Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Boreal Baker’s Dozen:
Northern Birds in Adirondack Wetlands

A Gray Jay by Simon Pierre BarretteImagine that you are walking on a path through a forest in the Adirondacks and suddenly, you see an opening in the trees ahead. Moving closer, you gaze out on a vast opening covered in a mosaic of leafy shrubs and dotted with spiky conifers. You take a step further and feel the “squish” as your boot sinks into a wet, dense mat of bright green moss. From the top of a nearby snag, you hear the distinctive “quick-three-beers” song of an Olive-sided Flycatcher followed by the complex, jumbled, slightly metallic sound of a Lincoln’s Sparrow. Looking down again, you notice the pale, delicate flowers of a white-fringed orchid. All the sights and sounds are conclusive: you have entered the Adirondack boreal.

The term “boreal” is used to describe cold, wet areas in northern latitudes. For the most part, people think of northern Canada and Eurasia, with vast spruce-fir forests, extensive wetland complexes, and frigid winter conditions. Though much of the Adirondack Park is within the temperate deciduous bioclimatic zone, we can also find low-elevation boreal pockets containing bog rosemary, pod-grass, tamarack and other boreal plants. » Continue Reading.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Birding: The Mating Habits of Songbirds

PhoebeWhile winter can be stunningly beautiful, with its magical snowfalls and ethereal silences, I must admit that by late-February the long absence of so many songbirds has me feeling bereft. I miss the vireos; I miss the thrushes and most especially I miss the pair of phoebes who settle into the well-worn nest on the gable end of my house to raise their young.

It’s amazing how two tiny beings who weigh no more than a handful of twigs can evoke such strong emotions in me. I am joyful when the pair resurfaces in early spring; moved by their devotion to their shared progeny, and I take pleasure in the companionship they provide one another.

But on some level I know that these are sentimental notions that I am ascribing to behavior that is biologically, not emotionally, driven. The phoebes I see one year aren’t the same phoebes that I observed the previous year. Or are they? » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Adirondack Wildlife: Do Eagles Snore?

Bald EaglegovFrom a lifetime of experiences, and reading nature books since childhood, it’s true that I should know a little more about wildlife than the average Joe, but I lay no claim to being an expert. Learning something new is a principal reason for reading books, and of late, I’ve had occasion to indulge in several excellent Adirondack-related titles written between 1840 and 1920.

In one of them, a particular passage caused me to stop, backtrack, read it again, and then one more time in disbelief. Since other animal behavior described in the book held true, I supposed this one should as well, but I had reservations. Above all, one thing was certain: confirmation would be hilarious, at least to my thinking. The claim was that bald eagles snore. And not only that: they snore LOUDLY.

On camping trips I’ve taken in the woods over the years, odd and unusual night sounds have proved puzzling, and even intimidating at times. A snorting, growling sound, persistent for hours during a trip 30 years ago, somewhere on the eastern slopes of Lyon Mountain, would have scared me half to death had I been alone. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An Avian Chameleon: The Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper (Wikimedia Photo)The fields and forests of the Adirondacks support many forms of animal life, even during winter, yet many of our wildlife residents are next to impossible to glimpse. Some, like moles, shrews and voles prefer an existence below the surface of the snow, while others such as fisher, bobcat and ermine have adapted a shy and secretive lifestyle causing them to spend nearly all of their time in remote sections of dense woodlands where visibility is limited, making a chance sighting rare. Others, like flying squirrels and owls conduct their affairs under the cover of darkness and seldom are viewed.

One small bird, considered by ornithologists to be widespread throughout the Park year round, is likewise noticed only on rare occasions, despite its regular foraging activities during the light of day. The brown creeper is a slim, chickadee-size bird with mottled brown plumage on its head, back, sides, and tail, which closely resembles the color and pattern of the rough-textured bark that covers many types of mature trees. » 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.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cornell Lab Offers New App to Identify Birds

Merlin Cornell Bird AppYou’ve heard the question a million times: What bird is that? Now Cornell Lab of Ornithology have a new way to get an answer.   Merlin is a free iPhone app developed by the Cornell Lab to help beginners and intermediate bird watchers identify 285 species in North America.

Merlin draws upon 70 million eBird sightings to calculate which species you’re most likely to encounter within about a 30-mile radius of your location at the time when you saw the bird. The app asks five questions about size, location, and so on. Then it displays a range of photos showing birds that match your description. The app also comes with more than 1,400 photos, plus ID tips, sounds, and range maps for each species. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Adirondack Wildlife: The Ruffed Grouse This Winter

Ruffed GrouseThe lack of a substantial accumulation of snow this winter has created hardship for those forms of wildlife that seek shelter from below zero temperatures and gusty winds by embedding themselves in the powdery covering that typically covers the ground at this time of year.

The insulating value of a fairly deep snow pack affords excellent protection against the elements for many creatures small enough to utilize this seasonal layer of material. Among the more sizeable members of the wildlife community that use snow for shelter is the ruffed grouse, well known for plunging head first into a pile of powder in its attempt to completely cover itself with this unlikely natural blanket for an entire day or two. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Finding Snowy Owls in the Adirondacks

Snowy OwlThe vast expanses of wilderness forests that cover the Adirondacks serve as home to many forms of wildlife adapted for survival in areas where visibility is limited by trees and grasses, and grains are nearly non-existent.

Large open areas scattered throughout the Park serve to support the collection of creatures that require much greater visibility and food sources that exist on the soil’s surface. Among those animals drawn toward these open spaces is the snowy owl, which regularly migrates southward from its arctic breeding grounds in autumn to establish a winter hunting territory in more hospitable surroundings. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

DEC Seeks Help With Wild Turkey Research

QF Turkey cropOver the past 10 years wild turkey populations have declined in many parts of New York State. In an effort to better understand the factors influencing population changes and how these changes affect turkey management, DEC is beginning the second year of a four-year study. This project is expected to provide wildlife managers with current estimates of harvest and survival rates for female wild turkeys, or hens, in New York and guide future management efforts.

Beginning in January, DEC will embark on a statewide effort to capture wild turkey hens and fit them with leg bands to obtain accurate data on survival and harvest. A small number of these birds will also be tagged with satellite radio-transmitters. All of the work will be done by DEC personnel on both public and private lands from January through March. The research will be concentrated in DEC Regions 3 through 9 where turkey populations are largest. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Join the 2013 Christmas Bird Count

ChristmasBirdCount_newThis will be the first time that my family makes counting birds part of our holiday tradition, though the National Audubon Society has been conducting its Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for the past 114 years. This year we, along with numerous others, will be walking roads, peering at backyard feeders and looking to the skies to track birds.

Over the past few years we’ve taken steps to learn more about birds by participating in various bird counts organized by the National Audubon Society. Putting up a bird feeder is one of the things we manage to do no matter where we’ve lived. It is so peaceful watching our feathery friends come and go. We have a bird poster near the window in case any newcomer visits our feeder. Along the way we’ve learned what food attracts which birds and how to avoid the squirrels. Well, the squirrels are still a work in progress. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Learn About Visiting Snowy Owls

Snowy OwlWe’re experiencing what could be the largest-ever influx of Arctic Snowy Owls into the Northeast and the Great Lakes states, and more may be on the way.  Dr. Kevin McGowan, a biologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,  says this may be the first wave and we should expect more.

“More than likely these Snowy Owls are moving south from the Arctic because of a shortage of their favorite food up north—lemmings, or because of a bumper crop of young,” he said, “We can expect them to stick around through early spring before they head back to the Arctic again.”

This year’s Snowy Owl irruption is the largest recorded in decades in the Northeast and is an excellent opportunity to see these birds, so here are a few online resources to get you up to speed on our latest high profile visitors. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The 114th Christmas Bird Count: A Holiday Tradition

cbcpressroom_tuftedtitmouse-judyhowleThe year was 1900. The National Audubon Society did not yet exist and wildlife management was in its infancy. Through the century just ending, many people in this country participated in a holiday tradition known as a “side hunt.” Groups would gather, choose “sides,” and then compete to see which side could shoot the most birds (and other animals) in a day.

But some citizens were then becoming concerned about declining bird numbers. That year, American ornithologist Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore magazine and later a leader in the emerging Audubon Society, proposed a new form of hunt in which participants would count birds instead of killing them. He called it a Christmas bird-census.  Chapman urged readers to help by “spending a portion of Christmas Day with the birds” and then submit to Bird-Lore a report of their count “before they retire that night.” » 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.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Loon Quilt Raffle to Benefit Loon Conservation

Loon QuiltThe Biodiversity Research Institute’s (BRI) Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation will be holding its first-ever Loon Quilt Raffle. The hand-made quilt depicts a pair of loons raising two chicks on an Adirondack lake. The queen-sized quilt was created by Dr. Nina Schoch, Coordinator of BRI’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, based on a McKenna Ryan design, and quilted by Susan Ochs of Saranac Lake.

“The proceeds from the loon quilt raffle will help support our loon research and outreach initiatives over the coming year. It was a lot of fun making this unusual quilt,” said Dr. Schoch, “and I hope the support it provides will enable us to continue to address numerous threats to Adirondack loons and the lakes and ponds where they live.” » 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.



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