Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Boreal Species Bonanza

Thanks to the great Northern birder Joan Collins, I had some excellent information today on where to find the Boreal species that I'd come to the Adirondacks for.  I followed her directions, and hiked around Bloomingdale Bog from sunrise until about 11:30, and found just about all the birds I was looking for.  These included Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, Ruffed Grouse and Black Backed Woodpecker.  The forest here is amazing in winter, like something out of Narnia.  It's almost totally silent, especially with the dampening effect of the snow.  I didn't need my snowshoes since I was on snowmobiling trails, and while I think snowmobiling is ridiculous (seriously, we don't have enough motorized vehicles in the road, that we need to tear around state forest?), I did appeciate having a packed down trail.  The birds here are well hidden, and a lot of looking for them is actually listening.  I'd walk a hundred feet, stop, listen, walk another hundred feet.  At first you don't think there could be anything living in these snow bound pines, but suddenly you hear a faint tapping, or a chip note, and following the sounds you find a group of chickadees high up in the boughs, or a single woodpecker working over one of the trunks.   The grouse are an exception, of course...twice I flushed one without ever seeing it, and got a quick look before it vanished again in the forest.   They were a little too quick to photograph, but Ruffed Grouse are very common in the Adirondacks, and I'm sure I'll get another opportunity in the year.  
Off the trails I walked back down one of the roads to my car, and found a great feeder wi
th Gray Jays picking up bread cubes that the owner had set out.  One jay spent a good minute picking up one cube at a time, then setting it down and checking another one, until it found the one it wanted and flew off into the trees to eat.  Red Breasted Nuthatch and more Black Capped Chickadees were in evidence, as was a single Common Redpoll.  
I got back to the car and drove over to Paul Smiths Visitor Center to look for Evening Grosbeak.  The setup there is pretty cosy for birdwatching...a nice sofa in the visitor center faces a big picture 
window with several feeders just outside, and the birds come right up to the window.  There's even a little speaker/microphone arrangement so you can hear the birds twittering without having to open a window!  Not bad on a 10 degree day.  There was a single Evening Grosbeak in with the other birds, and I got a lot of's one I like.

Finally, I headed up to Malone in search of the Gray Partridge.  This is probably the rare
st bird in the state, with a probable population under 100 (and maybe many fewer).    These birds were introduced in the thirties by the thousands and established breeding populations for the past 70 years, but recently have been in serious decline and are now in danger of being completely extirpated from the state.  The last major population was in Cape Vincent, but after talking to some local birders it seems that that population is gone, with the last sighting being at least 2, and probably 3 or 4, years ago.   There was a sighting, though, in Malone about 6 weeks ago, so I thought I'd give it a shot, and get a little more familiar with the area.  I drove the farmlands just south of Malone for the rest of the afternoon,  scanning the stubble fields and ditches for the birds, but no luck.  It won't be the last time I'm up looking, but for now I'm putting off the hunt until I get a little more information and time.

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