Saturday, June 18, 2022

Adirondack animal babies: Nesting bluebirds, fawns, and loons

Since the time of my last column, I had two and a quarter inches of rain, which pushed many of my flowers to bloom and others to grow taller. The sweet peas are climbing the trellis about two inches a day. I guess the pellet fertilizer I gave them is working. The roses are covered with buds, and it looks like the plants are all coming up from the original plant, which is over twenty years old now.

My three trumpet vine honeysuckle vines are covered with blooms, which the hummers like. I fenced in my queen of the forest today (June 12) as the doe which dropped her fawn in the driveway yesterday, was munching close to that plant at daylight this morning.

I also put a fence around my cup plant (not because the deer eat it,) but when it gets to be six feet tall, the stems of the plant will not hold it up, so the fencing keeps it upright as it blooms. The bees love this plant and when it goes to seed, the warblers and goldfinch feed on the bugs and seeds from the flowers. Two Fall seasons ago, I caught six different warbler species feeding in the plant in two days.

My yellow lady’s slippers are about gone, but they should produce many seeds this year. I looked at a wild patch of yellows, which is a different species in the Moose River Area the other day. It looks like those blooms got frosted and they are not going to produce any seeds this year. There are ten plants in this location, and there were five that had blooms this year.

As I mentioned last week, the pink lady’s slippers seem to be everywhere I take a walk. I heard the showy lady’s slippers were out in the Remsen Bog, but the town has dug in the ditches and left some materials on many of the plants that grow close to the road. They also put in a new culvert a foot lower than the old one, which will drain water out of the bog and change that habitat dramatically. The new local landowner who owns the bog property has contacted the town, but has gotten no answer about the new drainage.

Doe and Fawn in driveway. Photo by Gary Lee.

The birds are having a tough time feeding their young in the wet weather, especially the bug eaters like Bluebirds, Flycatchers, Tree, and Barn Swallows. In one of my nest boxes of Bluebirds I banded six babies. That’s a lot of mouths to feed; I hope they all make it. I watched both adults yesterday hauling in food and taking out fecal sacs to keep the nest clean. Near the end of nesting, the Tree Swallows give up trying to carry out the fecal sacs. Their young meet them at the hole looking for food, and the adults never get into the box. There are three pairs of Bluebirds nesting close by and six boxes of Tree Swallows that I’ve found so far.

I need to put up some boxes at Rondaxe Lake, as the mosquitoes were enough to carry my binoculars the other day when I was watching the Loons. The Loons had nested on a bog mat, and I hope it stayed above water with that dump of rain. The ones that nest on my platforms don’t have that problem. Their problem is people who can see them out in the open and don’t give them enough space. Some are good sitters, I call them, and others will get off the nest even if you just pass by in sight distance, so give them some space.

As I mentioned last week, several Loons got on nests early and some have already hatched young. Ellie George, one of our Loon Observers, found a pair with four-day-old chicks one day this week in the Eastern Adirondacks. I had five different pairs on nests one day this week, but only one of those was sitting early (that I know of.) One pair had lost their first nest, and had re-nested already with one egg in that nest.

I found an egg in the water by their first nest which appeared to be hit by mammalian predators. I collected that egg, which can be checked during the winter for pollutants put in by the female. One reason females contain less pollutants than the males…Both lose pollutants through their feathers, but the female puts pollutants into the eggshells and eggs, which the male doesn’t.

In my travels I’ve seen a few does and fawns crossing the road, and also hen Turkeys with little tiny babies. Some are so small they could hardly get through the weeds to keep up with mom. I haven’t seen any grouse with young, but I’m sure they are out there along some of the trails. If you are walking your dogs, you should keep them leashed, as they could catch the chicks or the moms doing their broken wing act to lure them away from the young.

The spongy moth caterpillars are chewing their way through other parts of the state, but that’s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Early Loon and Chicks. (Photo by Ellie George.)

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

4 Responses

  1. Phil Fitzpatrick says:

    Okay, I am envious.

    Good for you!

  2. Kevin P Hickey says:

    What do the man made platforms for loon nesting look like? I’m curious how they are built and what type of locations you place them in due to predation.

  3. Boreas says:


    I am glad you are having good luck with nesting Tree Swallows. Big downturn in nesting in Port Kent area starting about 10 years ago – likely due to several factors. Bluebirds are very aggressive now and won’t allow TRES to come within sight. I have been building boxes that discourage BBs and HOSP and only allow TRES access. Ausable Point area used to have a nice TRES trail of boxes, but most are getting pretty decrepit.

  4. Charlie Stehlin says:

    To think if every one of us would be so kind and considerate of the natural world which surrounds us as Gary is! The end of our quest for paradise would commence! Dreams are made of such.