Posted on July 5th, 2011 Add a comment >>
After studying their genetic diversity, NYSDEC is looking into a spruce grouse recover plan for the Adirondack spruce grouse population(which stands at around 100-200 individuals).
Posted on June 11th, 2011 4 comments Add a comment >>
Photo Credit: Tennessee Warbler-Wikipedia photo
Posted on May 12th, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
The thermometer nudged into the lower 70’s today as the sun tried but couldn’t find a hiding place behind clouds. A gentle wind blew in from the northeast, but the sun kept things warm.
What a perfect day to walk Henry’s Woods in Lake Placid. The spring migrant bird population was in full chorus and the spring wildflowers were making themselves known with their vibrantly colored flowers.
Here’s what I saw:
The bird population was very abundant, and too many to fill this blog. But I’ll list a few that I saw. If you walk the looped trail in a counterclockwise direction you will cross over several small tributary streams that feed a larger brook. Here the soil is very rich with a healthy overstory of beech, birch, maples, and some conifers for a splash of color.
The treetops in this area are just opening their buds and so small caterpillars and other insects are feeding on these buds. These insects make for a great breakfast for birds. Here are some of the species I saw feeding in the treetops:
Photo Credit: “Squirrel Corn”-Brian McAllister
Posted on May 6th, 2011 4 comments Add a comment >>
Mark your calendars for the weekend of June 3-5! We are presenting the 9th Annual Great Adirondack Birding Celebration(GABC) at the Paul Smith’s College VIC in Paul Smiths, New York.
We are thrilled to be featuring Scott Weidensaul as our Saturday evening Joseph and Joan Cullman Lecture keynote speaker in the Paul Smith’s College VIC Theater @ 7:30pm
Click here for schedule, registration and additional information for this event.
Three days of birding events will take place at the Paul Smith’s College VIC as well as off-site field trips(Saturday and Sunday mornings) to Wilmington, Paul Smiths, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Santa Clara, NY. Each field trip will focus on finding the many boreal bird species that inhabit this area during their summer breeding season.
Friday will feature an all day Boreal Ecology Workshop at Massawepie Mire and The Wild Center. Friday evening is a dessert reception/GABC introduction, followed by our ever-popular owl walk on PSC VIC property. Saturday afternoon activities include workshops, and presentations and time to visit our vendors Wild Birds Unlimited of Saratoga Springs
Please visit our GABC sponsors as they give much of their financial support, time and efforts to this years event:
Photo Credit: Magnolia Warbler-Wikipedia
Posted on April 21st, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
After rolling many thoughts through my head and bouncing off ideas to listening ears I am thrilled to announce the creation of the “Adirondack Birding Center” -a new venue that will focus all its efforts on birds and bird related activities.
The new Paul Smiths College VIC, in Paul Smiths, NY has offered space(3,000 acres of it!) for all Adirondack Birding Center programming, walks, workshops, presentations, and more. The Adirondack Birding Center is an entrepreneurial endeavor that will truly put the Adirondacks on the “birdwatching map”.
Down the “not too distant” road I see Paul Smiths College(and possibly other nearby institutes of education) integrating their own ornithological research and programming into the Adirondack Birding Center’s long list of public programming.
So stay tuned for more details and I’ll be sure to post them here.
Posted on March 24th, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
What a pleasing sound the drips make as they drop their 98% water and 2% sugar-laden loads in the aluminum bucket. The sun feels good on your face, and the 40 degree Fahrenheit day envelopes the last of a wintry scene on the hillside.
It’s maple “sugaring” season in the North Country! Gather your taps and buckets, hammer and drill. Go find the sugar maples that cooled you in summer, painted your forests in fall, and allowed the birds to rest, sing, and even build a secure nest among its branches.
Acer saccharum, our most notable maple(and the official State tree of NY), plays a major role in our northern forests. Being one of the dominant “hardwoods” of the Adirondack forests (along with white and yellow birch, American beech, ash, aspens, and a couple other maples), sugar maples create a great habitat for birds at all stages of tree growth.
Many warblers will find refuge, and nest-building opportunities in a dense stand of young sugar maple saplings. Older maples will hollow-out as they age and this creates a new home for a raccoon, barred owl, pileated woodpecker, or if your lucky a great horned owl might build a nest in the stronger branches near the trunk. I’ll even bet you have at least one piece of furniture in your house right now made with sugar maple wood. It’s strong.
But back to the sugarin’. The sap is slowly “rising” up from the roots where it has laid dormant over the winter(although in a somewhat starchy form), waiting to flow freely up into the tender branches of it’s canopy. Here it will full-fill it’s role as the major nutrient source for the hundreds of swelling buds on branch tips.
Drill your hole, tap in your spout, hang your bucket and listen for the tap-tap of sap. As you listen around the woods this time of year you’ll hear the “onk-o-ree” of distant red-winged blackbirds, the hollow rattle of the downy and hairy woodpeckers as they drum on old branches, and the occasional light melody of the brown creepers as they sing in March.
High overhead, you’ll hear the passing of hundreds of Canada and snow geese as they wind north with the spring. While the sun warms the tree trunks and rocks around the forest floor, Eastern chipmunks shake the sleep out of their eyes and bounce along the ground in search of early food.
Now the real work begins. You’ll pour a full bucket of sap into a bigger bucket and have to carry that down to the sugar house. These new-fangled plastic tubes that connect sap hole to sap hole in a sugar bush take all the fun out of carrying 40 pounds of sweet sugar maple sap! Well, after a week of carry these buckets I might be whistling a different tune.
White-tailed deer find the melting snow easier to walk through, so at dawn you’ll find their tracks carefully tracing your own boot tracks from the day before. Late in the day as you begin to boil your sap the same deer will probably investigate the smells of your burning wood. Temperatures will drop tonight and the sap will stop it’s watery march.
As you go to bed all sore from carrying these heavy loads of sap, you’ll breath out a sigh and then listen for the deep “who, who-who, who, who” of the great horned owl off in your wood lot as he protects the nesting female and her tiny down-covered young in the hundred-year-old sugar maple.
Photo Credit-all photos Brian McAllister
Posted on March 10th, 2011 7 comments Add a comment >>
The phrase “survival of the fittest” that we associate with Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, is playing out in real time this late winter season in the Adirondacks.
One of my students in ornithology lab told me of finding two dead barred owls under a tree recently, and also of a dead barred owl on the side of a NY State highway.
Today I received a call from friends saying they know of a recently deceased barred owl in their neighborhood, and about 6 hours later I hear reports of a barred owl feeding on chickens in a village residents’ backyard!
Hmm, I’m sensing a pattern here. And that pattern is lack of food, too much snow, and a poor winter for rodent populations.
Reports are coming in daily about barred owls staking out tree branches in many northeast US backyards and keeping a sharp eye on the ground under bird feeders. Here they’re hoping to catch a mouse that runs out from the snow cover to grab a few fallen sunflower seeds.
Speaking of snow cover…we’ve got plenty of it here in the Adirondacks and it’s getting hard for an owl to find their preferred food which is snug under 3 feet of snow. Owls will pounce on a mouse or vole if it comes to the surface of the snow but some recent thawing and re-freezing has left a solid layer of frozen snow/ice that a vole finds hard to get through.
In addition to hard conditions(heavy snows) for mice, we also hear that it’s been a bad season for reproduction in rodent populations. So owls face a double whammy of cold temps/heavy snow and too little food source. All the fixings for starvation.
I was recently given a dead barred owl to take into ornithology lab where our students can investigate this truly beautiful bird of prey, and if possible, prepare this owl as a museum specimen so future students can learn from it.
Before the bird went into the freezer for safe keeping, I was able to snap a few photos of it to show the details of why it’s known as a bird of prey.
Talons for catching a rodent:
Tiny extensions on their primary(wing) feathers for turbulence reduction-which allows for silent flight:
Pretty sharp beak for tearing flesh:
Well, the spring forecast calls for rain, warming temps, and a growing litter of mice:-)
Photo Credits: Barred Owl(top)-Wikipedia, all other photos by Brian McAllister
Posted on March 7th, 2011 Add a comment >>
Well despite the 29 inches of snow that has fallen over the past two days, the calendar marches on and my “birding calendar” tells me that some species of birds will start singing before long. I don’t know about you but I am certainly ready for it! As I write this blog I am playing my Stokes Field Guide to Bird Song as background “music” to get in the mood.
Birds such as the hairy and downy woodpeckers will soon be heard repeating their song throughout our woodlands. But to our untrained ear it might sound like a series of dry rattles, or drumming. That’s because the male birds are rapidly hammering their little hearts out on some dead branch of an old maple of cherry.
In this unique case these birds are giving a song but it’s in the form of a song substitute(not given by the voice) – drumming their bills on a branch that they hope will resonate loudly through the forest. Click here for a great write-up on this topic by David A. Sibley.
Soon we will hear the light, musical phrasing of the Brown Creepr, as it “creeps” along the trunks of beech, maple, and other hardwoods, searching for food on the bark. It’s close relative, the White-Breasted Nuthatch can also be heard giving a series of quick “whi-whi-whi” notes in the same forested habitat
Listen carefully for the springtime notes of “fee-bee” given by Black-capped Chickadees as they gather in small groups in your yard or in the woods. Warm temps and blue skies can’t be far behind.
And who can’t wait to hear the first sounds of northward migrating Canada Geese as they honk to one another and follow their ancient pathways through the spring skies.
Along with these early songsters we should also be on the look out for flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds ( I hear there are reports of blackbirds winging over fields and brush down in the Lake Champlain and St Lawrence Valley’s), Common Grackles, and Brown-headed cowbirds.
Waterfowl are certainly not taking a spring break this month. Soon reports of many mixed flocks of waterfowl will be given around the St Lawrence River and Lake Champlain regions as they are now congregating in big groups on the open Hudson River well to our south.
If you’re sick of looking down at the dirty, gritty snow, then take a look skyward on warmer days with southerly winds and hopefully you’ll pick out some migrating hawks, falcons, and eagles. Reports of many Golden Eagles are filtering through the “internet air-waves” as they fly northward from the Ohio Valley to Pennsylvania and into New York. Late March-April can be a great time to look for Goldens over the Adirondacks.
The thrushes and warblers on my CD are lulling me into an early bird-induced-spring-fever, but that’s OK because there’s still 29 inches of snow out there to melt.
Photo Credit- singing Savannah Sparrow-Brian McAllister
Posted on February 28th, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
At first they were being seen around the Great Lakes region in early winter, then they slowly filtered their way into New York State around January. Now we can find Common Redpolls scattered throughout the northeast and down to the mid-Atlantic states. They now number in the hundreds at some bird feeders in NY as well as here in the Adirondacks.
The common redpoll is a small sparrow-sized bird that often goes to where the food is plentiful. That means that this Canadian-breeding species will move, en masse, to an area of healthy food supply any given winter……and this winter looks like a good one for us.
White and yellow birch(Betula) is one of several food sources they see out. It’s possible that birch, and other seed-producing trees in the north are not producing a good mast(seeds) and so redpolls filter south into the US.
To the birdwatcher’s (and bird feeder-watcher’s) delight, common redpolls are visiting birdfeeders all over the northeast. That can be a good thing or a rather expensive thing depending on how often these pink-hued mobs eat you out of thistle and black oil sunflower seed!
Males will burst onto the scene with their blushing red chest and ruby-red cap, while the females and younger males take on a more subdued “streaky brown” coloration, both showing a quieter red cap and black throat.
To the sharp-eyed birder, chances are about one in every group of 100 could be a Hoary Redpoll, which looks quite similar. Still, many an “advanced birder” can find themselves second guessing their own identification of a hoary.
But then if a birder gets a bit daring they will further their identification prowess by calling out, “that one looks like the Greenland race of common redpoll, as a opposed to the more-common “southern” race of Carduelis flammea! Just look at their dark brown auriculars, deep black lores, and darker greater coverts!”
“Why yes, I concur whole-heatedly!”
On another note…….
I’d like to bring your attention to the new Facebook page on the website of Adirondack Park Institute (API) who, by the way, has become a wonderful sponsor of the 9th Annual Great Adirondack Birding Celebration, taking place at the Paul Smiths College “VIC” June 3-5, 2011. API is a friends group for the Paul Smiths College VIC and the Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb(a part of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry). The two VIC’s are going through a bit of a change after NY State gave up ownership of these incredibly beautiful and educationally-valuable pieces of property in 2010. Both College-owned facilities will continue to provide much-needed information and education to visitors that come to the Adirondacks as well as to those who dwell within the 6 million acre park. API has, and will continue in this role. We’re hoping all you Face book-savvy folks out there will take the time to check it out, and then become a “friend” of the Adirondack Park friends group!
Photo credit: common redpoll-wikipedia
Posted on January 21st, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
If you are a birdwatcher then you have probably felt the angst when a fellow birder spots a bright red scarlet tanager tells you to look in the red oak tree….”And which tree is that?” you nervously ask.
Well now you can answer yourself, confidently, after you’ve looked over the pages of The Sibley Guide To Trees by David A. Sibley…yes the same author of The Sibley Guide To Birds
Here is a great interview from the Boston Globe where Sibley describes his latest field guide.
We, in the Adirondacks, have a slight “learn-your-trees-advantage” over someone in, let’s say Great Smokey Mountains National Park where 130 species of trees can be found. We can get by on learning our 35-45 species of trees which are found throughout the High Peaks and surrounding regions.
Take the guess-work out of tree identification and learn what to look for in our forests.