Posted on April 6th, 2010 Add a comment >>
Last week, I posted a list of rock-climbing routes that are closed to protect the postential nesting sites of peregrine falcons. This morning, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it is adding the Upper Washbowl routes to the list. The following is an e-mail sent out by Joe Racette, a DEC wildlife biologist:
We have observed peregrine falcons engaged in nesting behavior at the Upper Washbowl cliff at Chapel Pond, and effective immediately are closing all climbing routes on Upper Washbowl Cliffs. Climbing routes on Lower Washbowl cliff will remain closed until peregrine falcon nesting on Upper Washbowl cliff is confirmed.
Posted on March 31st, 2010 3 comments Add a comment >>
A year ago, scientists learned that a large bat hibernaculum exists somewhere near Chapel Pond. They inferred as much when dying bats were discovered flying around Route 73 last March, long before bats usually emerge from hibernation.
Peregrine falcons that nest near Chapel Pond also discovered the bats. They returned from their winter habitat early this year, in mid-February, and a state biologist thinks they did so to feed on the sick bats. The bats suffer from white-nose syndrome, which has devastated bat populations through the Northeast.
“We observed the falcons foraging on bats both last year and this year,” said Joe Racette, a senior biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “They’ve been coming back a little bit earlier every year, but I think they learned last year that there was an early food source.”
Racette said DEC has not been able to ascertain the exact location of the hibernaculum, but he noted that a rock climber has seen bats in a crack on the Spider’s Web, a cliff on the north side of the highway.
Meanwhile, DEC plans to close, starting Monday, more than two hundred rock-climbing routes on three cliffs to protect falcon nesting sites. Some or all of the routes should be reopened later in the spring or summer once scientists learn where the falcons are actually nesting.
“We close the routes early on to allow the falcons to choose nest sites without being affected by human activity,” Racette said.
All the climbing routes on Moss Cliff in Wilmington Notch and on Lower Washbowl near Chapel Pond will be closed until further notice. In addition, DEC will close all but twenty-four of the 167 routes on Poke-o-Moonshine’s Main Face.
DEC will post updates on the closures on its website.
Following is a list of the routes on Poke-o’s Main Face that will remain open:
2. Goat’s Foot on Rock
3. High and Dry
5. Big Buddha
8. Pearly Gates
10. Battle Creek
11. Static Cling
12. Certified Raw
13. Air Male
14. Son of a Mother
15. Phase III
18. Puppies on Edge
19. Hang ’Em High
20 Group Therapy
24. A Womb with a View
Posted on August 31st, 2009 3 comments Add a comment >>
The brown pelican that excited Adirondack birders for a few weeks has died of starvation, according to Amy Freiman, a wildlife rehabilitator in Newcomb.
The pelican was first spotted on Fourth Lake in the Fulton Chain and later on Lows Lake. Observers said it exhibited strange behavior, approaching people in boats and at campsites, apparently looking for food. The photo above is a case in point.
Freiman said the bird, though it may have appeared healthy, probably was famished the whole time. She speculates that it may not have been able to fish in our murky waters. Brown pelicans usually fish coastal waters. They reside along the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic as far north as Maryland. This pelican, a male, was banded in Maryland in 2001. It was the first of its kind seen in this neck of the woods.
“How it got here, that’s a big mystery,” Freiman said.
When Freiman received the bird last Wednesday, it was already weak and emaciated and vomiting bits of styrofoam and earthworms. The bird died overnight. She sent the carcass to Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Delaware for a necropsy.
“It had other issues, but the main cause of death was starvation,” Freiman said.
She thinks the bird might have been saved if authorities were alerted sooner. “The biggest mistake was that all the birdwatchers who were enjoying this bird didn’t call anybody,” she said.
By amazing coincidence, the bird was captured after begging for food at a Lows Lake campsite whose occupants included a woman who used to raise and rescue brown pelicans in Florida. Her son wrote in an e-mail posted on a birders’ e-mail group: “My mom caught the pelican and we kayaked down the Bog River to the Lower Lowe’s [sic] Dam. At the dam, my mom hitchhiked with the bird to the nearby Wild Center. However, they would not take the bird, or give it fish, so she took it to the High Peaks Animal Hospital [in Ray Brook].”
Steph Hample, a Wild Center naturalist, said the museum is not set up to take in wildlife. She also said that protocol calls for examining a distressed bird before feeding it. Hample was en route to the Wild Center to look at the bird when the woman decided to take it to the animal hospital instead. The hospital later turned the bird over to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Next time an unusual bird shows up, Freiman hopes people will contact DEC right away. “Anytime you see a bird that is outside its natural habitat, there is something wrong,” she said.
“Everybody tried,” Freiman added, “but it was just too late.”
Posted on August 26th, 2009 3 comments Add a comment >>
For the past week, Adirondack birders have been marveling about a brown pelican first spotted on Fourth Lake in the Old Forge-Inlet region.
John M.C. Peterson, one of the authors of Adirondack Birding, says this is the first brown pelican seen in this neck of the woods. Peterson keeps records of bird sightings in the Adirondack-Champlain region for the New York State Ornithological Association. As defined by the association, the region encompasses most of the Adirondack Park and some territory outside it.
Carolyn Belknap, an avid birder with a camp on Fourth Lake, took several photos of the pelican, one of which appears here. She had heard about the bird from e-mails on the Northern New York Birds online-discussion group.
“My encounter was pretty much dumb luck,” she wrote the Explorer. ”I was kayaking with my ten-year-old niece and two visitors. My niece suggested we go across the lake, so we paddled to Eagle Creek, a small creek off of the north shore of Fourth Lake right across from our camp. The pelican was on a dock at the entrance to the creek, waiting for us. I was fortunate to have my good camera with me. The pelican was standing so still, that at first I didn’t register that it was alive!”
A few days after the initial sightings, the bird turned up on Lows Lake. Jeff Nadler, whose bird photos often appear in the Explorer, said the bird jumped onto the kayak of a friend’s daughter, apparently hoping for a handout.
The pelican is banded, so birders are hoping to find out where it came from.
Posted on July 13th, 2009 1 comment - Add a comment >>
Sometimes it seems like half the people in the Adirondacks have seen a panther. Heck, I thought I saw one myself last year. But a spruce-grouse sighting–now that’s a real rarity.
As reported in the Explorer this year, the spruce grouse is one of the most endangered birds in the Adirondack Park (and the state). The birds live in patches of boreal habitat more characteristic of northern Canada than northern New York. Over the past two decades, the number of “birding blocks” in the Park where the bird has been sighted has dropped 26 percent, from twenty-seven to a mere twenty. One researcher fears there may be fewer than a hundred of the birds left.
So it’s good news that Steve Langdon thinks he saw a spruce grouse in a region where there has not been a confirmed sighting since the 1980s. At the time, Langdon was driving on a dirt road in the Shingle Shanty Preserve, private land located south of Lake Lila, with Ron Tavernier, a biology professor at the State University College at Canton. Langdon is helping to manage research at the preserve.
“I was just giving him a tour of the property, and this grouse tears across the road,” Langdon says. “Both of us saw the red on the head.”
Red patches above the eyes distinguish a male spruce grouse from the much more common ruffed grouse.
Langdon and Tavernier realized the significance of the sighting. They stopped to look for the bird, but it had disappeared.
Glenn Johnson, a spruce-grouse researcher, said there have been no confirmed sightings in the Shingle Shanty region since the 1970s, although the land’s caretaker had reported seeing spruce grouse on a number of occasions. Johnson and Angelena Ross surveyed the region from 2001 to 2005 but found no specimens. Johnson is tantalized by Langdon and Tavernier’s sighting. “These guys are on the ground a lot, so maybe they’ll find the bird,” he said.
Ross, a state wildlife biologist, notes that Shingle Shanty Preserve is seventeen miles from the nearest known spruce-grouse habitat–at Massawepie Mire. And yet spruce grouse, being poor fliers, generally don’t travel more than six or seven miles. If spruce grouse exist at Shingle Shanty Preserve, she said, they could be an isolated population or they might have come from an unknown population between the preserve and Massawepie Mire.
Johnson and Ross are working on a plan to protect the Park’s spruce grouse. One option is to introduce birds from out of state. But the preliminary results of DNA tests suggest that the Adirondack spruce grouse has a unique genetic makeup. That could complicate matters. On the one hand, bringing in birds from outside could change the population’s genetic identity. On the other, the population’s unique DNA could be a sign of a lack of genetic diversity.
Click here for an online Explorer story about the Park’s boreal birds, including the spruce grouse.
Click here for maps showing the locations where spruce grouse are known or thought to dwell in New York State.
Posted on July 6th, 2009 2 comments Add a comment >>
A friend and I paddled one of my favorite canoe routes the other day. Putting in at Jones Pond, we paddled across the pond, down the outlet to Osgood Pond, across the pond, and down the Osgood River to an old rock dam. We then returned to Osgood Pond, crossed it again, and finished by padding two small ponds connected by small canals dug by hand in the nineteenth century.
This trip is hard to beat for the variety and beauty of the scenery: grassy rivers; large ponds with mountain views; vast marshes and bog mats; charming canals bordered by pines and hemlocks, and the Japanese teahouse at White Pine Camp.
If you do the whole end-to-end trip, you’ll paddle about ten miles and take out at Church Pond near Paul Smiths. It took Lynda and I about five hours, but we took our time. Instead of shuttling cars, I left a bicycle at Church Pond and pedaled back to my car at Jones Pond. The bike shuttle took twenty minutes.
I plotted our route with a GPS watch. You can see our route here. However, note that I forgot to turn on the GPS function until we had nearly crossed Jones Pond.
Incidentally, Jones Pond Outlet and Osgood River teem with birdlife. The trip is included in Adirondack Birding by Gary Lee and John M.C. Peterson, which I published last year under the Lost Pond Press name. As Lynda and I paddled down Jones Pond Outlet, we encountered two birders from the Albany area, Tom and Erika Butler, who had come here after reading the book (which they had in their canoe). They were quite amused when I told them I was the publisher. While we chatted, Tom spotted a blue-headed vireo in a dead pine.
The Osgood River is one of the best places in the Adirondacks to find the American three-toed woodpecker, one of the rarest birds in the state. We didn’t spot any woodpeckers, but we did have fun following a great blue heron down the river. We also saw what appeared to be a large canid swimming across Osgood, perhaps a coyote.