Billions of birds undertake migratory journeys each spring and fall. Most of these spectacular movements go unseen, occurring under the cover of darkness.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides some of the most compelling evidence yet that artificial light at night causes radical changes in the behaviors of migrating birds. » Continue Reading.
Each fall, migrating birds can be seen flying south to their wintering grounds. This is the ideal time of year for New York residents and visitors to head to Bird Conservation Areas across the state for great bird watching opportunities.
Visitors can search fields and forests for warblers, sparrows, and other songbirds and explore lakes, ponds, and beaches to see waterfowl and shorebirds. While exploring, visitors can hawk watch to witness the raptor migration. » Continue Reading.
As the temperatures in the many lakes and ponds that dot the Adirondacks begin to cool, the fish inhabitants of these waterways start to spend more of their time at greater depths. While this change in the routine of these gilled vertebrates impacts the way late season anglers pursue them, it also affects the life of our region’s most effective surface fish predator – the osprey.
With its 4 to 5 foot wing span and 2 foot long body, the osprey is a bird that is difficult to overlook as it soars over a picturesque mountain lake, or perches on the limb close to the shore of a pristine pond. » Continue Reading.
For most birds, autumn is a time of migration. As is the case in spring, not all species engage in their bouts of long distance travel at the same time; some are known for heading out early while others linger in the region for several additional months before starting their journey.
Among the birds that are quick to depart the North Country are the warblers, a large group of small, delicate creatures that abound in the vast expanses of forests when daylight is at a maximum and bugs are at their peak. » Continue Reading.
A large V of Canada geese flying noisily over my head – and traveling north, rather than south – got me wondering about the ins and outs of fall migration. Shouldn’t these big birds be flying to warmer climes this time of year? Why do they travel in that V-formation, anyway?
It turns out the answers aren’t simple. Canada geese (Branta canadensis) live throughout the continental United States and across their namesake country. These loud honkers are easily identified by their size – up to 20 pounds, with a wingspan up to five feet – and their characteristic white chinstrap markings across black heads and necks. » Continue Reading.
On the north end of my home is a nest site favored by eastern phoebes. Every year a pair shows up, sets up house, and raises a family. They arrive early in the spring, and I spend the long days of spring and summer watching them. At some point, the nest empties out, and then I know that summer will soon end and the phoebes will be on their way.
But exactly when they will be on their way is hard to predict. Fall’s migration tends to be a more open-ended process compared to spring’s, when the urgency to reproduce drives birds to arrive in the Northeast during a relatively short window of time. There is an almost explosive quality to the arrival of songbirds in March and April. One day we wake to the usual quiet of winter, and then the next there is a riot of trilling, chirping, calling, and singing.
As summer winds down, however, the volume diminishes slowly. In August, I still wake to bird songs, but there are fewer voices; the chorus isn’t as frenetic and rich. » Continue Reading.
The North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) just released The State of North America’s Birds 2016, the first comprehensive report assessing the conservation status of all bird species that occur in Canada, the continental United States and Mexico. NABCI was created by Canada, the United States and Mexico as a tri-national commitment to protect birds and their habitats.
The report argues that more than one third of all North American bird species need urgent conservation action and calls for a renewed, continent-wide commitment to saving birds and their habitats. » Continue Reading.
As an avid birdwatcher for more than 30 years, I’ve long been familiar with the big picture of songbird migration. Tiny blackpoll warblers, for instance, fly 1,500 miles from southern New England to the Caribbean in a single two- or three-day flight across open water with nowhere to land if they get tired.
The even tinier ruby-throated hummingbirds cross the Gulf of Mexico in a similar way. But until recently I haven’t spent much time wondering how these little birds do it. Don’t their flight muscles get tired? How do they replenish their energy reserves in the air? » Continue Reading.
What can cruise at an altitude of 29,000 feet, is a beloved icon of the great outdoors, and yet can be the bane of lawn lovers? It’s the honking harbinger of advancing autumn and coming cold (and sometimes, bad alliteration), the Canada goose.
The familiar autumn voices of Canada geese overhead can at once evoke the melancholy of a passing summer and the anticipation of a bracing new season of color and activity. Kids return to school, hunters take to the woods, and farmers work past dusk and into darkness, all to the cacophonous cries and the heartbeat of wings of migrating geese. » Continue Reading.
Numerous amphibians and avian calls are enjoyed by Adirondack residents and visitors alike throughout spring and early summer, yet as the seasons progress, this music gradually subsides until by early autumn only a few bird voices can be heard amongst the fading background chorus of crickets.
Since singing requires an expenditure of energy, and advertising one’s presence increases the chance of attack by a nearby natural enemy, birds refrain from much vocalization after the breeding season ends. However, it is possible to hear the soulful call of the white-throated sparrow during the autumn, as there always seems to be an individual or two in one of the transient flocks spending time in the area that bellows out its characteristic “Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody-Peabody” song. » Continue Reading.
This has always been my perception of bird migration in the fall: the days grow short and cool and then, one day, I notice a v-shaped caravan of Canada geese flying southward. Then another and another. Within a few weeks of that first sighting, I hear their melancholy call one final time for the season. Then they, and all the summer birds, are gone. It’s a mass exodus for warmer climes, over and done in the blink of an eye and long before the snow flies.
But what of the geese on the unfrozen mill ponds in January? Or the robins at the birdfeeder in December? It turns out that the process of migration is much longer and less predictable than my cursory observations had led me to believe. First of all, for some species, fall migration begins long before the first ears of corn are ready to be picked. Take, for example, the yellow warbler, whose massive breeding range extends from parts of Mexico to Newfoundland and into Alaska. It is among the earliest songbirds to arrive in the spring and among the first to embark on the return journey. » Continue Reading.
It rained heavily the first time I had planned to go on a hawk watch, and the trip was cancelled. But the rain brought with it a weather front the next day that created the perfect conditions for fall hawk migration. And migrate they did. Hawks and falcons and eagles and vultures soared southward along mountain ridges in numbers I have never seen in the 30 years since then. Carried aloft by rising currents of warm air and light winds from the north, many of those birds may have traveled a hundred miles that day without ever flapping their wings.
Despite the diversity and impressive numbers of raptors, there was one species that stood out to all of the hawk watchers: the broad-winged hawk. It was a bird I had never seen before, and although it is a common nesting species in the forests of the Northeast, the total number of broad-wings I’ve observed since then doesn’t come close to the number that soared past us that day. Whereas most hawks travel alone or in groups of three or four, broad-winged hawks migrate in flocks called kettles that can sometimes number in the thousands. » Continue Reading.
As the bright yellow tops of goldenrod begin to fade in fields, and the foliage of the red maple increasingly begins its change to a bright reddish-orange, gulls engage in a nomadic phase of their life and can often be seen visiting a variety of settings within the Adirondacks.
Within the boundaries of the Park, two species of “seagulls” are seasonal components of our fauna; however, the slightly smaller ring-billed gull is far more common and likely to be observed than the nearly identically colored herring gull. » Continue Reading.
Over the course of the past several years I have frequently paddled in the Raquette River -Tupper Lake area. A few weeks ago I paddled from the boat launch known as “The Crusher”, past the several camps where there was once a set of rapids, past the “Oxbow”; through “the Cut” into Simon Pond, and on to the New York State boat launch at Moody’s along Route 30. The day was sunny, and warm, with a slight breeze, and my fellow paddlers were great companions. It had been all-in-all a very and enjoyable paddle. But the present day description of the route is not what one would have experienced back in the 1850s.
In 1854, Samuel H. Hammond, a prominent attorney, newspaper writer and editor, State Senator and sportsman, wrote in Hills, Lakes, and Forest Streams: or A Tramp in the Chateaugay Woods (1854) about a sporting trip with his guide to Tupper’s Lake from Upper Saranac Lake. Hammond described a river that was considerably different, thanks to logging, blasting, damming, and flooding, than what we see today. One change Hammond would never have dreamed possible. » Continue Reading.
Migratory songbirds rack up enormous numbers of frequent flier miles as they wing north and south and north again, all without tickets or boarding passes. The bobolink, for example, lives a life of perpetual summer, spending part of the year in sunny fields in our neck of the woods and the other part in the faraway reaches of Brazil and beyond.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to Almanack founder and editor John Warren.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.