Saturday, April 1, 2023

“Winter” Recap: Banding more than 300 Evening Grosbeaks


We are having the tail end of the winter that didn’t happen here anyway. The folks out in the mountains of California and Nevada are looking at over 16 feet of snow in many places, with more coming this week with another atmospheric river coming ashore. Their reservoirs should be more than full when all this melts. Down south in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia fifteen tornadoes ripped through parts of these states, killing 26 and leaving hundreds homeless.

Rescuers continue to search for loved ones of residents of a Mississippi town destroyed by a tornado that was on the ground for over ninety miles. In Rolling Fork, a delta town of 2,000, hardly anyone escaped the storm without losing someone they knew or loved. More storms are going through that same area later this week, with more tornadoes and heavy rain forecast all the way to the east coast.

With temperatures up in the 60s a couple days this week, many birds thought it was surely spring and started coming north. I had several Red-Wing Blackbirds come to the feeders along with Common Grackles, Starlings, and Song Sparrows. They must battle with the more than fifty Evening Grosbeaks that are still feeding here each day. I now have banded more than three hundred Evening Grosbeaks during the winter.


Back when they came down in big numbers years ago all over the state, several banders did a thousand and two thousand of these birds. My first master bander, J.M.C. Peterson, told me of many days when he did a couple hundred in an afternoon. Must have been some nipped fingers those days. I did catch a few Red Wings and Grackles. I think I have caught all the Song Sparrows that have stopped by. I haven’t seen the White-Throated Sparrow that spent the winter here for a couple days now, so I guess he traveled further north where he came from. It will be interesting to see if he returns next winter to his brush pile rather than traveling further south like he should.


Blackbirds. Photo by Gary Lee.

The Canada Goose population has been going up in Old Forge Pond and the channel from First Lake to the pond. The most I’ve counted has been 28, with several already paired up, feeding by themselves. A few Ring-Billed Gulls have also been seen on the pond. I did count one Bald Eagle there one day watching the ducks. A few Mallards have been in the channel, and I saw a Hooded Merganser there yesterday [March 26]. There were also two Turkey Vultures sitting on a light pole one day when I was going into Old Forge. [I] just took a trip to Boonville and saw several American Robins along the roadsides, starting in White Lake all the way to Boonville. [I] also saw two pair of Mourning Doves picking grit along the road. Then on the way home, there were Robins roadside right into Old Forge, even one north of there by Rondaxe Road, so they are certainly on the move.


When I got home, there were over forty Common Grackles, ten Red-Wing Blackbirds, and three Brown-Headed Cowbirds at the feeders. I reset the potter traps before going to PT and caught a new Evening Grosbeak and a new Song Sparrow, but none of the Blackbirds. I got a few pictures of them, but none of them are wearing bands yet…maybe tomorrow. Since it has started to snow some more, that may drive them back to the feeders. The Maple Moss [Sugarworks] sugar shack was boiling over the weekend with a few visitors [during] one of the March Maple Weekends. I’m sure most of them went home with some of the sweet stuff after seeing it being made while they watched. This should be some of the lighter color (early syrup,) which some say is better.


My friend, Ellie George, over in Paradox Lake was doing her second boiling this weekend. She had enough sap to boil down a month ago when we had that first warm spell just from trees around her home. I did have a male fisher come for a visit to the dam site just before supper one night, where it dug up the deer leg that was buried in the snow. It gave me time to get my camera and take a few photos before it ran down over the dam, [and] out of sight. This is the last week of March, so let’s hope it doesn’t go out like a lion…as it came in as a lamb.


There is a full moon next Wednesday [April 5] and lots of times when there is a full moon, there are big changes in temperature and weather, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Fisher. 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."

6 Responses

  1. LakeReader says:

    I appreciate the human community’s desire to monitor the whereabouts etc. of the bird population. I am not by any means expert in these matters – but it seems to me these poor critters would much rather be left alone & not captured, and not have a metal ring permanently attached to their leg. With bird watchers aplenty & evolving satellite technology, it seems to me it would be humane to consider another way.

    • Boreas says:


      What other way would you track individual birds – or any other species? Yes, we can track large migrations through radar and citizen science apps, but not in much detail. The federal banding programs are very successful means of studying bird populations. Indeed, it would be nice if bird and other wildlife populations were stable and healthy, but they are not – primarily because of humans. In fact, banding has been crucial in understanding migratory routes, lifespans, mortality, nesting patterns, and population dynamics. There are many other human interactions with birds that are much more detrimental than banding.

      • LakeReader says:

        Hi Boreas, your points are fair & as mentioned I am not by any means an expert in bird science. Without question much useful information is gathered through capturing & banding of birds, sedating & tagging bears etc. However the cosmetics industry gathered much useful information by testing cosmetics on animals, thereby allowing human users to avoid harm, an unquestioned good. My only point is that it seems to me that avoiding disturbing wildlife ought to be a value to which we attach real importance. If there is no other means to address the substantial decline in numbers of some bird species, as one example, maybe there is a case to be made for banding. I’m saying only that the practice of capturing & tagging or banding animals is one that we ought to think about limiting where the information to be gathered might be obtained in another way, especially where the same or approximately the same information can be gathered with the use of new satellite or other technology. Maybe in some cases the scientific use of the data could be examined more closely to assess its importance. Kind regards, LR

        • Jackie Woodcock says:

          Hi LakeReader,
          You may not be a professional but apparently you have a heart and common sense. I am not an avian professional but I have had the privilege of working with people who are. I have personally witnessed wild birds in captivity be banded and it is anything but noninvasive and unharmful to these birds. Despite the fact that birds in captivity are regularly exposed to humans, the birds I watched be banded, flailed, cried out repetitiously and after being banded behaved as though they were having a literal heart attack. I also personally watched them peck at the band on their legs until blood was drawn, and at times so distracted by the band they flew into objects they normally would not have if they were not psychologically distracted by a foreign object attached to them by so called well meaning people. Wild birds in their natural habitat are netted for banding by placing large finely woven nets between trees in the birds natural habitat at flying level and then become caught up the net and then removed for banding. I find it amazing that hundreds of institutions that track birds humanely with sonar and radar as well as good old observation are effective in determining bird populations throughout the U.S. Yet people think that by being invasive and nearly giving wild animals severe anxiety that can lead to death itself, is an effective way of monitoring precious wild life. I attached a link of a study about banding that I thought you may be interested in reading that truthfully displays facts about this technique and how ineffective and dangerous this intervention can be.
          Keep asking questions and pointing out information that goes against common sense and a heartfelt need to advocate for the wild creatures when humans claim to be helping but instead cause trauma and detrimental results in their quest to acquire information because their curious about how many creatures they live among. Real animal advocates do not bring harm to any living creature whether advertent or not. There is a saying,” a smart man learns from his own mistakes, A wise man learns from others mistakes”. Apparently their are more smart people than wise ones. Have a Blessed Easter!!

  2. Boreas says:

    I would invite anyone interested in learning more about wild bird banding to actually visit the Crown Point banding station for a few hours next month. I assume it is still open to the public with COVID and all. It has traditionally been a great learning experience for school kids on class field trips. The station typically operates through most of May.

    You can watch or sometimes even assist the banders in their operations. The process when performed by experienced and Master banders is almost zen-like. A significant amount of data is collected on each bird including sex, size, weight, overall condition, etc.. In addition, many birds banded in previous years are also netted, and they are assessed and documented as well.

    I believe anyone observing the process first-hand will come away with a positive attitude about the program. If not, at least you will be learning first-hand and not hearsay.

    • Boreas says:

      EDIT: Gary notified me that the CPBS will be open to the public this Spring May 6-20 from daylight until dark each day – weather permitting. Wear your tick protection!

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