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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Long Weekend in the Adirondack North Country

After a three year hiatus from an annual winter trip to Franklin and Essex Counties I returned for some birding over the past weekend. I lead a group of birders from the Brooklyn Bird Club and hoped not only to locate some boreal species, but also enjoy some of the scenery on snowshoes. The weather was atypical for this time of year and, at times, downright bizarre. Saturday the high temperature was 51 degrees, Sunday the windchill was -22! We still managed to see some nice birds and test out our new winter gear.

Our itinerary included Croton Point Park, Fort Edward, Lake Placid (Chubb River, Adirondack Loj Road, Marcy Meadow, Riverside Drive), Bloomingdale Bog, Bigelow Road, Paul Smith VIC and Newcomb VIC.

A Fog Shrouded Croton Point Park

(Photo credit - Rob J)

We started the trip on Friday morning, January 13th. We drove to Croton Point Park for our first birding stop. A light fog made birding a challenge and we kept saying things like, “It looks like the fog is beginning to lift”. It never did and, in fact, got much worse as the morning progressed. If there were any Bald Eagles present we would have never seen them. Bulldozers working on the landfill grassland killed any chance to see Short-eared Owl. However, two bright spots here were three Eastern Meadowlarks and a sleeping Eastern Screech Owl. We continued north with tentative plans to stop at the Fort Edward area to look for Short-eared Owls.

Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

We arrived at the open fields of Fort Edward when the sun was low in the sky. A single Short-eared Owl was perched at the very top of a small sapling. The setting sun cast an orange glow on the yellow-eyed bird. A light morph Rough-legged Hawk flew overhead and disappeared over the horizon. A second owl fluttered over the grass fields. There were also flocks of American Tree Sparrows in the area.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on Short-eared Owl-

I was concerned about the recent stretch of warm weather and decided to skip walking down the Chubb River on Saturday. It drizzled on and off most of the day so I opted to visit Paul Smith VIC for some feeder birding and snowshoeing. There weren’t very many birds at this location but the beauty of hiking the Boreal Life trail made up for it.

South Meadow Brook

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here to learn about the Adirondacks-

A deer ribcage at the head of Bigelow Road attracted both Black-capped and Boreal Chickadee and several Gray Jays. The Gray Jays seemed more interested in checking us out than feeding on the deer. We circled Riverside Drive a couple of times and finally located a Northern Shrike perched very briefly at the top of a conifer. Thanks to a tip from Larry Master we were able to observe a large flock of Common Redpolls at his feeders.

Snowshoeing at Paul Smith

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Along the Boreal Life Trail

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The most active location of the trip was at the Newcomb VIC. We arrived before the center opened but a walk around to the back of the building revealed lots of hungry birds. The hanging feeders hadn’t been put out yet but platforms under the windows still contained some sunflower seeds. Between the non-stop visits from Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches was a male Pine Grosbeak. The radiant red bird elicited “oohs” and “aahs” from our whole group. He also had to share the seeds with several ill-tempered, chattering Red Squirrels.

The Pine Grosbeak departed just before the 9:00am center opening time. As the center’s manager was arriving to open the building a flock of Evening Grosbeaks suddenly appeared in the trees near the feeders. They’ve only been present for a couple of days but apparently have learned the feeder hanging schedule. At one point approximately 20 grosbeaks lined the railing of the deck holding the feeders.

-Click here for some Pine Grosbeak photos-

Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on Red Squirrels-

After a few hours at Newcomb we hit the road and began heading back to NYC. We decided to stop at Fort Edward for one last look. During this visit we counted four Short-eared Owls either perched or hunting over exposed patches of grass. While watching the activity we saw one owl suddenly drop to the ground and come up with what appeared to be a mouse. As he flew to a perch to enjoy his meal a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk arrived and began harassing the owl. The owl dropped his prey which was quickly retrieved by the dark bandit. Around fifteen minutes later we spotted one of the other owls with prey clutched in his talons. Unfortunately, the Rough-legged Hawk also noticed. They briefly tussled and the owl dropped his meal. The acrobatic hawk wheeled around, rapidly descended, snatched the prey in midair and flew off with his pilfered booty. The unexpected air show under a fiery setting sun was a great way to end our weekend.

-Click here for some photos of Rough-legged Hawks-

Fort Edwards grasslands

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Croton Point Park; Ft. Edward; Franklin & Essex County, 1/13/2006
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Bufflehead (Croton Point Park.)
Hooded Merganser (Stream near 86 between Saranac & Paul Smith.)
Common Merganser (Croton Point Park.)
Bald Eagle (Flyover at junction of 86 & 3 in Saranac.)
Northern Harrier (Croton Point Park. Ft. Edward.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Croton Point Park.)
Cooper's Hawk (Croton Point Park.)
Red-tailed Hawk (~30-40 along the thruway.)
Rough-legged Hawk (Both dark & light morph, Ft. Edward.)
Ruffed Grouse (South Meadow Rd.)
American Coot (Croton Point Park.)
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eastern Screech-Owl (Croton Point Park.)
Short-eared Owl (Ft. Edward.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker (Paul Smith.)
Pileated Woodpecker (Paul Smith.)
Northern Shrike (Riverside Dr.)
Gray Jay (Bigelow Rd., Stephenson’s feeder.)
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven (Various locales.)
Horned Lark (~20, Ft. Edward.)
Black-capped Chickadee
Boreal Chickadee (Bigelow Rd.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Bigelow Rd., Newcomb VIC.)
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper (Paul Smith.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Paul Smith.)
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Northern Cardinal
American Tree Sparrow (Ft. Edward.)
Savannah Sparrow (Croton Pt., Ft. Edward.)
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark (3, Croton Point Park.)
Pine Grosbeak (Newcomb VIC.)
Common Redpoll (~100, Lake Placid at Larry Master’s feeder.)
American Goldfinch (Croton Point Park.)
Evening Grosbeak (~20, Newcomb VIC.)
House Sparrow


Anonymous said...

Hey Rob, Great pictures and report. The scenes were so memorable: the snowfall in the evening in town, the frozen landscapes, those frosted trees at the top of the distant hills, the Raven flying alongside the car. This is not a trip for sissies though. It was, at times, somewhat cold.

Rob Jett said...

Thankfully, everyone came back with all their fingers and toes intact. It was the first time that I experienced weather so cold that I had ice forming on my eyelids.

Starz723 said...

Great Report and beautiful pictures Rob..especially the report on the Short eared owl & the rough legged stealing his meal. Nothing like being in the right place at the right time to behold great moments of nature.

I love the north country and enjoy canoeing into the wilderness during the summer. If you all go on this trip next year, Id love to join you. There are some life birds there Id love to see.

LauraHinNJ said...

The Adirondacks is one of my favorite places in the world - but cold! I spent my honeymoon there in December of 93.

I like to visit there in the early summer with NJ Audubon - great time of year but the black flies are awful - an advantage of a winter trip!

Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos.

TourPro said...

Excellent report and photography. Gotta give you a big thumbs up for having the gumption to do a trip in January!

Rob Jett said...

Thank you, and thanks for the comments and link on your website: