Endemic to the Adirondack Park are a number of brilliant birders and I’m pretty sure they all roll their eyes when they see me coming, because I’m not much good with biological IDs of any kind, and I’m always peppering them with dopey questions like, “What bird is small, black and white and has a song that kind of goes ‘chickadee-dee-dee.’”
Birds are fascinating for their appearance, songs and habits, and as with most outdoor things, I know just enough to be dangerous.
This week a creature of avian disposition crossed my path and I silently wondered what kind of bird is blue, with a little rust and is about the size of a bluebi …
In my defense this was Dec. 2, and bluebirds typically have vamoosed by now, so the little fellow caught me by surprise. I can’t say for a fact this is a direct product of climate/habitat change, although I doubt he’s just been sticking around for the Christmas in the Forks parade.
Curiously, this October I had an epidemic of bluebirds flying down the chimney into the (unlit) wood stove, reasons unknown. They didn’t seem to mind being gently removed, and flew off as happily as if they’d just ridden the Steamin’ Demon at Great Escape.
My New York relatives tell me that when they were growing up, the cardinal was an unknown. When I was growing up in the Mid Atlantic, flocks of evening grosbeaks were as common as juncos, but they’re all gone now. Grosbeak (although of a different variety) behavior has changed in the Adirondacks, too.
The whip-poor-wills existed in such numbers that their call would rattle the windows at night when I was a little boy in West Virginia. The habitat was directly traceable to the sheep farm next door, which fenced in its pastures with miles of multiflora rose hedge. The one winter they chopped down all the hedges and replaced them with barbed wire. I never heard another whip-poor-will again until two summers ago on our farm in Jay. It did bring a tear. Stupid bird.
Even though I was little, whip-poor-wills imprinted upon me the true fact that a change in habitat can cause populations to shift, not over time, but overnight.
In a similar vein, something happened — we just don’t know what — that caused a beautiful, almost penguinesque seabird known as a razorbill to show up on the shores of Lake Champlain at Crown Point where one had never been seen before. At almost the same time, said Port Henry birder Stacy Robinson, a gannet happened along, another seabird that is not unknown on Lake Champlain, but quite rare.
Birders flocked, so to speak, to the point to lay binoculars on the black and white razorbill, which is more common in Western Iceland and the northern U.S. and Canadian coasts. But clearly, there were mixed feelings.
“Unfortunately, the fact that the bird is inland on Lake Champlain indicates the bird is likely stressed and has been displaced,” said Derek Rogers of the Adirondack Land Trust. “The Crown Point razorbill represents one of several that have been discovered inland this year from Lake Ontario north to Ottawa and Montreal.”
This winter has been slow to arrive, so maybe the bluebird knows something we don’t know. But the morning after I saw him there was snow. Then a warming sun. Then rain. If he’s confused, he’s not alone.
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Adirondack Explorer’s weekly “Explore More” newsletter. Click here to sign up