Saturday, March 30, 2024

Songbirds compete with strutting turkeys at feeders

Falls at Bug Lake

Well, we finally had a week of winter (all at the same time) and even got the snowmobilers out and about until they wore it down to dirt on most of the trails. Many folks to the south of us in the Capital District got ice at the end of the snowstorm, which took down many powerlines, putting many out of power for a couple of days…and some longer. In most places, the temperature got into the single digits and didn’t get above freezing during daylight hours.

Ice was out of many lakes and with these cold temperatures along with the snow that cooled down the surface water temperatures, they all refroze. As of today, March 26, most are still covered with ice and the only open water is in the Moose River and the channel in Inlet where lots of waterfowl moved to find food. I had a Belted Kingfisher over my frozen pond just before the storm, and he wasn’t going to catch any fish there. I did find some Mallards in the beaver ponds on the outlet of Eighth Lake.

With that warm spell, many songbirds started moving north and this snow and cold temperatures are going to be tough on them. I’ve had several on my feeders trying to compete with the Turkeys (who keep coming out of the woods from somewhere) for a total of thirty-two. Some had started to strut, even during these cold mornings. Six jakes (first year males) were all puffed up together under the feeders this morning.

There was a big tom out on the ski trail, but he stayed away with all those other males who would have been fighting him for sure.  I once had three jakes eating here most of the winter in the driveway. One morning while they were here, a big tom came down the driveway and gave them a challenge display. They all jumped on him from all sides, and he beat feet back up the driveway in defeat with the three jakes in pursuit.

Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-Tailed Hawk. Photo by Gary Lee.

I went downtown on March 21 when it was just above zero and we had six new inches of snow. There was a flock of sixteen American Robins working the berries that were left on the Mountain Ash in Arrowhead Park. I just got out of the truck to take a photo and out of the sky from somewhere came a Cooper’s Hawk. He flushed all the birds, but he didn’t take chase, probably because I was standing right there. He lit on the telephone line, where I got his picture before he flew over the post office and up the channel.

The Robins moved back in to eat, along with three Crows and a couple Slate-Colored Juncos. These birds were also eating the little
crab apples off the tree in front of Tony Harper’s. They picked it clean. However, just yesterday I checked and some Robins, Juncos, and Chickadees were still checking out the trees. While I was there, a Snow Bunting flew overhead and landed on the power pole. Then it disappeared into the pines in the park.

On that freezing morning, most of the lakes refroze. Don Andrews was coming across the Old Forge Lakefront at sunrise and there was a flock of Canada Geese out on the pond. He took their picture and he felt that these birds’ breast feathers were frozen into the quick-freezing ice. I told him they would make good Bald Eagle food. I never found out if they got out or not.

I put a big beaver carcass on the dam that morning and it didn’t take long for a Red-Shoulder Hawk to find it. He fed for a couple hours until the mature Bald Eagle came along and took over the carcass. The next day, I had a Red-Tailed Hawk feeding on the carcass and the Bald Eagle again came by and flushed the hawk. I got a few photos of all of them while they were here. I have a trail camera about ten feet away from the carcass, so I get pictures even when I’m not at home.

I have taken a few beavers locally, one a super blanket which stretched seventy-four inches (that’s measuring head-to-tail and across the middle of the hide and add the two to get the total.) The beaver weighed sixty pounds…which is a big beaver. They were moving way away from their lodges during the warm spell. Most of the water was open, but they slowed down with all the ponds frozen again. They will be moving again this week when it rains and opens things up.

I think we lost some little birds, but that’s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Falls at Bug Lake. 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."

8 Responses

  1. In light of the recent scientific studies that have shown that the beaver is a keystone species for the restoration and maintenance of wetlands, does it really make sense to trap and kill beavers? Beavers have been largely eradicated from many areas due to overharvesting, especially in the heyday of the fur trade.

    I can’t believe that there is much financial gain in harvesting pelts or other parts of a beaver these days.

    Although there are undoubtedly bureaucratic obstacles, wouldn’t it make more sense to live trap “problem” beavers and relocate them in wilderness areas that were once the natural habitat of the beaver? Beavers have not successfully reinhabited many areas where they were once found.

  2. William says:

    Richard, the overharvest during fur trade was over a 100 years ago. The population is not only fine today, it is burgeoning. While trapping removes individuals it does nothing to the overall population. I do not speak for Gary but I suspect it is not about financial gain, especially with today’s fur prices. It is simply a past time enjoyed by a few in the solitude of the woods. It is also misunderstood by most.

    • Boreas says:


      I think we need to be careful about sweeping statements. The historical severe decline in beaver population indeed happened by trapping one animal at a time until they were essentially gone. While this destruction is unlikely to be repeated, the consequences of those historical habitat and ecosystem impacts need to be considered,

      The impact of current trapping regulations depends on what studies DEC wants to use as a monitoring tool. But environmental consequences of eliminating a keystone species for almost two centuries is going to take much longer than the simple rebound of that species. Forest growth, wetland loss, and diversity loss are consequences that have not rebounded at the same rate as the beaver population. It is important to monitor all aspects of past environmental damage if we desire to maintain and preserve our ecosystems into a future threatened by a host of environmental pressures.

      DEC does not currently do a good job of integrating “game management” with habitat conservation and overall ecosystem health. Simply looking at the deer population and its negative impacts on forests and other environmental and economic factors is just one example. Lack of support for larger predators is another. Game management needs to be viewed much more holistically than simple harvest figures. This is where DEC seems to be on the wrong page.

      • Larry G.Orvis says:

        Just curious, do you have enough prey species to support large predators in the expansive Forever Wild Lands of the Adirondack Park?

  3. William says:

    I don’t need to be careful, it is my view. If there were a strong market for beaver hides there might be cause for concern but obviously those times are long gone. As it is, there are established trapping regulations and seasons today, (no matter what you think of them) which not exist back then. Last, The portion of today’s population that traps is minute in comparison to that time. So my view is that questioning Gary on whether or not he should trap a beaver because it is somehow going to lead to an extinction event is nonsensical. I respect that we all have an opinion and understand some of those may even be right.

  4. Kevin says:

    We think it is a bit hypocritical that those who proclaim and sell a love, respect, and admiration for wildlife and the natural world as G.L. does, can turn around and trap an animal, plug a hole in it, or take its life by some other grotesque means. So, look at the animal and appreciate its beauty, design, and adaptations, then raise your gun and kill it! What deception and hypocrisy!

    Beaver are indeed a keystone species and they should be carefully captured and safely relocated if where they are is deemed not suitable for the over-burgeoning surrounding humans.

  5. geogymn says:

    Kevin, Methinks this was a good magazine article. Especially as it relates to the Adirondacks. Maybe some who disagree with its content should write an opposing article.
    But I do appreciate that you took the time to comment because though I disagree with your viewpoint it is always good to listen to both sides of an issue.
    Alas it might be advantageous to review the contest between the sun and the North wind.

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