Saturday, April 29, 2023

Bird watching, an earthquake, and a trip to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Spring flowers

There was a bit of a cool down this week, with several mornings in the twenties after a week in the much higher temperatures. Mother Nature even threw in an inch of snow one morning. Then at the end of the week, it was up in the high seventies again. Then, the skies opened last night [April 23] with a downpouring of rain and that lasted most of today [April 24]. We had well over an inch and a half, just looking at my little creek that goes under the driveway. The culvert on the ski trail was partially plugged and the water was running down along the trail and into my pond until I cleaned out the culvert. The pond was getting enough water from the spring creek that runs into it…and it was up about a foot.

The peepers [provided] quite a nice chorus last night, just as the rain started. [Those were] the first ones I’ve heard. I was over at the golf course repairing bluebird houses and putting up a few more and I didn’t hear any over there yet. I did see a Red-Shouldered Hawk looking for frogs a couple of times, so I’m sure they are nesting not far away. If they do, it will be the first ones in this area. I did have one on my trail camera on the dam at the end of March, so this one might be taking up residence on the golf course. They are good frog, snake, and mouse catchers.


The big happening today [April 24] was the 3.9 earthquake at 2:10 p.m. near Adams (south of Watertown,) which was felt from Rochester to Albany, and north to the Canadian border. I was standing in the bedroom watching birds and felt it. Oliver got out of his bed and came trotting in like, “What was that?” It is funny how animals can feel things like that and know it is not something normal. [There were] no reports of damage, but close by there could be some cracked cellar walls and things that fell off shelves. I was going to call 911, but [figured] others did. It could have been an explosion nearby and if it was, the fire siren would have gone off…and it didn’t. A couple people called to tell me it was an earthquake and they felt it. There was another 2.6 earthquake in that same area just a week ago on April 14. I was out-and-about that day and never felt that one.

Cat relaxing on back

Relaxed Oliver. Photo by Gary Lee.

The birds at the feeders shut down for a few minutes, probably trying to figure out what had happened and then the mobs returned. I still have a big flock of Evening Grosbeaks (40 to 45), [and] an even bigger flock of Common Grackles (50 or more.) They are harder to count, as many of them are feeding in the woods not far away and not on the feeders. Mixed in with them are a few Starlings, fifteen or twenty Red-Wing Blackbirds, and some Brown-Headed Cowbirds. The rain made a swimming pool under the feeders until I drained the water away. Some [birds] were using it to take a bath.


The new birds on Saturday, [April 22] were two Chipping Sparrows. On the exact same date in 2020, I had (and banded) two Chipping Sparrows. I haven’t gotten close enough looks with the binoculars at these birds to see if they are banded. A third one joined them today [April 24] as they fed under the dropping from the suet cakes. The two Red-Breasted Nuthatches fed in the same spot, and they tolerated each other while feeding. Karen and I took a trip down to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca on Friday, [April 21] with some road-killed and window-hit birds. They love to see me come, as they don’t get many Adirondack bird specimens.


I had several Red Crossbills and one White-Winged Crossbill from car hits last winter and a few Evening Grosbeaks from this year. Other car hits were Barred Owls, Broad-Wing Hawks, a Red-Shouldered Hawk, and a Raven. There were a few other songbirds and two Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. They take the skins from these birds and pin them up for collection purposes. A junior
student was working on a bird while I was there, and they had several different birds all done on the table next to me. It was 89 [degrees] when we got back in the car for the ride home. The trees down that way were mostly green, and many of the flowering trees and shrubs were all in bloom. One tulip tree was just covered with blossoms.


Locally, I saw wild oats, spring beauty, and a big patch of colt’s foot all in bloom yesterday, [April 23] as temperatures reached into the sixties again. More should be popping through the leaf cover this week. [The NYS Department of Transportation] DOT was doing some major litter picking as we traveled to Ithaca. We will be [joining] soon, as Wednesday, May 3 is Community Pride Day when many area highways and beaches get cleaned up, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Spring beauty. 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:


    When I was finishing up my undergraduate degree, I worked as a lab assistant in the ornithology lab. Our collection was all hand-prepared study skins and live-mounts. But when I was there we were granted a freeze-dryer. What you did was place the body in whatever position you want and freeze it. Then put it in the vacuum dryer and desiccate it slowly over about 1-2 weeks – essentially creating a mummy. No smell, no need to remove the entrails, no cornstarch/borax, etc.. Beautiful results!

    Frankly, the same thing happens in a frost-free freezer over 6-12 months or so as long as it isn’t in a plastic bag. The vacuum just speeds things up.

  2. Bobbi-Sue Butterfly Cummings says:

    Good Morning! Reading your story was such a wonderful and relaxing way to begin my morning! Thank you!

  3. ninesix says:

    his post is a delightful account of the author’s observations of the changing weather and wildlife around their home in upstate New York. The vivid descriptions of the downpouring rain and the sounds of the peepers create a vivid picture of the scene. The author’s experience of the earthquake and the reaction of their pet dog, Oliver, is both amusing and intriguing. The mention of the bird specimens at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca adds a fascinating insight into the author’s interests and the work done at the lab. Overall, this post is an enjoyable read that transports the reader to the author’s corner of the world.

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