I recently led a bird walk up Hadley Mountain (or Hadley Hill), near Hadley and Stony Creek.
Hadley’s firetower marks its centennial anniversary this year (1917-2017) so there is increased appreciation of this forest preserve mountain ridgeline (2653’) and its history in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest.
Dating to its organization under the leadership of Jack Freeman of ADK in 1995, Hadley’s firetower committee, led by local residents, is one of the oldest, most tenacious and effective in the Adirondacks.
Thanks to donations from individuals and businesses (Stewart’s Shoppes among them), a firetower steward has once again been hired for summer 2017, and a brochure “Hadley Mountain firetower – Where Adirondack pat views Adirondack present” greets hikers at the trail register. Tony Goetke is the cooperating NYS DEC Forest Ranger working closely with the committee and the mountain’s steward.
On this Hadley Mountain centennial it was a pleasure to birdwatch and listen with Hadley Mountain newsletter editor Linda Champagne and Adirondack Wild member Greg Wait from Corinth. On a deliberate hike up, we spent a good deal of time studying the song and habits of two of the mountain’s visiting breeding birds, the American redstart and the Red-eyed vireo.
The redstart is a warbler from the tropics which favors second growth deciduous forest with a healthy shrub understory. We studied this beautiful “butterfly bird” singing robustly from an ash tree 30 feet above our head, admiring its flashing red-orange wing and tail patches against its black body. As we continued our hike up other redstart males were establishing their own territories on the shoulder of Hadley Mountain using loud spring song to advertise – to other males and to females.
Fortunately, American redstart is still locally abundant and widely distributed, unlike some of “our” more threatened, specialized spring migrants whose altered habitats in the tropics and here (climate change, in part) contribute to steady declines in their populations. A growing, two-year list of the breeding birds on Hadley Mountain is attached.
As we climbed to the summit, a strong wind was whipping under full sun, 82 degree F. Moccasin flower and bunchberry were in full bloom. Balsam fir trees had broken their buds with a flush of green. It felt good to be alive on this ridgeline with incredible views of the rolling blue-green, wild Adirondack mountains and hazy Sacandaga Lake (reservoir) to the southwest.
With a “welcome to Hadley Mountain: and very firm handshake, the friendly firetower steward, Andre Turcotte, a sturdy young man with extensive Adirondack roots who just graduated from SUNY Potsdam, welcomed everyone at the rocky summit. Andre had other choices for summer jobs, including work in our western National Parks and Forests, but he had worked the forest fire lines on those parched forests (California) last summer and this year chose stewardship of Hadley Mountain – to be closer to his roots and his family. In our short encounter, he spoke appreciatively and knowledgeably of the abundant, clean water resources of the Adirondack mountains. After our lunch, we of course had to climb the tower and steady ourselves in the teeth of a gusting wind, appreciating mountain views in every direction of the compass.
On this firetower centennial, every Hadley hiker can benefit from Andre’s enthusiasm, information and helpful attitude to his important job of firetower steward. He will undoubtedly greet all those who hike during the official commemoration of the firetower’s hundredth year on Saturday, July 15.
For those who wish to contribute to the Hadley Mountain firetower committee, address your check to: Hadley FireTower Committee, c/o Joe Busch, Treasurer, POB 4501, Queensbury, NY 12804.
Hadley Mountain breeding bird list, 2016-2017 (a work in progress, please add to it):
Black-throated green warbler
Black-throated blue warbler
Bay-breasted warbler or Cape may warbler (?)
Eastern wood peewee
Photos from above: Dave Gibson with Greg Wait, Hadley firetower in background; Andre Turcotte, Hadley Mountain firetower steward; and American Redstart by Gerrit Vyn, courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology.