Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sights and Sounds of Adirondack Woodcock

woodcockEvery year around this time, my husband, kids and I haul out the tent blind from our garage and set it up in the field in front of our house. We toss in a few folding chairs, a thermos, maybe a neighbor. At dusk, we take our seats.

First come the vocalizations – what are officially called “peents,” but sound more to us like the name Bert repeated in a froggy voice. A male American woodcock materializes – we never see the moment of arrival – and makes his way across the winter-flattened grass. His goal is to impress females hiding in the tree line, although I suspect he makes an impression on predators, too. He looks vulnerable, and more than a little ridiculous, with his plump shorebird body, letter-opener beak, and eyes positioned far back on his head. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Wood Ducks: Woods And Waters Working Together

wood duckStrong and frequent southerly breezes, a disappearing snow pack at low elevations and the presence of large stretches of open water along streams, in the backwater of rivers and in marshes prompt the return of numerous forms of waterfowl to the Adirondacks.

When the opportunity arises to reconnect with the area used for breeding, flat-billed, webbed-footed birds take advantage of the favorable conditions and fly north. Included with these returning birds is one of the most colorful and handsome species of waterfowl in North America – the wood duck. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Beaver Bird: The Adaptable Hooded Merganser

hooded merganserImagine ten nearly round white eggs snug in a hollow tree, lined with soft feathers plucked from the mother’s breast. The hen carefully tends the two-inch eggs for about a month until the chicks hatch. Prompted by their mother’s call, downy day-old chicks clamber up to the opening in the tree and leap into space, plunging head-over- tail some 50 feet down to bounce on the forest floor. They follow their mother on a perilous journey, sometimes of over a half-mile, to the relative safety of a marsh, beaver pond or woodland stream. She will protect the chicks for the next five weeks until they go out on their own.

Such is the life of a nascent hooded merganser. Chicks take to the water right away to hunt aquatic insects. As they quickly grow, keen eyesight underwater enables them hunt larger prey, such as tadpoles, frogs, small fish, mollusks, and crustaceans, including crayfish. Unique among our native pond-dwelling ducks, hooded mergansers eat fish as their main fare. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Seedy Habits of Bird Feeders

obsessive bird feeding photo courtesy Monitor Pest ControlIn seedy neighborhoods across the U.S., ordinary people are shelling out hard-earned cash to feed a habit of near-epidemic proportions. The fact of the matter is, about 40% of American households are addicted to feeding birds. Things are even worse in the U.K., where close to three-quarters of the population are beset with this malady.

In severe cases, people provide birds with dried fruit, suet, and mealworms, and even landscape their yard with bird-friendly trees and shrubs. Most garden-variety bird-feeding addicts, however, go to seed. It often starts innocently: a few sunflower kernels strewn in the backyard or a handful of popped corn scattered for chickadees. But these so-called gateway activities can quickly escalate, and decent folk may soon find themselves sneaking out on Saturday mornings for a weekly fix of thistle seeds, millet, milo or suet. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Outside Story: Winter Bird Rehabilitation

barred owlAn injured barred owl sat in the back seat of a four-door sedan, staring balefully out the window at its rescuer. “I saw him on the side of the road, just sitting there, trying to fly,” the young woman explained to Maria Colby, director of Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Rehabilitation and Rescue. “Other cars were stopping and then circling back around to see if I needed help. His eye looks messed up.”

Colby nodded, her spectacles perched on her nose and her hands protected by large leather gloves with gauntlets. She opened the car door, wrapping the owl up into a towel and whisking it inside her house, to her warm kitchen. The owl panicked, making clicking noises and trying to fly, but Colby kept a firm hold as she administered a few droplets of pain medication into its beak. Then she carried the owl into her triage room and placed it in a small pet carrier. She explained that she would let it rest for twenty minutes until the pain medication kicked in, then do an evaluation and consult with her local veterinarian. She would also report the owl to both federal and state fish and wildlife departments. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Great Gray Owls in Northern New York

2017 Great Gray Owl Larry Master PhotoIn most winters great gray owls remain in their great north woods home in Canada, the mountains of the western U.S., northern Europe, and Siberia. But every four years or so, apparently motivated by a shortage of food (primarily voles), many of these owls will move southward in search of food.

In northeastern North America, the owls usually stay just north of the border, apparently finding suitable vole populations in southern Quebec and Ontario, but a handful of individuals will sometimes move further south into northern New York and New England. This is one such winter with a number of great gray owls being reported in southern Quebec, two reports from central Maine, and reports of several great gray owls in northern New York. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 13, 2017

20th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count Feb 17th

The 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is taking place February 17 to 20 in backyards, parks, nature centers, on hiking trails, school grounds, balconies, and beaches — anywhere you find birds.

Bird watchers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at birdcount.org. All the data contribute to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the past 20 years.

Varying weather conditions so far this winter are producing a few trends that GBBC participants can watch for during the count. eBird reports show many more waterfowl and kingfishers remaining further north than usual because they are finding open water. If that changes, these birds could move southward. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Rarely Seen Gull Boosts Tupper Lake’s Birding Reputation

Ross's gull in flight in Tupper Lake in Jan 2017 by Larry MasterOn a recent Tuesday afternoon, some carpenters working at Jack Delehanty’s home in Tupper Lake put out on the ice some entrails and egg skeins from walleyes they had caught. The next day Jack noticed an unfamiliar bird picking at the walleye eggs. Jack consulted with his sister, Alex, and their mother, Charlcie Delehanty, a longtime birder, and they were also puzzled. Alex then sent me pictures and video they had taken to see if I could identify the bird. That night, I realized it was a first-year Ross’s gull, an incredibly rare vagrant from the Arctic.

Thanks to the internet, my news of the Ross’s gull reached the birding community within hours, and hundreds of birders from all over the country and Canada soon flocked to Tupper Lake (and Jack’s home!) to see the bird, which has been hanging out much of the time near the Tupper Lake boat launch and the causeway near the bridge over the Raquette River.  This bird has provided a small but significant economic boost to the Tupper Lake community as hundreds of visiting birders have bought food and gas and occasionally spent the night.  A similar appearance of this species in Newburyport, Massachusetts attracted thousands of birders from around the country. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blue Jays in Winter

“Jay, jay, jay!” Every morning last winter I awoke to the loud cries of a flock of 17 blue jays dancing around my feeder. They gorged on sunflower seeds and suet, scaring away smaller birds, then left, only to return in the afternoon. I ended up buying a second feeder for the smaller birds, which was more difficult (though not impossible) for the jays to feed from.

This boisterous group was a foraging flock. Like many species of birds, blue jays change their behavior from summer, when breeding birds live in pairs, to winter, when they often gather in groups. In summer, blue jays feed and raise their young mostly on insects, while in winter, they shift to fruits, nuts, and seeds. As biologist Bernd Heinrich explained in his book Winter World, these food sources are widely dispersed, but occur in large clumps that groups of birds can detect more easily by combining their scouting efforts. Another advantage of winter flocks is that many eyes are better for detecting predators. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Questions About Winter Bird Feeding

Back in September, I put out the bird feeder. I try not to do it too early because, well . . . bears. My feathered friends emptied it in hours. A couple of refills later and I decided I couldn’t afford to put out the buffet that early. The weather was warm; natural feed had to be available.

The birds, ever optimistic, still dropped by. I started writing dialogue for them: » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Invasive Species: House Sparrows in Winter

house sparrowHouse sparrows – those little brown and gray birds that flash mob the bird feeder – are common and easy to see. They’re quarrelsome, noisy, and when they’re on the ground, they move in vigorous hops that remind me of popcorn popping out of a pan.

They’re also an invasive species, scavengers that have hitched their wagons to humans, and at least on this continent, are having a very successful ride. Our farms, lawns, and grocery store parking lots provide all kinds of year-round foraging for these birds, and our structures provide them shelter. From gutter pipes to the bulb rims of traffic lights, house sparrows know how to make themselves at home in human-dominated settings, regardless of whether humans want them there. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Photo: The Pileated Woodpecker

pileated woodpeckerThe pileated woodpecker is one of the more striking characters of New York’s woodlands. Ubiquitous across the state, its bright red crest and propensity for vocalization make it hard to miss.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Canada Geese: Migrant or Resident?

geeseA 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.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

2016 Adirondack Peregrine Falcon Monitoring Summary

peregrine falconDEC staff and volunteers monitored 26 peregrine falcon nesting sites located throughout the Adirondack Mountains and along Lake Champlain during the 2016 breeding season.

Of the 26 monitored eyrie (nesting) sites, 17 were confirmed to be occupied by territorial pairs – all of these were confirmed to be active eyries. At two of the 26 sites, Cascade Lakes and Eagle Mountain, only a single territorial bird was ever seen. Of the 17 confirmed active eyries, 14 were successful, producing 27 chicks for a total of 1.59 young/breeding pair and 1.93 young/successful pair. This represents an average level of production for this region, however 2016 was much more successful than the 2015 breeding season. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

How Do Birds Know When To Migrate?

Phoebe w/ seed headsOn 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.


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