Posted on November 23rd, 2010 Add a comment >>
Photo Credit: Wild Raisin (Viburnum cassinoides) – Brian McAllister
Posted on November 8th, 2010 Add a comment >>
Here’s a posting of interest from The Nature Conservancy :
For the full 25 page report click here
And click here for a Summary of the 201o report.
Photo Credit: Forest regrowth-Brian McAllister
Posted on June 29th, 2010 4 comments Add a comment >>
Here’s a short pictorial collection from a wonderful morning paddle through a nearby wetland.
Click on the name to reveal the photo:
Rose Pogonia or “Snake mouth”
Large Cranberry -Vaccinium macrocarpon
Swamp Candles or “Yellow loosestrife”
Photo Credit: Flower of the pitcher plant(above) and all other photos-Brian McAllister
Posted on June 13th, 2010 9 comments Add a comment >>
I set out this morning to get in another boreal bird survey that I conduct for the Wildlife Conservation Society. My destination was Madawaska Pond, about 10 miles northwest of Paul Smiths, NY. As I got out the car I new it would be a fine morning, because instantly I heard a Boreal Chickadee calling 20 feet from my car. I was right, things got better.
As I wandered down the densely forested logging road with several pockets of boreal wetlands along the way, I encountered wonderful views of a Gray Jay family w/two very darkly colored young.
The Yellow-bellied Flycatchers were also very vocal.
However, the highlight of the day turned out to be a poor viewing of a singing Tennessee Warbler in an area where the dense conifer forest merges into the boreal wetlands of Madawaska Pond. I was so excited that I pumped my fists into the air in final victory of this great encounter. Well that victorious bubble soon burst after I returned home.
Turns out three birder friends were at this very same spot and heard the very same bird I heard only several days earlier. They, unlike my poor viewing of the bird, were able to see the bird singing, and one of them officially recorded the song with his recording equipment. But much to his amazement and bewilderment, he was witnessing a Nashville Warbler singing the song of a Tennessee Warbler. He would not have believed it if he had not observed it.
Alas, my victorious pumping of fists was all for not. However, this brings to mind what a very interesting bit of bird vocalization “anomalie” we just witnessed.
So what was going on there? Did this Nashville Warbler just randomly pick up the song of a Tennessee Warbler. Was this Nashville, as a chick, raised in an area where Tennessee’s were also breeding and singing and simply learned a Tennessee song?
Or was this bird just not satisfied singing a “city” song and felt compelled to sing a “state” song!!…sorry.
Whatever the answer, it is still a mystery that birders, across the globe, face as we learn more about bird song. It is not all that uncommon for birds to learn whatever song they hear growing up as a chick in the nest(other than parents). This has been replicated in laboratories.
Yes there is also that instinctive process of learning the song that your parents sing for you. But to add another twist is the fact that some birds (of a different species) can take over care and feeding of a unrelated nest.
Well, we like to think we know a lot about nature but then there’s always that curve ball that humbly sets us back a step or two.
Photo Credit: Boreal wetland -Brian McAllister
Posted on April 18th, 2010 2 comments Add a comment >>
I wonder if in 1881, amateur ornithologist Eugene P. Bicknell, had any idea what a whirlwind he would cause in the birding world by classifying his new-found thrush as a subspecies. Back in the day they assumed this thrush was a just a subspecies of gray-cheeked thrush(a bird lesson for another day). Fast forward to 1995 and the birding-powers-that-be officially gave Bicknell’s thrush it’s current name and status as a species of thrush.
As birders eagerly watch for Bicknell’s thrush on Whiteface Mt near Lake Placid, they are grateful to Eugene because he added another bird to the big list, which in turn adds another “tick” off the list for the hardcore birders among us.
But over the years we’ve learned a lot about Eugene’s bird, and it now stands precariously on a delicate precipice that could easily crumble. Bickies are listed as a “Bird of Special Concern”. As you look at the range for this bird you see a very small wintering ground in the Caribbean and a very localized breeding ground here in the northeast.
To make matters worse, Bickies nest in a very inhospitable area – they prefer the harsh climate of the very thickly-wooded red spruce-balsam fir forest found at higher elevations of the Adirondacks, Green, and White Mountains in northeast US.
Your best bet to see a Bicknell’s is to take a drive up the Whiteface Mt Toll Rd which is certainly eaiser than climbing the other mountains where Bicknell’s is found, but if you’re the hiking type and enjoy a good workout, then try Wright Peak, Hurricane Mountain, Blue Mountain, or even Cascade Mt(outside Lake Placid).
On Whiteface, stop, look, and listen along the stretch of road between the “Lake Placid Turn” and the “Wilmington Turn” before coming to the top.
Chances are you will hear the thrush before you see it. The peak time to observe this bird is during the early breeding season(late May-early June) when they are most vocal. You can hear the song here
As with other members of the thrush family, the Bicknell’s is somewhat drab brown in color with a pale white breast w/darker spots on the throat and upper breast. Many sharp-eyed birders are able to discern a reddish color to the feathers of the tail and larger(primary) feathers of the wing.
Also the paler brown coloration on the cheek of Bicknell’s differentiate it from the “gray-cheek” of the gray-cheeked thrush…clever name, eh?
Here’s the other ID clue that you need to know. At a point on most of the High Peaks around here you come to an elevation where the Bicknell’s shares habitat with it’s other cousin the Swainson’s thrush. That’s somewhere around the 2500-3000 ft level. But if you are beyond that elevation, in the thick spruce-fir forest, then there’s a very good chance you are looking at a Bicknell’s
Well pat yourself on the back and then buy yourself a beer to celebrate your accomplishment…not many get to see this bird, and it’s pretty high on the list of “priority sightings” for many birders.
Better yet, save the money from the beer and give it toward a research organization that’s keeping tabs on one of our prettiest but most imperiled thrush!
Photo Credit: Bicknell’s thrush – Wikipedia
Posted on March 21st, 2010 2 comments Add a comment >>
Now I’m sure many readers are familiar with our year-round Adirondack resident black-capped chickadee. They’re the clever acrobats of the woods who seem to eat birdfeeders clean all winter long. But if you venture off the beaten pathways a bit and find a remote red spruce, tamarack, and balsam fir forest you might come upon black-caps’ close cousin the boreal chickadee.
Chances are you will hear a boreal chickadee before you see it. The songs are similar to black-caps but more nasal and scratchy in quality. I hear “sicka-day-day” instead of the lighter chicka-dee-dee of black caps.
So once you’ve honed in on the call notes you now have to find the bird. …and the trick to finding boreal chickadees is to look deep into the conifer trees, specifically near the trunk of the tree. For some reason boreals spend a lot of their foraging time near the trunk. Are there more insects found there? Are they better protected from predators deeper in the boughs of the trees? Heck if I know! But about 8 times out of ten you’ll find them there.
So this one tip should help you focus your search when you come upon an active group of chickadees in a conifer forest. Certainly look at all the chickadees but then go further and look at those birds found on the inner branches of trees.
Where the black-capped shows black color on its head and throat, you will find that’s been replaced with a chestnut-brown color for the boreal cap, and a softer gray nape, or back of the head.
Most striking to me are the soft, brown or peach-colored flanks on the sides of boreals. To me that stands out as a field mark that is very different from black caps.
As its name tells us, this year-round resident bird is a true boreal species seeking the dense confier forests throughout the Adirondacks. Likewise, this is a bird high on the lists of many birdwatchers seeking a view of it through their binoculars or camera!
One of my favorite spots to look for boreal chickadees is along the snowmobile and mountain bike trails at Bloomingdale Bog where I access the trails from County Rt 55 near the hamlet of Bloomingdale, NY.
Photo credit: Boreal Chickadee – Wikipedia
Posted on February 26th, 2010 12 comments Add a comment >>
I’d like to start a new feature here on Notes from the field which I’ll call “Learn your boreal birds“. This title refers to the many species of birds that spend a majority of their time in the Boreal Forest region of North America.
What is boreal again? Boreal forests make up a fair percentage of our forested land in the Adirondacks. It’s made up of mostly coniferous trees or cone-bearing species (pine, spruce, fir, tamarack,cedar).
If you were to map out the boreal region on a globe, it would be shown as a continuous ring of green encompassing northern Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, and Siberia.
But as luck would have it, the Adirondacks, due to several factors including; soil, bedrock, local microclimates, and vegetation, has a version of boreal that we can see/access from many back roads throughout the region.
As we’ll see in future postings, some of our boreal birds are year-round residents and some are summer residents only. These summer only birds will spend the winter months down in the tropical regions of South and Central America and then migrate to the Adirondacks in the spring.
I’ll start this series with the year-round resident Gray Jay. Clicking this link will take you directly to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s(CLO) “All About Birds” website. If you look at the Jay’s home range map you’ll see a tiny dot where the Adirondacks are. We’re lucky because this is the only area in New York State where this jay can be found. Gray jays are related to all the family(Corvidae) members of the jays, crows, and ravens of North America.
You can read all about the life history of gray jay on CLO site but I’d like to focus on our Adirondack population. I’ll often find gray jays squealing and screeching along the Bloomingdale Bog trail(snowmobile trail in winter). I find the best part of the trail to see the jays is to drive to the northern access point (along County Rt 55) between Gabriels and Bloomingdale. Here you can walk south along the trail, and listen carefully as you do, for the high-pitched squawking the jays make as they approach the trial.
Over the past two summers, I’ve come across several pairs of gray jay with their very dark gray young(photo above right). This leads us to believe that gray jays have had several successful breeding seasons in a row. At one site I counted 4 young!
Gray jays have the wonderul ability to “stash” food in various places in the forest. They will often put food in the crotch of tree limbs, or bury it, or place it in an abandoned nest hole in a tree. All this so it has food(if it remembers where) to tide it over during the winter months.
Gray jays are rather tame and will often approach humans and feed out of hands…if there’s some good food in that hand. Keep some granola in your coat pocket if you’re heading into a bog.