It’s Sunday evening (March 6) and we just came home from the movies in Old Forge in a howling wind with the temperature at 55 degrees which breaks the record of 43 degrees set in 2004. The power was off a couple times during the movie but came back on, so we didn’t lose much of the plot. As this weather (with changing temperatures) came across the country a few tornadoes touched down across Iowa and one near Des Moines killed 7 people including two children.
This string of unsettled weather is now going through the southern part of New York with quite a bit of red showing on the weather map. This warming trend and the rain overnight last night pretty well whipped many of the snowmobile trails and most of the paved roads they had been using which also bared up. There were some washouts in the Moose River area that the snows this week filled in nicely by the groomer. These were those frozen culverts that I mentioned last week which will have to be repaired before opening in May.
Ukraine is still on my mind and a statement that I made last week was wrong. Only three hundred thousand people had fled the country to escape the Russian invasion, not three million, but as of today (March 6) the total is growing to over a million and a half. The leveling of towns there by aerial bombing and rockets fired from Russia is the reason for these residents to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs.
The neighboring countries have been absorbing this influx of people and doing a great job. Some think I shouldn’t be writing about this in a nature column…well if one of these nuclear power plants gets bombed, you might change your mind with one close call already.
I caught a few birds during the week in my potter traps as the American Goldfinch and Purple Finch moved in big numbers with the new snow and cold temperatures. I had a high count of 52 Purple Finch one day, and a few days with more than 25 Goldfinch. It’s hard to get a good count, as the Blue Jay mob comes bombing in and the little birds scatter to the treetops.
The Northern Shrike came through a couple times, but I didn’t see him catch anything. When you don’t see any birds at the feeders, you know some predator has been through or is just sitting within sight and they see it. It takes a couple brave Chickadees to start the parade back to the feeders, and they must sound, “all clear!” as everybody comes blasting in looking for more seeds.
I took a short two-mile ski out back to West Pond, and half of the trail was broken out and the rest hadn’t been skied. Even the unbroken part was easy skiing because you stayed on top of the crust in about eight inches of powder. I flushed a couple grouse, one going in and one coming back out. I never heard any Crossbills, and I was in good habitat but there were Chickadees, Nuthatches and Woodpeckers along the way, so not all the birds are at feeders.
I drive the Limekiln and Parkhurst Roads almost daily, checking on the Red Crossbills feeding on grit. Some pairs I find each day within a hundred feet of where they were the day before, so they have claimed a territory and will probably nest soon. Some may already be on a nest. I did find another male killed by cars this week.
I went up to Ferd’s Bog on Saturday (March 5) and saw several Red Crossbills and one pair of White-winged Crossbills feeding together on Browns Tract Road. I walked down to the bog and walked the bog up to the pond to the right of the boardwalk and then downstream to the left about a quarter mile. There were several singing White-winged Crossbills giving me a chorus from the treetops so they are probably nesting and singing on territory.
I did hear a black-backed woodpecker drilling on a tree and saw a small flock of Chickadees and several Red-breasted Nuthatches feeding on cones in the treetops. Out in the middle of the bog, I took a picture of the pitch plant flower heads above the snow.
There have been lots of ice anglers out and about this winter braving some very harsh weather, mostly wind and cold, to get a few tip-ups in the water. I talked with a couple last weekend who were just outside the kite flying area on Fourth Lake. They said they had tried to get on Lake Delta that morning, but the water was up and you couldn’t get on the ice, so they came up here where they had luck earlier in the season catching perch.
We got talking and they were brought up in the Saratoga area just up the road from Ballston Spa where I grew up. They had fished other lakes in the Fulton Chain and caught fish, but not today. They asked about fishing on Limekiln Lake for splake and I told them they could access the lake right at the end of the road.
Days are getting longer and daylight-saving time begins Sunday (March 13), but that’s another story. See ya.
Photo at top: Purple Finch and Goldfinch at the feeder. Photo by Gary Lee.