Saturday, February 24, 2024

Great Backyard Bird Count: Turkeys, chickadees, blue jays & more

Blue Jay in the Potter Trap. Photo by Gary Lee.

Well, we finally had a whole week of winter at one time with [morning] temperatures in single digits (even below zero a couple of days) and snow four days in a row. That kept the snowmobilers riding through the weekend, but trails hit by the sun are bare again with all that traffic. There were a few accidents, four went in the open water of the Inlet channel and one snowmobiler hit a pressure crack on Indian Lake. A rescue vehicle going to that accident went through the ice, [they] self-rescued and got out. The injured snowmobiler was brought to shore and a waiting ambulance.

Out west, the California coast was again hit with another atmospheric river. [They received] over five inches of rain on top of what they got a week ago, which caused mudslides and more flooding of highways. In the mountains they got several feet of snow, and they say they are still in a drought. I don’t know how much they need to come out of the drought, but maybe a little more, [although] not so much at one time that mostly runs off.

I worked at the Chili Bowl [Luncheon] at View [arts center in Old Forge] on Saturday, [Feb. 17] along with many other volunteers. There was a big crowd, and many beautiful ceramic bowls were sold. I saw several people who sampled many of the varieties of chili offered. I like chili, but not the hot stuff with all the toppings. It was nice to visit with several people I hadn’t seen in quite some time. [I was glad] to see friends and neighbors having an enjoyable time in support of View Arts.

Since there was enough snow for skiing and snowmobiling, I am sure many of our visitors went out on the trails, but some stopped in for a lunch break. There were many new visitors I spoke with who had never been in the building [View] before and I thanked them for their support.

Line of people at View's Chili Bowl Luncheon.

Line of people at View’s Chili Bowl Luncheon. Photo by Gary Lee.

Last weekend was the Great Backyard Bird Count, Friday through Monday [Feb. 16-19] and my feeders were busy over the weekend. I didn’t have to travel to get some birds, but I did count the ducks in the Inlet Channel and on the road to Boonville on Sunday. The day before the count, Thursday, [Feb. 15] I was watching the birds at the feeders and [a] Northern Shrike swooped in, chasing a Black-Capped Chickadee. The Chickadee (trying to escape) flew into the window right in front of me in my office and the Shrike [also] hit the window not a second later.

The Chickadee died and the Shrike was stunned, but got up and flew away without the Chickadee. The Chickadee that I recovered was one that I had banded [on] 11/3/22. I reported it to the Banding Lab as a window hit. I believe the Shrike was around the next morning, as there were no birds at the feeders. [This] normally means there is a predator in the area, but I never saw it to get it on count day.

The first day of the count, I had all my regular birds and twenty-five Turkeys [also] showed up that morning after I cleared the eight inches of snow around the feeders. I saw some Turkey heads way out in the woods, and I called, “Here Turkey, Turkey” and the woods came alive with Turkeys as they came running right over to the feeders. It was ten degrees that morning, so all the other birds needed a snack to keep warm and they were all around after the Turkeys left. [There were] lots of Blue Jays (probably twenty or more) and I set the Potter traps and caught a few…plus a couple new Chickadees.

It was twelve degrees [on] Saturday, with another new inch of snow and the little birds were back in force, plus the Carolina Wren returned as did a Slate-Colored Junco. There were a few Pine Siskins and a small flock of six Purple Finch that seemed to come and go. They must be getting some wild food in the woods from some of the spruce cones.

Sunday started off exciting, as it was eight degrees with light snow falling and a Sharp-Shinned Hawk came diving into the feeding area, chasing one of my many Chickadees. They went through the spruce and balsam tree bows on a merry chase and the Chickadee escaped. The Hawk sat on a branch close to the trunk of the spruce tree, waiting for one of the little birds to return. It was twitching its tail, but no one returned, [so] it flew off to wait for another sneak attack in the falling snow. I never saw it again.

I went down to the Inlet Channel and counted the ducks. I saw 150 Mallards and seven Black Ducks. They weren’t so spooky as during the duck count in January, and they didn’t fly away. I came home and set the Potter traps and caught three new Chickadees, two Tufted Titmouse, and one nice male Purple Finch of the seven that were here. [I] caught no Jays [on that day].

Monday was a wintry morning (at minus two degrees) with another new inch of snow. I set the Potter traps and caught six new Blue Jays, three new Chickadees, two repeat Jays, and two repeat Chickadees. We traveled to Boonville [to go] shopping, and on Hogsback Road I saw three Pine Siskins and seven Mourning Doves picking grit from the road. On the way home, I saw one of the Siskins had been hit by a car and it was dead in the road. Just give them a toot if you see them in the road, and they will fly up.

Finally got out ice fishing with my Grandson, Jake, but that’s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Blue Jay in the Potter Trap. 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. Karen Rudar says:

    Enjoyed your column,Gary. I always end up googling a new topic and learning something new. Thanks.

  2. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “The Chickadee died and the Shrike was stunned…”

    How so strange what with all of the good things you report Gary, the above impacts me the most. For the longest of years there has been, generally, a sadness or regret in me for the ruin of things or persons dear to my heart.

  3. shirley bourgeois says:

    saw 10 canadian geese today—is that early ?

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