Saturday, April 15, 2023

Spying crocuses, banding birds & enjoying Spring weather


Our weather has been rather pleasant with nice days up into the forties and fifties, and then cooling down [at] night into the teens. The folks to the north of us got a bad ice storm, knocking out power in many parts of Canada. We had some thunderstorms roll through here on Wednesday [April 5] with some hail, but nothing like the quarter-size hail they got up in Martinsburg by Lowville. I had taken my truck down to Utica for repairs, and they gave me a brand-new [Toyota] RAV4 to take home that day.

It was a beautiful gray/green color and when I went up the summit there were ice balls bouncing off the hood. I said to myself, “This isn’t good,” but it was over as fast as it began. All I could [imagine] [were] big dents in the paint job, but that didn’t happen. Now, if I had been up in Martinsburg that might have been a different story. I rushed home and got it in the garage as another thunderstorm was coming along. I saw ice balls bouncing off my house roof, and did that storm knock the birds down.


My birds were enjoying their trip north pushed by southerly winds. Then they were hit by this cold front, and rain and ice. They hit the dirt wherever they were, and it was a super fall out. I heard from many birders locally and all the way to the Champlain Valley. When I pulled into the yard, there were over one hundred Slate-Colored Juncos all over the snow around my feeders. The trees were full of Red-Wing Blackbirds and Common Grackles. I threw out some more small seed for the Juncos, and some sunflower seed and corn for the blackbirds. They loved it and there was enough that they didn’t have to fight for some food.

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow. Photo by Gary Lee.

It rained very heavily overnight, and these birds were still here the next morning. I caught a few before [ 9 a.m.] but I had to go to View [arts center in Old Forge] to help hang the art show. The walls and backers all had been painted, and all we had to do was do some figuring out spacing. All 182 pieces went up in two days for the opening on Friday [April 7] night. Curator, Kelsey Mayo, had all the paintings and photos sitting against the walls or backers where she wanted them. With a few quick calculations, hangers were nailed to the walls. Pieces were put up, leveled, and on to the next, as we went around the galleries. You need to get in and see the show as there is a great variety of paintings, photos, and sculptures. View is open free to the public [during] the months of April and May, and items in the gift shop are 20-percent off.


Friday [April 7] morning, I had my net up and all the Potter traps operating as the wave of birds arrived for breakfast. I banded over forty birds before [10 a.m.] when I had to go to Old Forge. Don Andrews had called and said there was a loon on Old Forge Pond, so I had to see that. I pulled my net and traps, and went to Old Forge. I dropped off some Easter Lilies at View to spruce up the hall for the opening that night. Then, I met Amy Sauer at the drug store and told her about the loons.


When we got there, Dan was there and a single loon was fishing just off the ice left in the pond. There were two more loons out fishing in the channel. An otter was popping up in holes in the ice and it was being harassed by four Herring Gulls who were looking for a snack. There were several Canada Geese on the pond, a few Mallard Ducks, twenty-four Ring-Necked Ducks, two Common Mergansers, and one Hooded Merganser. An immature Bald Eagle flew over the pond looking for a lonely duck for lunch, but they all stayed put. When I got out to take some loon shots, a Merlin was calling from across the pond. Everybody was hanging out (in and around) the only open water in town.


Since I’m kind of house-bound, I might as well band some more birds while they are here so Saturday and Sunday [April 8 and 9], I banded birds most of the day. There was quite a variety of birds, so I got some surprises when checking the nets and traps. I banded over one hundred Juncos, a few Black-Capped Chickadees, twelve more Evening Grosbeaks, four Common Grackles, four Red-Wing Blackbirds, two Brown-Headed Cowbirds, two Purple Finch, two Fox Sparrows, four White-Breasted Nuthatches, four Downy Woodpeckers, two song Sparrows, and one Swamp Sparrow. Some of these birds are locals and they will nest right in this area, while others will continue north to the areas that they were born in.


The warm weather this week should move many of these birds out and back on track where they were going. It looks like that weather should bring out some of my flowers by the house. Some crocuses came out today [April 11], and the daffodils have flower buds showing, but they have not yet popped out.


If you do get out and about on some of the open water, wear your life jacket, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Crocus. 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."

4 Responses

  1. LakeReader says:

    Thanks for the report, Gary. I wonder to what extent we can identify improvements in the lives of bird communities that result from banding. I’m not knowledgeable & maybe you’ll say X, Y & Z are great accomplishments that would never occurred if we weren’t regularly banding a lot of birds. For sure information is gained, but all things equal I’m sure those critters would strongly prefer not to be netted & banded. I’m not meaning to be overly sentimental & my dog sure doesn’t like the vet but she gets taken anyway. I’m just wondering whether we can identify real gains & accomplishments that justify this imposition on wildlife. Thanks! LR

  2. LakeReader says:

    Thanks Mike, I really wish we could try to re-think the practice of bird banding in light of information such as yours – which alone may be enough of a reason to stop.

  3. In addition to the risk of spreading highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) virus there is a small but measurable risk of death 0.23% and injury 0.59% to birds captured for banding. Stress is the leading cause of mortality and wing injuries the leading cause of injuries.

    Although rare, there is concern about HPAI spread to humans as well and the risk of a mutation that will make human to human transmission possible. The mortality to humans with an HPAI infection is currently 53%. HPAI is rare in humans, but is associated with close contact with infected birds.

    The Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended discontinuing banding operations in areas where HPAI is common.

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