I’ve gone up to the Adirondacks six of the last eight years. Every trip has been great, but this year surpassed them all. I’ve always enjoyed kayaking with the loons and I’ve done well with photos. This year was enhance by getting a beautiful cold and foggy morning, which was a fabulous experience, and also lent itself to some interesting photo ops. I also like to spend some time hiking and birding the area, trying for some of the birds we typically don’t get down our way: Boreal Chickadee, Canada Jay (previously Gray Jay), Black-backed Woodpecker, and Ruffed Grouse. I’ve had varying success with these birds in the past, but this year I made a clean sweep and got them all.
On Saturday, I was putting my kayak into Follensby Clear Pond just as the sun was rising. It was unseasonably cold – just 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but I was prepared for the weather. Early on, the water was like glass and my kayak was cutting through it very nicely. I kayaked though the fog for a good while with no sign of any Common Loons; I began to wonder if my favorite spot wasn’t going to deliver this year. Then I heard my first loon calling and headed in that direction.
I paddled towards the north side of the largest island in the pond; I’d had luck there in the past. This year would be no different. At first there was just a single loon, joined quickly by a second. They were feeding and calling, and three more Common Loons came in. I feel like these must be the same group of loons I’ve photographed in that exact spot in years past. I watched and photographed them for a good while; as always they were very accommodating and just went about their business as I enjoyed the show and, of course, took loads of photos.
On Saturday afternoon, I birded a new spot for me. I’d done a little research on eBird and found a recent report at Blue Mountain Road which included Boreal Chickadees and Ruffed Grouse. I parked and headed down the trail on the south side of the road which lead to the Saint Regis River. About 500 yards into the trail, I heard my first BOREAL CHICKADEE. A little bit further, I walked into a small mixed flock which included two Boreal Chickadees. They initially flew in and landed in the tree directly above my head, and I mean directly – too close for photos! I watched the two BOCHs for a good while, as they worked through a couple of evergreens, I got some great looks, but was unable to get any worthwhile photographs. It was simultaneously one of the best experiences of the weekend but also the most disappointing.
I continued down to the river and then back up to where I parked my car, and took the trail which heads north of the road. About 10 minutes into that walk, I rounded a corner and saw something distant on the trail. I picked up my bins, and sure enough, there was a RUFFED GROUSE on the trail. I stayed put and took some distant photos, just hoping the bird wouldn’t move off of the trail. But, as I was taking those shots, the bird walked across the trail and disappeared into the trees. This is my first good look at a RUGR ever, and I was super excited. The icing on the cake for Saturday was finding moose tracks a little further up the trail. I followed the tracks until I saw where they disappeared, heading west of the trail. I was loving it, it’s amazing to think that not long before I was there, a moose walked that very same trail.
I did not have a great start on Sunday morning. I headed over to Bloomingdale Bog, at the north entrance. I parked and I was getting my gear together when another car pulled up and two men with two dogs got out and headed down the trail I was taking. I followed them slowly, trying to give them some distance, but there were very few birds. I was thinking it was because of the dogs, but eventually I came to the realization that it was more likely just too early – it was another cold morning and the sun was barely up. The dog walkers eventually turned back and left me with the trail to myself. Unfortunately, it was not at all peaceful. Somewhere, it was difficult to figure out where exactly, a man was yelling (screaming) at the top of his lungs and it was echoing throughout the bog. This went on for 10 minutes, and I still have no idea what the heck that was all about. I began to think that after a great Saturday, Sunday would be a bust.
And that’s when my first CANADA JAY flew in. They are very comfortable around people and there is even a feeding station on the trail for them. The bird came in, looking for a snack (I had nothing for it!). It lingered for a while, fed on some berries, and then was on its way. I continued on the trail and checked an area where I’d had Black-backed Woodpecker in the past: no luck. I eventually headed back towards my car; I was going to try the south entrance of the bog, where I’d also seen BBWOs. On my way back I heard tapping on some trees, off the trail to my right. It took a little while, but I was thrilled to find two BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKERS working some trees to the east of the trail. I was not expecting it, because it was a heavily wooded area, and both of my previous experiences with BBWOs had been in open areas with dead trees. Also noteworthy, shortly after the BBWOs, I came across five (!) Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers right on the trail.
Afterwards, I did check the south entrance of the bog and it was pretty much a bust. I didn’t want to get back too late, so from there I headed home, satisfied with a very fulfilling weekend of birding in the Adirondacks.