Saturday, June 3, 2023

Witnessing Big Moose Inn fire, banding hummers at Stillwater

Loon on the water

This week there were two mornings with frost here at Eight Acre Wood; both mornings the thermometer read 28 [degrees.] The second morning there was ice on the car, but not on the bird bath. I washed off as many of the blooming flowers and three apple trees in bloom as the hose would reach, which may have saved them…time will tell. My yellow lady’s slippers looked pretty sad, but perked up after the bath of water. The Phoebes are sitting on eggs under the porch and the male was having a [hard] time keeping the female fed those cold mornings. He traveled way up the driveway, foraging for flying bugs and ants. They must have made it, as they are still sitting.

An American Robin pair came in and checked out the platform I put up a few years back under the porch roof. They used it for their second nest two years ago and raised two young. The hummers were busy those mornings also, sucking up the sugar water. Marian up at the Stillwater Restaurant has been feeding many hummers this spring. Ted Hicks came up Saturday morning [May 27] to go to Stillwater to band hummers. We met at the Eagle Bay rest stop, and I told him I didn’t know if we could make it up Big Moose Road, as five fire companies in the area were on scene of the burning Big Moose Inn since three in the morning.

Big Moose Inn fire

Big Moose Inn fire started the early morning of Saturday, May 27. Photo by Gary Lee.

We stopped at the Big Moose Firehouse and checked it out. They had a portable water tank right in the middle of the highway being filled with tanker trucks to feed the water being used on the fire by the Old Forge tower truck and several other hose lines. The roof of the building had just fallen in a little after 7 a.m. I went down and took a couple pictures of the nearly destroyed wooden structure. After National Grid got out of the highway, we got by the portable tank by going through the upper parking lot. We got to Stillwater just before 8 a.m. Some folks traveled all the way around the horn and came up the Number Four Road to Stillwater.


We set up the hummingbird trap and started catching birds right away. There were about fifteen guests watching us catch and band the hummers. Many had never been here to watch Ted band before, and they all got to hold a bird. It was pretty steady catching until about 10:30 a.m., as a few more onlookers who came the long route showed up. I caught just enough birds, so everyone got to hold a bird. We ended up with 55 new birds and three recaptures from previous years. There were a few mosquitoes and blackflies, but there were plenty of visitors to share them with. A young couple came just before we were done and they had locked themselves out of their car at the Stillwater Tower trailhead. They both got to hold a bird before owner, Joe, took them down and got them back into their car.

Banding hummingbirds

Banding hummingbirds at Stillwater Restaurant. Photo by Gary Lee.

We got back past the fire scene and Ted mentioned he had never passed so many cars on Stillwater Road as we came south. The dust never got a chance to settle in the ten miles to Big Moose
Station. The firemen were knocking down the rest of the burning building with a track hoe when we went by. The woods are very dry, so be careful with any outdoor burning and make sure any campfire is dead out. We only got a sprinkle of rain during the week, which didn’t even put down the dust.


I did get my garden started with some plants I got in Lowville, as the Old Forge Garden Club outing on Tuesday [May 23] visited several garden shops. My Rototiller started, and I got the garden tilled up Saturday, [May 27.] [I also got] some plants in with the help of the blackflies and mosquitoes who held the hoe much of the time. Karen brought me some seeds from the big selection at the Old Forge Library, which I got in the flower gardens and my fenced in garden. I also fertilized and mulched my American Chestnut trees that I started last year, and they all made it through the winter. Don Andrews and his wife, Toni, have been checking out the Loons locally on some of his lakes (and one of his photos shows how much the blackflies harass the Loons as well.)


I [start] checking my Loon lakes this week to see how many of my banded birds have returned, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Loon on the water (with blackflies). Photo by Don Andrews.

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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."

One Response

  1. Sue Straub says:

    Thanks for this. I didn’t know that hummingbirds were banded. I love the Adirondacks and wish I could live there year round. Loved your article.

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