Posts Tagged ‘Birding’

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Birds: Making Ends Meet with a Crossed Bill

crossbillCrossbills are one of our most specialized groups of birds, feeding almost exclusively on conifer seeds. These hardy, nomadic finches have evolved oddly-shaped bills that allow them to exploit a food source before it becomes available to most other birds. However, being so specialized and relying on a single primary source of food means that when that food is unavailable, they have to search far and wide to make ends meet.

North America has two species of crossbills – white-winged crossbills (Loxia leucoptera) and red crossbills (Loxia curvirostra). Both are widespread across boreal regions dominated by conifer trees, and populations extend south into mountainous areas, with red crossbills reaching as far south as Mexico. In the Northeast, the more slender-billed white-winged crossbill, which is more commonly observed, spends most of its time foraging on the relatively small cones of spruce, balsam fir, hemlock, and tamarack, while red crossbills are typically associated with large-coned white and red pines.
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

General Permit Fails to Address Today’s Forest Challenges

logging roads on Finch landsThere has been some good writing on forestry issues in the Adirondack Park in the media recently, stimulated by the APA’s proposed, controversial General Permit for clear-cut logging. Adirondack Wild applauds the discussion and encourages more of it.

The APA held a stakeholder meeting recently of Agency staff, forest landowners and managers, scientists, and environmental groups where a conversation ensued about the difficulties that face forests and forest managers today in the Adirondack Park (and beyond). The dialogue needed to happen, and it should continue, but the General Permit (GP) does more than just get in the way of that discussion. It does little to solve the problems discussed, and cuts out the public’s involvement in these matters and, even worse, it subjects forest landowners who might apply for the GP to a perception of unfair dealings with the Agency in order to expedite the clear-cutting of their lands. That’s may be an unfair characterization, but that is the public’s perception. All in all, this General Permit is a just a bad idea. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Backyard Bird Count: Adirondacks Still Underrepresented

GBBCIf thousands of New Yorkers counted birds in their backyards and across the landscape for four days in the middle of February, how many species would they find? And what species do you think they would spot most frequently?

Well, it happens that it is possible to answer these questions, and many more, for the past fifteen winters as a result of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This annual “citizen science” project  is designed to encourage bird enthusiasts to combine the pleasure of observing birds with gathering data that will help scientists better understand trends in bird populations and locations.

The 16th annual GBBC, occurring over this President’s Day weekend (February 15-18) once again aims to develop a nationwide mid-winter bird census and calls on bird watchers everywhere to help assemble a picture of bird numbers and distribution. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Adirondack Birds: The Pine Siskin This Winter

Carduelis pinus by Wikimedia user CephasDuring winter, the possibility exists that a transient flock of birds may suddenly appear at a feeder and dominate the local seed supply for several weeks before exiting the area. The presence of a mob of gluttonous evening grosbeaks, redpolls or purple finches can quickly decimate a mass of sunflower seeds, leaving little for the regulars like chickadees, nuthatches, and an occasional blue jay or cardinal.

Yet despite the highly competitive feeding habits exhibited by the gregarious members of the finch family, there is always one irregular winter visitor that is enjoyable to have in the neighborhood for a few weeks. With a petite body shape, a stylish hint of yellow on its wings and tail, and a drawn-out, single syllable call that sounds more like an insect than a bird [audio], the pine siskin never fails to add a touch of charm to its surroundings. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

In The Champlain Valley, A Brawl of Birders

common pochardNoting the long line of cars parked on the shoulder of the road in front of DAR Park in Addison, Vermont, I decided to pull onto the opposite shoulder, only to discover, too late, that said shoulder consisted of a five-foot-deep snowbank into which the right side of  my car promptly sank.  I tensed up expecting the car to roll onto its passenger side but, mirabile dictu, it stayed on its tires albeit at a forty-five-degree angle. I got out to investigate, sunk in up to my waist and then struggled back onto the road, my jacket now festooned with a phalanx of burrs the size of Concorde grapes.

The dashboard thermometer read minus three degrees. I pulled my wife out of the car, and we simultaneously concluded that we needed to get towed out of this mess and that we might as well go and try to see the bird before starting in with AAA and waiting for a tow truck.  So what I drove the car into a ditch. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 14, 2013

High Peaks Wildlife: The Boreal Chickadee

Boreal ChickadeeDuring the final segment in the ascent of a high peak, before coming to the tree line, or on a trip through a lowland forest of spruce and fir, a very hoarse-sounding chickadee may be heard. While a novice birder or an inexperienced naturalist may assume that the individual responsible for this raspy chickadee song is the common black-capped variety with a bad head cold or a case of throat congestion, the more knowledgeable outdoorsman would recognize the voice as that of a cold-hardy resident of the far north–the boreal chickadee.

Aside from its similar call, the boreal chickadee is nearly the same size and has a color pattern that resembles its friendly, perky relative that is familiar to anyone with a feeder in his/her yard. When getting only a quick glimpse of one, seeing one in a dimly lit spot, or when its body is partially obscured by evergreen boughs, it is a challenge to distinguish between these two birds.
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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cabin Life: A January Thaw

Red Breasted NuthatchThe sun is slowly creeping up over Whiteface, turning the sky into a mixture of pastel blue, deep purple and burnt orange.  The icicles hanging down in front of the big window reflect the colors as the first chickadees of the morning start to come to the bird feeders.  Herbie and Ed are both on the couch, heads darting back and forth.  The view out the window looks like a Bob Ross painting.  Soft lines and happy little trees everywhere.

The January thaw is upon us here in the Adirondacks.  It’s a nice little break to have temperatures above freezing, but the rain that’s coming surely is not welcome.  Over the last couple of days, I’ve lost almost a foot of snow to the warm, humid air, but I’m not complaining about that.  There’s still plenty of the white stuff on the ground.

So much snow, in fact, that my driveway is no longer drivable.  I’ve been parking at the bottom for over a week now.  There’s obviously a pretty big downside to this, but also a few perks.  I’ve gotten good at not forgetting anything when I leave, and shoveling a hundred yards of driveway is definitely preferable to shoveling a quarter mile of driveway.  Also, the driveway is steep enough and snowy enough for me to ride the sled down to the car.  So even when I have to haul groceries or water up, I at least get a sled ride in exchange.  It’s really not a bad trade. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cabin Life: Life At The Bird Feeders

I woke up this morning, as usual, buried by animals.  Ed was lying on my chest, Herbie was at my shoulder flicking me in the face with his tail, and Pico was on my left, resting his head on my open hand.  It was nice and warm in the cabin even though I hadn’t gotten up all night to feed the stove, and I would have been content to lay there for a while before getting out of bed.

I thought about how my car was buried in a snow bank halfway up the driveway and how it’s going to take an hour or so to get it free.  I thought about how I’m still not done shoveling more than a week after our first big snowstorm.  I thought about how nice the bed felt.  Then Ed stretched and farted, and I jumped out of bed more quickly than I would have liked.  Pico and Herbie didn’t wait around in the danger zone either. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Outside Story: Downy or Hairy Woodpecker?

“That’s a downy. No wait, it’s a hairy – definitely a hairy. Well, hang on…maybe it is a downy.” I admit it: I’ve had this happen to me more than once.

With the onset of winter, downy and hairy woodpeckers become more apparent– knocking away in our woods and stopping by our birdfeeders. With strikingly similar feather patterns, the two can be hard to distinguish if one only catches a glimpse. Both have black wings with white markings; white bellies, sides, and backs; and distinctively white- and black-striped heads. Males of both species have red patches on the backs of their heads, which females lack.
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Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter and the Golden-Crowned Kinglet

It’s simple physics. In a cold environment, small objects lose heat at a faster rate than large objects. This is why most warm-blooded animals that reside in a northern climate tend to be large in size. Yet, for every rule, there is always an exception and when considering birds, the golden-crowned kinglet is a perplexing anomaly.

The golden-crowned kinglet is the smallest perching bird to inhabit the Adirondacks, as this delicate, olive colored creature is not much larger than a hummingbird, (which is classified in a group that is related to the swifts rather than the perching birds.) However, unlike our other small birds, like the warblers, vireos and wrens, the kinglet often remains in the Adirondacks throughout the dead of winter, traveling in small, loosely knit flocks in dense evergreen forests.
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Outside Story: What’s With Blue Animals?

Animals display a dazzling variety of colors, particularly in the tropics. But even here in northern New England where wildlife diversity is comparatively limited, we enjoy a rich palette of colors and patterns. The majority of colors are produced by pigments–particles of color chemicals found within specialized cells. These include melanins, which are found in nearly all organisms and produce the earthy tones common to many animals (including humans), and carotenoids, which produce colors primarily in the red to yellow end of the spectrum (think northern cardinal and American goldfinch).

What’s surprising, however, is that pigments that produce blue coloration are all but unknown in the animal kingdom, even though we have plenty of blue-colored animals, particularly among birds, butterflies, and fish. So if it’s not pigments, what makes an animal blue? » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Adirondack Birds: A Tough Season for the Robin

The time of migration for some birds, and their eventual destination, are very predictable. For others, however, it is impossible to say when they exit the general region and where they are going, other than somewhere south. One bird in this last group, illustrating the individualistic behavior patterns of the members of a single species, is the robin.

Along with being a harbinger of spring and ranking as our nation’s number one backyard bird, this orange-breasted songster has no set response to the lessening daylight and the onset of cold, other than to fatten up for the coming winter and eventually travel to a more hospitable climate.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Adirondack Family Activities: Weekend AIC Events

Without really knowing what sort of residual weather Hurricane Sandy may blow into the Adirondack Park, Assistant Program Manager Kaley Donavon at the Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC) in Newcomb is confident that the weekend plans at the AIC will go uninterrupted.

Donavon says, “ We have 3.6 miles of trails with some sort of water feature for people to enjoy, at the Adirondack Interpretive Center. Trails lead to Rich Pond, cross Little Sucker Brook and continue to Belden Pond. This weekend we are also hosting a 2-mile hike around Arbutus Lake in the Huntington Wildlife Forest.” » 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.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Birding: Project Feeder Watch This Winter

The 26th season of Project FeederWatch begins November 10, and participants are needed more than ever. By watching their feeders from November through April and submitting their observations to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, bird watchers make it possible for scientists to keep track of changing bird populations across the continent. New or returning participants can sign up anytime at www.FeederWatch.org.

After unusual winter weather in some parts of the country last season, many participants found themselves asking, “Where are the birds?”
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