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 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 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 December 15th, 2010 Add a comment >>
In an earlier posting I had mentioned how birders anxiously await the coming of winter to see what “exotic” northern birds might come along with the cold and the snow. Well over the past few days we have been hearing about good sightings of Bohemian Waxwing, Common Redpoll, and the occasional Evening Grosbeak throughout northern NY.
And the timing could not be better, as this week begins the much-anticipated 111th Christmas Bird Count. Across New York State and countries all over the Western Hemisphere, birding enthusiast’s will cover many miles by car, on foot, on skis, in boats, all in search of avian critters to count.
New Yorkers will begin there counts this weekend and even through the holidays they will keep an eye on bird feeders, nearby parks, and wood lots and record their findings. Adirondackers can find about half-a-dozen CBC’s in their neck of the woods
Click here for more information on the NYS Christmas Bird Count.
And here’s an additional article from the New York Times
Also…at this time of year, how can we not think about the amazing winter survival strategies that are going on all around us in the animal world.
Winter World is a book written by Naturalist/Professor(UVM) Bernd Heinrich which delves into the frigid world of winter and survival techniques that animals use to make it through the many sub-zero nights. A must read!
Around my neighborhood gray squirrels raid birdfeeders and local conifer stands by day but what do they do as late afternoon temperatures drop and a clear night sky plunges the thermometer to zero or below? Heinrich takes great effort to explain the ways animals make it through another winter night.
Finally…snowflakes have been on my mind lately. We all know the wonderful 6-sided shapes they come in as they fall on our face, sleeves, or tongue. But do they all look that way throughout the winter? The answer is no.
Snowflakes can change shape even as they fall from hundreds of feet in the air and finally land on the ground. Flakes of early winter(like now) will usually hold their hexagonal shape with multiple edges. They may even collect other flakes as they fall and give us the big downy flakes right down to the ground.
But as we progress through winter the moisture and temperature levels in the air decrease and as the flakes fall they often collide with one another resulting in broken pieces of the crystal breaking and falling to the ground. We often see these smaller column-shaped or “spicules” landing on our gloves later in the really cold months of January or February.
Go buy some cheap black knit gloves and head outside while it’s snowing to enjoy the shapes of snowflakes all winter long.
Photo Credit: Brian McAllister
Posted on November 6th, 2010 Add a comment >>
November means waterfowl-watching along the still-open waters of Lake Champlain, and right on cue the waterfowl are making their entrance.
On a recent birdwatching trip along the western shoreline of the lake we made several stops to our favorite haunts including AuSable Point Campground, Willsboro Bay, Noblewood Park, and quaint village of Westport.
Most of what we see on the Lake, over the winter months, would fall under the group called diving ducks (those that feed on fish, crustaceans, and mollusks). And currently these ducks are just beginning to arrive on the lake. Flying down from Canada’s many lakes and ponds, these ducks will often remain in the area until the increasing ice forces them farther south.
On our recent trip along the lake we found buffleheads in growing numbers as well as common goldeneyes, common merganser, and lesser scaup. As we approach early winter all these species can be found in large groups or “rafts”, of one species but may often be found in mixed rafts.
Driving along Route 22 south of Plattsburgh we find a few spots to pull over on the shoulder, look out onto the lake and scan for ducks. Near Valcour Island we begin to find common loons, and horned grebes in their winter plumages.
In the town of Westport we can find geese, ducks and gulls all coexisting on a few sand bars near the Westport Boat Launch, and in front of the Waste Water Treatment Plant.
The “broad lake” has quickly become a birdwatchers delight as the north winds howl and the ducks replace the sailboats on the choppy winter waters.
Posted on November 5th, 2010 Add a comment >>
On a previous posting, I wrote of the chances of a few “northern” winter finches coming down to visit the Adirondacks in search of better food sources. We’re slowly getting word that pine siskins, evening grosbeaks, and purple finch are being found at local bird feeders. In addition to these species we also get word that a small flock of bohemian waxwings is being seen around the Lake Placid area.
These largely nomadic groups of waxwings can suddenly appear in a region, visit all the cherry, mountain ash, and ornamental crab-apple trees in that area for several weeks and then secretively vanish as they search the countryside for new sources of berries, and seeds.
Its close cousin is the cedar waxwing which resembles the bohemian with the main difference being a smaller size and lacking the rusty-red coloring of the under-tail coverts which help us identify the bohemian.
So despite the inclement weather of rain and wet snow, you should keep an eye out for these avian visitors on your travels and at your feeders. If you do see some of these species, feel free to write in your sightings on the “comments” section of this blog….we’ll appreciate it!
Posted on September 23rd, 2010 2 comments Add a comment >>
Fall means migration in the bird world and we are in the thick of it!
While we sleep thousands and thousands of small migratory birds are winging their way south over cities, villages, farmlands, and forests. Some are making incredible flights thousands of miles in length.
One bird, the Bobolink, that was nesting in hay fields around the Adirondacks this summer, has gathered into flocks and are now flying to the very southern reaches of South America. As we proceed into autumn and winter, our South American neighbors are feeling the tantalizingly warm beginnings of spring. As a result the Bobolinks will spend their summer (our winter) in Argentina eating rice!
Hawks, eagles, and falcons, also called raptors, are all on the move south these days. Many birders in our area will be heading over to the Lake Champlain Valley to watch the migration of thousands of Broad-winged hawks as they form roiling “kettles” of circling birds that are riding warm air thermals rising off the Valley floor and gently moving the birds south. Some Broad-winged hawks have the very sweet winter destination of Costa Rica.
Warblers and vireos are also commonly found these days grouping up into feeding flocks that filter through our Adirondack woodlands in search of late caterpillars, moths, and spiders. I find it amazing that these tiny birds are migrating hundreds of miles each night while we slumber. Read more here.
Before long the autumnal blue skies will be filled with south-bound Snow Geese and Canada Geese. Filling our ears with that homecoming-sound, the geese passing overhead aren’t going too far for winter. They’ll end up in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.
But the big news in the birding world was just released today in the form of a long-awaited email. It’s the traditional analysis of Canada’s cone crop review.
Each autumn, a Mr Ron Pittaway of the Ontario Field Ornithologists, gathers information from many birders around Canada and northeastern US about how the current pine, spruce, and other cone-bearing trees are doing this year. Are they producing lots of cones for the winter finches, waxwings, and other seed-eating birds?
2009 was not a very good year for winter-visiting finches here in the Adirondacks. So what does Mr. Pittaway have to say about this year? Read here!
Cutting to the chase, it looks like a couple winter finches might filter down our way from Canada. Possible visitors of Pine Siskin, Common Redpoll and Purple Finch might grace our seed-filled winter feeders. But if you enjoy skiing or snowshoeing, then it’s worth a perambulation through your nearest woodlands this winter to check out the avian visitors.
Photo Credit: Pine siskin(Wikipedia)