Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I then headed west to the Adirondacks, starting first with Wright Peak. I was looking forward to this route given that it is prime time for alpine flowers and there are BITH. I counted 6 Bicknell's, took lots of photos of the alpine flowers and clear views from the summit, and enjoyed listening to dueling Ruby-crowned Kinglets where the trail splits off before Algonquin. It was quite an experience to be alone on the summit of one of the High Peaks well before anyone else was around. I didn't hear anyone else until after 8am and that was halfway down the mountain.
Next up, the grueling hike to Hopkins Mtn from Keene Valley. I made the mistake of trying to find the trailhead from Beede Rd, but finally found the trail after a few wrong turns (NOTE: when you come to the upside-down sign with an arrow, do not flip it over in your mind, follow the arrow left), only to find out that the trail is really straight and steep. My legs were quite tired, but I made it up in time to watch the sunset. No BITH up there but it was interesting to see cedar trees at high-elevation.
I took cover from the storms on Tues/Wed before heading to my last stop, Debar Mtn in the northern Adirondacks. Unfortunately, the rain spawned a fresh hatch of mosquitoes, quite possibly the thirstiest ones I have ever encountered. The strong winds died overnight and I awoke to a spectacular view of the valley and Meacham Lake engulfed in clouds with all the hills poking up above. No BITH here either, but it was great to get out and explore new territory.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Blue Jays occur throughout eastern North America. They prefer deciduous forest edges, but can also be found in suburbs, mixed and coniferous forest, in interior forest patches, and at low and high elevations. Nest building begins in mid-March with the laying of 4-6 eggs occurring in the next several weeks. Females incubate and brood the young. The male provides food to the female and nestlings during this period.
As omnivores, Blue Jays eat mostly nuts and insects, but also fruit, eggs and small vertebrates. Nuts make up a substantial portion of their diet, and each individual may cache thousands of acorns and other nuts each fall to support them through the winter. While they have a bad rap as a major predator of songbird nests, one extensive study showed that only 1 percent of Blue Jay diet consisted of eggs and young birds. Nevertheless, songbirds often harass jays, possibly because they are viewed as a potential nest predator.
Blue Jays have a remarkable array of vocalizations and, indeed, that is often how people know they are nearby. It is difficult to classify their vocalizations using standard terminology because they vary widely across their range, they are able to produce two sounds at once, and they can mimic other birds. Blue Jays are superb mimics of Red-shouldered, Red-tailed and Broad-winged hawks.
Blue Jay sounds are often accompanied by a wide variety of behaviors or gestures. Some behaviors are thought to help better disperse the sound while others simply attract attention. These gestures are used for both courtship and agonistic displays. One of the more entertaining behaviors is bobbing, in which a jay stands on a perch and pumps its body up and down emphatically, all the while calling loudly.
Blue Jays are often overlooked by birdwatchers or outright disliked. Their low appeal combined with their difficulty to capture and track their movements makes them a hard bird to study. Much of their breeding biology, social behaviors and communication are unknown.
White-winged Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Purple Finches and Bicknell's Thrushes continue to delight birders venturing to high elevations throughout the state. Other notable bird sightings include a Tennessee Warbler on Snow Mountain on June 14, a Caspian Tern in Shelburne on June 12, and a Northern Goshawk in Guilford on June 18. Sandhill Cranes, a relative newcomer to Vermont, have been spotted in Waitsfield several times in the last couple weeks. Two Grasshopper Sparrows, a grassland bird on the decline, were at the Franklin County Airport on June 17. Cuckoos continue to be seen, though not in the same numbers as last year, with Yellow-billed Cuckoos observed in Ira and at the Helen Buckner Preserve on Bald Mountain this past week.
To learn more about bird sightings this past week, please visit Vermont eBird.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Conservation biologists at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science captured the oldest known thrush last week on
The male, hatched in 1996, has spent each summer flying across the ski slopes of
Bicknell’s Thrush is one of eastern
On its wintering grounds in the
Rarities this week included a black vulture at Brattleboro Retreat Meadows on June 5 and a late migrating white-winged scoter at Herrick's Cove in Rockingham on June 9.
Least bitterns were found at
Two red-breasted mergansers were still present in
A northern goshawk was observed in Richford on June 10 and
A late migrating Swainson’s thrush heard singing in
You can explore all the birds reported last week in
Friday, June 15, 2007
Carrigain is a 5 mile hike and most of the elevation gain (3300ft) is in the last 3, but the view vies for one of the best in NH and you can see most of the 4000 footers from this one point. It was completely in the clouds when I hiked up Wednesday evening and it was a little eerie not really knowing where I was but still being able to tell that it was a very steep drop-off to one side of the ridge. It was cold and windy, but I was able to find a nice sheltered spot to pitch a tent and slowly warmed myself up--it took probably 30 minutes for my fingers to stop being numb. I woke up to strong winds despite the forecast (light and variable). The ridgeline was right on the cloud interface with some survey points below the clouds and others in the fog. Too windy to count as a good survey, but I conducted it anyways and hope someone else can get up there under better conditions. Another first during the morning survey--a Red-tailed Hawk hovering over Signal Ridge at point 2, looking for food in the stunted vegetation on the steep hillside. It cleared up by 8am, right as I was heading down, but not before I got some nice photos of the plants and view.
Bicknell's Thrush numbers were comparable to previous years on both mountains: 2 on Nancy; 8 on Carrigain. No Winter Wrens were heard during either survey, though they were present further down the mountains. White-winged Crossbills were heard on Carrigain, but Pine Siskins seemed to be the bird of the trip. Small groups were moving around both locations, with a group of 10 visiting me several times at different points on Carrigain.
Watch out for the mosquitoes--they are voracious!
Monday, June 11, 2007
Wednesday. Brousseau Mtn, 2713 ft, Averill, VT. Woke up to strong winds at 3 am. I made the hour drive north to the border in the early morning hoping the wind would be less further north. No such luck. In fact, the weather was worse. Seemed like there was a weather war right on the Canada/US border. It was cold, raining, and very windy. I sat in the car for a while waiting to see if sunrise would calm things down a bit. No such luck, but it did bring in an American Woodcock about 20 feet from the car. Best looks I have ever had of one. It was foraging along the dirt road.
Thursday. Laraway Mtn, 2790 ft, Jeffersonville, VT. The trail from Codding Hill Rd is quite scenic, passing by a waterfall, cliffs, up a ravine, and finally to a great lookout and a boggy summit. An evening survey Wednesday night did not produce any Bicknell's Thrush. Nor did the point count or playbacks Thursday morning. There is simply too much deciduous habitat for them here and the elevation is low for this latitude. One could even speculate that maybe there are too many moose--seems like the trail along the ridge is covered with moose droppings.
Friday. Belvidere Mtn, 3360 ft, Belvidere, VT. I took the Forester's trail up, which passes through nice Northern Hardwood Forest for a couple miles and crosses over several small streams before heading up to the fir zone. The saddle was unrecognizable. Lots of blowdowns occurred over winter with the trail diverted accommodatingly in several places. Belvidere seemed to be surprisingly quiet on the Bicknell's front this year. I only heard one in the evening and one nearby in the morning between point counts. Lots of insects about, however, with butterflies flying (Tiger Swallowtails and Spring Azures) and my first encounter with a metallic blue blister beetle. Fortunately I didn't develop any blisters handling it in my naivety.
Saturday. Brousseau Mtn, Second Attempt. Woke up to clear skies. Only three moose seen en route in the early morning hours and only one of those in the middle of the road coming around a corner. Just a few fast heart beats for everyone involved. It's only a 30 minute hike to the top, but it makes for one spectacular birding transect from Northern Hardwoods to Balsam-Fir. I observed everything from Bicknell's Thrush and Gray Jay to Mourning Warbler and Chestnut-sided to American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat. Yes, I did say Bicknell's Thrush. They haven't been reported here since 2000 and I would say that there are at least 3 males up there this year. This adds support to our thinking that surplus Bicknell's are inhabiting more marginal habitats this year. The view from the summit overlooking Little Averill Lake is spectacular. No sign of the nesting Peregrine Falcons, but there was a Black-backed Woodpecker, White-winged Crossbill, and Pine Siskin. The dawn chorus was intense and long-lasting. It was a good opportunity for my boyfriend, Matt Medler, to do some quality sound recording. He was able to get a good cut of Canada Warbler, but the Bicknell's eluded him. We also discovered a well-hidden geocache box while bush-whacking around the summit that hadn't been "found" for a year and was full of lots of great prizes. Unfortunately, I didn't have anything to swap other than a piece of flagging so we'll have to go back again later this summer.
Sunday. Gore Mtn, 3352 ft, Avery's Gore, VT. This is a long hike (just under 4 miles) on a glorified moose trail, but it goes through some great boreal habitat. On the summit, you feel like you are in the remote wilderness except for the old fire warden's cabin. Other than that it's just you, the Bicknell's, and the moose super-highway. There is not much in the way of a view, but the sun shines red through the trees making it look like someone spray painted them. Gore is a good place to record bird sounds--no human noises except for the rare overhead plane--if the birds cooperate. Last year I had a surreal experience up there with Bicknell's singing all around me. This year was a little different. I'd still estimate we heard at least 6 Bicknell's all told, but perhaps because of the overcast skies, the birds sang sporadically and moved around a lot. Needless to say, Matt had trouble getting a good cut, but there were a lot of birds around to enjoy from a distance. Matt was fortunate to have a Boreal Chickadee fly right in to him while I was off conducting point counts. I encountered more White-winged Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and found the trophy for the trip--a nice moose antler which Matt was kind enough to carry down despite the bad smell and unwieldy strapping job to his pack. The highlight of the trip occurred at 12:30 am the night before. I woke up to a new sound. I was so excited I shook Matt to confirm that I was indeed hearing my life Northern Saw-whet Owl. It sang insistently for quite some time and seemed like a dream when we woke up the next morning. To top off the trip, we flushed three American Woodcock on the hike down from next to the trail. We were only 10 or so feet away so we were able to admire their coloring and their peculiar flight style.
Up next: Catskills and White Mountains......