Saturday, May 18, 2024

Harvesting fiddleheads & rare Northern Saw Whet Owl catch at Crown Point Banding Station

Man holding a saw whet owl

Writing this column a little early from home as I’ve been catching birds here in just one net and one Potter trap during this week and I had a couple other catches to do…a couple of brook trout which I put in the pond. The new birds for the yard this week were a Woodcock that was doing courtship flights down on the pond road one early evening, an Ovenbird who has been calling on territory all week, and the Hummingbird numbers which have been growing.

I caught both a male and female Hummingbird in my net yesterday, May 9, along with ten or twelve Pine Siskins, American Goldfinch, and a female Red-Winged Blackbird. I haven’t seen any Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks which normally come the same day as the hummers. Maybe there were too many other birds hogging the feeders and they didn’t bother to stop as they travelled north. They nest in this area, but are very secretive when nesting. Many times, they bring their young to the feeders when they fledge.

I didn’t till the garden, but I did put in a new patch of rhubarb, ten hills, which should give me enough rhubarb to give away plus making sauce and some pies. With the rain during the week, you could see the leaves grow on the trees and watch the ferns grow taller almost by the minute. I did get out between rainstorms and pick a batch of Fiddleheads. It was predicted to be dry after noon on Wednesday, May 8, but on my way to pick the fiddleheads, I went through a heavy rain shower.

I don’t like to pick them when they are wet as the brown silk that is on some of them sticks to them. Where I picked them didn’t get the rain, so I went to picking with a bug jacket on so I wouldn’t have to swat and pick at the same time. I only got to pick for an hour and a big, black cloud moved in and it started to rain, so I quit with my shopping bag only half full. I should have gone yesterday as it was dry all day, but I banded birds instead.

Ostrich ferns

Ostrich Ferns just uncurling (Fiddleheads.) Photo by Gary Lee.

Many folks to the west of us, from Texas north to Michigan and east to Tennessee, were getting hit with lots of rain, high winds, sleet, and freezing rain. In many places, tornadoes also hit. All of these things caused much damage with a few lives lost. The winds here got strong and gusty as I was out on a couple lakes putting in Loon platforms in whitecaps. Up at Twitchell Lake the west pair may be sitting already as I only saw one Loon hanging low in the water, but I didn’t see a Loon on a nest.

Last year, they had nested and lost their first nest and were on their second nest before I was even on the lake. At the east end, I didn’t see that pair, but as I got out of the canoe near the little island, I almost stepped on a Mallard duck that flew off her nest that had ten eggs. I moved my location and hope she will get back on like the one did at the View gardens last year.

Back to the fiddleheads, which I’ve picked since I was a kid. I used to pick them with my grandmother and mother along the Kayaderosseras Creek in Saratoga County. We picked them in the same places for years, as they have enough energy even after being picked to grow a new plant. Many times, they will freeze when they come up early or we get a late frost, and they will do the same thing. Mom canned them until freezing came along and then we froze them as I do now, just like you do beans and peas. You can also eat them raw as a dip, but make sure you have ostrich ferns…as I don’t recommend eating any others.

When I first came to Inlet, I looked for a few places to pick fiddleheads and locals told me that bracken ferns were good to eat when you
caught them early and rubbed the fuzz off the tall stems. I tried them once and then found some local places to pick ostrich ferns. I gave some of the locals some of these fiddleheads and I don’t think they ate bracken ferns again. I shared some of mine with friends who have never had them before, and they said they were great treats. I saw online where the Nest restaurant in Old Forge was having them on the menu this month.

Over at the Crown Point Banding Station, they had some good catches this week. One was a Pileated Woodpecker that was banded there in 2021…we had never had a recapture of this bird. Another was a recapture of an Eastern Kingbird that Tom Barber had caught in 2014 and he got to take this out of the net again, valuable information.

This morning, he sent me a photo of him holding a Northern Saw Whet Owl that he must have taken from the nets. We have only caught them two other times in the 49 years banding there, once during the day which I believe this new bird was and one that I caught after dark one evening after I heard it calling.

Looks like it might be a little wet while banding at Crown Point this week, but that’s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Tom Barber holding a Northern Saw Whet Owl at the Crown Point Banding Station on May 10. Provided photo.

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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."

3 Responses

  1. Rich Wickman says:

    Amazing re the age of the kingbird!

  2. Kathleen says:

    I love reading your columns, Gary.. Do you think that you will writing a book about your experiences being a forest ranger anytime soon?

  3. Boreas says:

    Great article – love the picture!

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