipside is this becomes a birders delight. So get up early Sunday or Monday and go birding-the birds will wait for you!
Photo credit: Bay-breasted warbler-Wikipedia photo
Posted on May 1st, 2010 Add a comment >>
Birders across the Adirondacks await the arrival of warblers, tanagers, buntings, sparrows, thrushes…just to name a few families of birds. But recent weather patterns have allowed for some really good movements of birds over the past 2 nights. Look here. You will see blossoming “blue blobs” all over the eastern states-those are migrating birds flying over radar sights at night.
So, birds are on their way. In fact this morning I saw four species warbler while walking the trails at the Paul Smiths Visitor Center. One that seemed a bit overdue is the Nashville warbler. But there it was singing it’s little heart out along the marsh-just a day or two late.
The going theory is that it seems a bit late for these arrivals but looking over the past weather patterns shows that there was plenty of good south wind blowing birds up into the Gulf of Mexico, from Mexico, but then bad winds and weather in the mid US shut them down, only temporarily.
Birding is a game of patience and patience is what it will take to allow these migratory birds to filter into our Adirondack woods.
Also….a comment here on the horrible oil spill in the Gulf. Most of the bird families mentioned here and many other small migratory birds are fortunate in that they are not affected by the spill, as they migrate at night and are mostly flying over the shorelines along the Gulf. However, the shorebirds(sandpipers, plovers) and wading birds(herons, egrets) along with pelicans, gulls, gannets, ducks, and other seabirds will, without doubt, be harmed by this spill. We can only hope for the best and then put the oiled birds into the hands of caring and helpful rehabilitators.
Photo credit: Savannah Sparrow-Brian McAllister