Posts Tagged ‘Birding’

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Plattsburgh’s Erastus Hudson and the Lindbergh Baby Case

1A EMHudson“Trial of the Century” is a term frequently bandied about in the media to define extremely high-profile court cases. In the 1900s, twenty or so sported the moniker—the Scopes Monkey Trial, Nuremburg, Charles Manson, and O. J. Simpson among them—but always in the running, and at the top of many lists, is the Lindbergh Kidnapping in 1935. (The crime was committed in 1932; the court case began three years later.) At the center of one of the main issues during that trial was a North Country man, whose testimony spawned doubt among observers that justice was achieved. Many books have been written about the case during the ensuing 81 years, addressing the controversy as to whether the final verdict was justice or a travesty thereof.

That North Country man was Erastus Mead Hudson, born into a prominent Plattsburgh family in March 1888. (Hudson Hall at Plattsburgh State University is named after Erastus’s father, George Henry Hudson.) He attended Plattsburgh High School, and after graduating from Harvard in 1913 with a bachelor of science degree, Erastus attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, graduating in 1917 with specialties in bacteriology and body chemistry. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Adirondack Wildlife: Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

the outsider hummingbirdZzz-zzzt. Sitting on my deck on a summer afternoon, I’m often distracted by a hummingbird whizzing by. The tiny bundle of energy hovers in front of a row of jewelweed, probing each pendulous orange flower with its long beak, then backs up and darts to the next. My dozing cat raises his head and observes the hummingbird as it zips by, heading for the cardinal flower. “Don’t you even think it,” I admonish him.

This bee-like creature is a ruby-throated hummingbird, the only species of hummingbird found in our region. Iridescent green with a white breast, it is named for the male’s scarlet throat (the female has a white throat – as do this year’s little ones of both genders). Ruby-throats weigh only 0.1 to 0.2 ounces, less than a nickel. Kent McFarland of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, who has banded these birds, commented, “when you have one in your hand, it is shocking how small they are.” » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

NYS Bald Eagle Conservation Plan Completed

bald eagle portraitThe State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced a new conservation plan to manage New York’s population of the bald eagle. The Conservation Plan for Bald Eagles in New York State describes the historic status, restoration efforts and current status of the bald eagle in the state and provides guidelines for future management actions. A draft of the plan was released in February 2015; more than 120 comments were received.

The bald eagle, currently listed as a threatened species in New York, continues to make recover across the state. The Conservation Plan serves as a guide for landowners, resource managers, local government agencies, and other stakeholders to manage and perpetuate the bald eagle and its habitat in New York. This plan also informs the public of actions recommended to achieve the goal of a sustainable, healthy bald eagle population, including its essential habitat and the ecosystems it depends upon. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Goose Drive at Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area

Geese - Diane Chase PhotoFor the past 50 years the New York State Department of Environment Conservation (DEC) Region 6 has been gathering a team of volunteers and staff to collect data on the resident Canada Geese population. According to Regional Habitat Manager Christopher J. Balk, the data collected helps manage the flock and provide pertinent information to tailor bag limits during hunting season. This June 30, 8 am – 2 pm, is another opportunity to corral and handle some geese.

“The volunteers get to reach over the top of the enclosure and help hand the goose to a staff member,” says Balk. “We are usually banding at least 400-500 geese at this event and use the information to primarily report on the bird’s location at two points of time.”

These geese are resident, not migratory, Canada Geese so the distance between their wintering and summering habitat is usually only a few hundred miles. Hunters report the band numbers when they harvest the birds in the fall. The data allows Balk and his colleagues to track to see if a flock is intermingling or not, track growth and movements of the resident population and and to establish annual hunting regulations. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

After DDT: The Return Of Bald Eagles

bald eagle the outsiderTo the delight of all who revel in the grace and beauty of nature, bald eagles are soaring above the Northeast in numbers unseen for over a century.

We’ve come a long way since the days when poor farming and logging practices denuded our forests, choking streams with silt and compromising the food chain.

We now know that if you degrade the eagle’s habitat and pollute the water you affect the entire web of life, including fish-eating birds in the skies above. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Birding In The Rain On Hadley Mountain

Hadley Mtn firetower in sunnier weatherSunday’s Bird Walk at Hadley Mountain (a part of our Adirondack Forest Preserve near the Warren-Saratoga County line) was a wash-out. Linda Champagne, intrepid newsletter editor for the Hadley Firetower Committee, was the exception. As we walked up the trail a ways, the drumbeat of rain on our heads slowed, and the migratory birds breeding and raising young here could not help themselves. They sang not for our sake but for the life force that seizes and keeps a territory, and a mate in the right habitat, with the right food for that species and its nestlings.

From the parking lot we heard the incessant song of red-eyed vireo; then a veery; an ovenbird; then a hermit thrush. The rain picked-up again, all song was drowned-out, and we headed back to the parking lot. On the way down, I noticed a red eft salamander crossing the trail. These are the dramatically changed terrestrial stage of the common newt or yellow spotted salamander. Having left their natal ponds, these efts are in the forest making a living until their return to aquatic life in a year, two or three, or more. Their dramatic red-orange color warns off potential predators, and fortunately warned me from stomping on him. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Lives of Pileated Woodpeckers

tos pileated woodpeckerWuk-wuk- wuk-wuk! With a rattling call, a large bird took off from a tree and flew in an undulating fashion across our field towards the woods. It was black and the size of a crow, but flashes of white on the underside of its wings and a red crest on its head easily identified it as a pileated woodpecker.

We had seen the unmistakable signs of pileateds foraging for insects in the adjacent woodland: huge rectangular holes excavated in trees with big wood chips littering the ground below, long strips of bark pulled off a dead elm, a rotten log torn apart. We had heard their loud drumming echoing through the forest. There was likely a nest nearby, although we never found it. The pileated woodpecker, up to 19 inches long with a wingspan up to 30 inches, is North America’s largest woodpecker. (The ivory-billed, of southeastern swamps and Cuba, was larger, but that species is believed to be extinct.) Pileated means “crested”; years ago, the bird was often called a log-cock. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Adirondack Wildlife: Angry Birds

angry birds TOSOne morning in mid-March, I opened the door to discover a dark-eyed junco frenetically battling another bird. Or at least it thought it was another bird. His nemesis was, in fact, his own reflection in the stainless-steel chimney of my wood stove. The junco was perched on a bracket between the chimney and the house and every few seconds would flutter in front of his reflection and repeatedly peck it.

The chimney was still cool, as I had started a fire only minutes before, but I assumed that eventually the heat would deter the bird from getting too close and that would be the end of that. But it wasn’t. The steel apparently never got hot enough, and the conflict raged on. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Signs Of Spring: Robins On The Nest

the outsider robinWe noticed the first robin in our yard this year in early March. Normally these famous spring harbingers, who move in comically stilted hops across our front lawn, don’t show up until at least April Fool’s Day. Their earlier-than-usual arrival made me wonder how robins decide to begin a spring migration.

The American robin, with its celebrated rusty-red breast, is a short-distance migrant. These members of the thrush family – the brightly-hued eastern bluebird and the melodious hermit thrush are cousins – move based on a number of factors, mainly related to food supply and the weather. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Molting: Bird Feathers Flying

“Boy, he’s really red! I don’t think I’ve ever seen them that red before,” my wife said admiringly of a male purple finch crunching sunflower seeds at the feeder. He was a nice burgundy. The male goldfinches were getting yellower, but still looked scruffy. The birds made me optimistic that spring would finally get here. The next morning it was ten degrees.

Birds molt for a basic reason: feathers wear out. All that flying, preening, dust bathing, weaving through limbs of bushes and trees. For a bird, ratty feathers can be a death sentence. Feathers, which are made of keratin, like your hair and nails, have to be replaced. There is another reason to molt: it allows birds, mainly male birds, to don more colorful plumage for mating season.

Why males? » Continue Reading.


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