Saturday, November 5, 2022

Taking a snack break as they fly south: Observing over 100 birds at feeders

Here it is the end of the month and there is still no snow on the ground, just a few flurries a couple times. I’ve seen two feet [of snow] on the opening day of Big Game Season 10/25 years ago. There was quite a backup of vehicles without chains trying to move in the Moose River Area. Ted Payne plowed all the roads with his pickup truck and his truck box full of sand. He took some extra gas that day, but got the job done. Another time, earlier in October, they were replacing the bridge over the Moose River.

The contractor doing the bridge came one night with four cement pieces to finish the bridge all on tractor trailers and parked down in the gate house lot. I told them it was going to snow [that night] and they should take them in, but they waited until morning when there was six inches of snow on the ground. John Spencer came over with his log skidder with old tires chained to the front blade and pushed all the trucks one at a time over the hills all the way to the bridge site ten miles away, it was quite the show. Don’t believe the old ranger about the weather.


Two tragedies that could have been prevented killed nearly three hundred people in two incidents. In Seoul, South Korea, people are in shock after 153 died in a Halloween crowd surge. Over 100,000 people were celebrating when a rush down an alleyway caused hundreds to be trampled beside those that died. Several more are in critical condition in hospitals, so the death toll may rise. The other was a 150-year-old suspension bridge that collapsed in Morbi, India. Nearly five hundred people were on the bridge celebrating the last day of the Diwali Festival. Cables broke, dumping most of the people on the bridge into the river. The bridge had just been reopened only days before, after months of renovation. Many of the people of India cannot swim and after the collapse, people clung to the twisted remains of the bridge or tried to swim to shore in the dark. One hundred forty one people died, and many more were injured in the collapse. Nine people were arrested, all associated with the company that maintained the bridge.


I got a call the other night that there was a dead Loon on the shoreline of First Lake so I told the people to net it before it got dark, and I would come down and pick it up. I got there and they were just coming out of the woods with the bird in a plastic bag. I looked in and saw by the bill that it was a duck and not a Loon. The duck was a White-Winged Scoter and had some white on each side, which [is why] they thought [it] was a Loon. I hate to bust someone’s bubble, and it was a duck I had never seen in Herkimer County, even dead. A couple days later, Diane Bowes was rowing out on Big Moose Lake, and she had five Black Scoters swimming in front of her scull. She got a nice photo of them with her cell phone.

Red oak tree. Photo by Gary Lee.

One of my red oaks that I planted a couple years ago is doing great, but I have it fenced in, so the bucks don’t rub on it with their antlers. I can see why they call it a red oak as the picture shows. The birds have really been moving south on the cold, clear nights, but they stop during the day to snack at my feeders. One day there were over one hundred birds on the ground in and around the feeders, mostly Slate-Colored Juncos and five different species of sparrows. I put up the mist net and opened the Potter traps. I caught birds from the time I put them up until dark. I banded over forty juncos and forty sparrows one day, plus a Golden-Crowned Kinglet, a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch, and a Blue Jay. The variety of sparrows were White-Throated, White-Crowned, Song, Chipping, and Field. I haven’t seen a Fox Sparrow yet, as they are the last to pass through.


When these birds are moving, so are the Saw Whet Owls during the dark hours. I’ve had the nets up for them every night from 7 to 9 or 10 p.m., and caught owls each night but two (and it rained those nights.) I have caught and banded twenty so far with three on four nights and only missed getting one on two other clear nights. The wind was blowing, so they may see the nets moving. On those nights, as soon as I turned on the tape, a Barred Owl called. No Saw Whet [Owl] would show up when there is a Barred Owl in the area. Just last night, I was late putting up the nets and didn’t start until 8 p.m., and at 8:30 p.m., I had a bird. I brought it inside and it was already banded.


The first four digits on the band number were the same as the string of one hundred bands I was using. [However,] the last five digits didn’t even come close, so I had caught an owl that someone else had banded. Checking the number with the Bird Banding Lab online, I found that this owl was banded on September 16, 2021 as a female near Hilliardton, Ontario, Canada. This is the first time I’ve caught one like this. A couple of the owls that I banded have been caught further south by other banders a year or two after I had banded them. A good catch, in a bander’s way of thinking.


Election Day is coming up so get out and vote, the Environmental Bond Act is on the back of the New York Ballot…don’t miss it, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Banded Saw Whet Owl. Photo by Gary Lee.

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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."

3 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    My property looks like a test plot for various types of deer fencing. Every tree, shrub, or flower I plant becomes an immediate deer target. Anything spindly attracts bucks. They even seem to enjoy using the fencing sometimes when their antlers become itchy. They even eat at the pumpkins I display on my front porch. We could use some hunting pressure, or predators with 4 legs instead of 4 wheels in my area.

  2. Bob Meyer says:

    Keep on bringing it Gary! Love your posts!

  3. J says:

    I live in Iowa City, Iowa and have a shepherd’s hook at window to watch birds feed from tube, suet basket and water. Feed is for any birds but only see sparrow size. Why would that be?

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