Posts Tagged ‘Bird Migration’

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Birding: Broad-Winged Hawk Migration

TOS_BroadwingHawkIt 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.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Adirondack Seagulls: The Ring-Billed Gull

Ring-billed_gull_groupAs 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.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Extinction: Passenger Pigeons In The Adirondacks

Adirondack Passenger PigeonOver 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.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Ed Kanze: Birds Come, Birds Go, Birds Come Again

ed_kanze_eastern_phoebeMigratory 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.

Listen here as I ponder the whys and wherefores of fair weather birds in this weeks edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Adirondackers Flock to Backyard Bird Count

owlbutton_enIn each of the last two years, the Almanack has carried articles encouraging local residents to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual, continent-wide, mid-winter bird census designed to combine the fun of birdwatching with gathering data that will help scientists better understand trends in bird populations and locations.  In the past, although thousands of New Yorkers take part in the count, the Adirondack region has been underrepresented, largely because there are comparatively few winter residents.

With the 17th GBBC approaching (Feb. 14-17), I thought it would be interesting to explore whether those previous articles have increased participation by Adirondackers while once again urging you to join in. It turns out, though, that it is difficult to get comparative data for a specific location for different years. In communicating with the folks behind the GBBC, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, I learned that data are not available by county or ZIP code, for example. Indeed, count results are not even in the same format between years. I could find a list of the number of each species reported in NYS for 2011 (before the first article), for instance, but not for 2013 (after the second article). » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Loons Blown Down in Recent Windstorm

2013-NS RTLO Rls-9412-tAt least one Common Loon and four Red-throated Loons were blown down in a windstorm on Sunday, November 24th. The Biodiversity Research Institute’s (BRI) Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation received its first call Sunday afternoon concerning a Red-throated Loon that was in the Catamount Mountain parking lot, which was brought to the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge & Rehab Center. A second Red-throated Loon was found at Mt. Van Hoevenberg the following morning. Then a third loon was found up by Mountain View Lake and a fourth in the Old Forge area. And finally, a Common Loon was found on a road in the Glens Falls area.

Red-throated Loons breed in Canada and Alaska. They are much smaller birds than the Common Loons that summer here in the Adirondack Park. They must have been migrating to the coast for the winter when they encountered the strong winds on Sunday and got blown down. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Birds: The Departure of the Northern Flicker

Northern_flicker_pairPreparations among the members of our wildlife community have been underway for weeks, if not months, for the arrival of snow and temperatures low enough to freeze the upper layer of soil. Most bugs are genetically programmed to enter a dormant stage of their life in advance of this onset of adverse weather, and the mammals of the area are well along in the process of modifying their physical structure (accumulating fat and growing a thick layer of fur) in order to cope.

Many species of birds have either left, or will soon be exiting, our region because of the inhospitable conditions building throughout the northern latitudes. Among our migratory birds is a member of the woodpecker family forced to leave because of its preference for pecking at the soil, rather than on trees, for its meal of bugs. The northern flicker has body shape, plumage characteristics and pecking talents similar to its non-migratory relatives; however this common seasonal resident of the Adirondacks is now on its way, or will be leaving shortly, for a more temperate climatic zone. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Adirondack Birds: The Noisy Blue Jay

800px-Blue_Jay_with_PeanutStarting in early autumn, a profound silence pervades the forests of the Adirondacks, especially on frosty mornings when the air is calm. In the hours following dawn, only a few avian voices disturb the stillness, such as the soulful song of the nuthatch and the perky call of the chickadee. Yet it is the loud, raucous, squawking voice of the blue jay that prominently violates the solitude of our deep woods and forest edges. During the weeks immediately following the equinox, a new phase begins in the life of this familiar backyard bird, signaled by the intensity of its boisterous calls. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Feathered Whirlwinds: Swallow Flock Migration

migrationWhirlwinds of feathered bodies, iridescent beetle-blue on top and snowy below, are touching down all along the eastern seaboard.   Flocks move in a loose collection of tumbles and dives, sweeping across fields and swamps. They pepper the sky, often collecting over bodies of water to skim for insects and catch a drink. As the sun sets, the scattered birds pull together, gathering like a slow-building storm.

At the peak of migration, flocks of tree swallows can contain hundreds of thousands of birds. Doppler weather radar – yes, weather radar – has revealed that staging points are relatively evenly spaced, almost always 62 to 93 miles apart. Migration flows down the eastern seaboard in a multi-month game of hopscotch as the birds make (comparatively) leisurely stopovers one roost after another. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The Black-Capped Chickadee

Black Capped ChicadeeAs many birds prepare to abandon their summer ranges during the coming weeks and months, others are altering their routine to allow them to better survive winter in the Adirondacks. The regular appearance of numerous, year-round avian residents around homes and camps suggests that the behaviors of these hardy species do not change from one season to another.

However, following the end of the nesting season, many of these permanent members of our wildlife community subtly change their routine to improve their chances of finding food and avoiding danger. Among the birds that experiences a shift in behavior from their nesting season to this non-breeding period is the black-capped chickadee, a friendly and perky bird that almost everyone recognizes in appearance and song. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Crowdsourced Data Reveal Feats of Bird Migration

NorthernShoveler_ThomasDunkerton_230pxFor centuries people have marveled at the migratory abilities of birds, but new research is now putting numbers on those seasonal feats—for more than a hundred  species at a time—using data contributed by thousands of amateur bird watchers.

In all, more than 2.3 million sightings were summarized to reveal migratory routes of 102 species in North America, in a paper being  published August 1 in Ecology. The results provide a fascinating glimpse at an astonishing range of species: for instance, the tiny Calliope Hummingbird crosses the continent almost three times as fast as the Northern Shoveler, which outweighs it more than 300 times. They also highlight the immense scientific value to be gained from bird watchers’ sightings when they can be combined into a single large database. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Outside Story: Smart Birds Stash Stores, Thwart Thieves

We know that squirrels make the most of fall’s plenty by hoarding nuts for the winter, but the fact that birds also store, or cache, food goes largely unappreciated. Through clever observation and experiments, biologists have found that food caching (from the French cacher, “to hide”) has developed to a high art in some birds.

Take the chickadee, for instance. Chickadees put tens of thousands of food items a year into short-term storage. They usually retrieve and eat the food in the space of several days. Each food item is cached in a different place to make it difficult for thieves to steal all the food at once. When hiding a new item, they remember their previous storage sites and avoid placing caches too close together.
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Outside Story: Decline of American Kestrels

One autumn day, 15 years ago, I found myself perched on a ladder that was leaning against a highway sign on Interstate 89 somewhere in Vermont. There was a wooden box clamped to one of the sign poles at least 15 feet off the ground, although fear may have exaggerated that memory. I was providing a little autumn house-keeping for one of those nest boxes so it’d be ready when the kestrels returned to breed the next spring.

The box was one of 10 kestrel nest boxes then deployed along the interstate by the Vermont Agency of Transportation, or VTrans. It’s a feel-good project started in 1995 with $40, some scrap wood, and plenty of volunteer hours from VTrans employees, who built the boxes on their own time. Since then, about 90 kestrels have fledged and four orphaned young were fostered in the boxes. That’s a lot of bang for the buck, or rather, a lot of birds for the box.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: Osprey Exit the Park

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.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Birding: The Great Warbler Migration

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.



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