It was a dark and stormy night. No really it was. I met Corey from 10,000 Birds in my driveway a little after 5am on Election Day and although it was fairly mild (temps near 50) the pouring rain and wind made it feel colder. After doing our bleary eyed greeting, we got onto the Adirondack Northway for the 2.5 hour drive to Ferd’s Bog (Those who read either 10,000 Birds or this blog on a regular basis will know about Ferd’s Bog). The goal was to get Corey the two Boreal woodpeckers he was missing, Black-backed and Three-toed and maybe a surprise or two.
The entire way up the Northway from Albany to Warrensburg was in the rain. Once in Warrensburgh on Rt. 28 the rain tapered off, but shortly after crossing into Hamilton County, the rain changed to snow and soon the ground, and then the road was a slushy white. Although the snow had stopped before we passed through, things were still messy and would continue that way through Indian Lake. Once at Blue Mountain Lake, the snow was gone, except for the Mountain tops.
Shortly after 7am and shortly after crossing into Raquette Lake on Rt. 28, Corey’s sharp eyes noticed a group of birds perched on the top of a tree along the road. Pulling over very quickly into the adjacent pull-off, we quickly hopped out of the car and soon heard the high pitched buzzy calls of Waxwings. Using our binoculars in the dim light, we could see that these birds had rusty red under-tails, the tell tale mark of Bohemian Waxwing. It was cloudy and dark, but both of us took some shots of the birds. Although you can’t see color well, the crests are very distinctive for Bohemians.
Suddenly driving through all the rain in the dark and slipping and sliding on snow covered roads was quickly forgotten with a new year bird for both us (which is rare these days). Continuing on the way to Ferd’s Bog, the sun burst through the clouds and all of our troubles melted away.
A quick stop at the gas station in Inlet for some (homemade) breakfast sandwiches and chocolate milk, we soon found ourselves at the trail-head to Ferd’s. Awaiting us at the trail-head was a Brown Creeper, one of many we would see that day.
Walking into the woods was an eerie feeling. It was dead silent, and as I mentioned to Corey it was like being in a Stephen King novel. I gained an understanding of how silence can drive people mad. Sadly, the bog didn’t hold much more. A few Black-capped Chickadees, another Brown Creeper and a Downy Woodpecker was about the best we could muster. At then end of the boardwalk (naturally while Corey was away) a small flock of 4 more Bohemian Waxwings flew in, landed and then quickly left again. No Gray Jays, Boreal Chickadees or any of the ‘good’ woodpeckers were even remotely seen or heard. The sun however was bright and it created a very beautiful scene in the woods with the wet evergreens, shadows and sunlight, which my camera barely captured, it was for a lack of better terms, glorious.
Taking the back way out of Ferd’s down Uncas Road was a waste of time. From there we traveled to Adirondack Visitors Interpretive Center in Newcomb, hoping for Evening Grosbeaks and other winter finches, but first stopped a pond north of Long Lake on Rt. 28 N, where we had 2 Wood Ducks, Common Mergansers and a small group of Ring-necked Ducks.
Newcomb too was a bust, with lots of very tame Chickadees and a now famous Red Squirrel. A quick walk around the visitors center building yielded another Brown Creeper and flushed two Ruffed Grouse. One of the dozen or so Black-capped Chickadees at the feeders is below.
You know the birding is slow when Corey starts to sing and sing he did all the way from Newcomb to Ausable Point State Park on the shores of Lake Champlain. I now have several songs stuck in my head, I may never get rid of.
Those who remember well will realize that Ausable Point State Park is where Corey and I along with another birder named Jory went in search of, back in March, for a Tufted Duck. Today the focus wasn’t on waterfowl, although there was some, namely Horned Grebes, Great Blue Herons, Common Mergansers and a Double-Crested Cormorant. A rather large flock of Bohemian Waxwings had been sighted there and we wanted better pictures. Our first pass through the park yielded little, although Corey did get excited when he thought he had spotted a flock of Evening Grosbeaks, which turned out to be Cedar Waxwings. But on the way out we hit the jackpot, with a good flock of over 50 Bohemian Waxwings, with a few Cedars mixed in for good measure. Enjoy the pictures of one of the Northern Hemisphere’s prettiest birds. Notice the diagnostic rust red under-tail coverts. For such tame birds, they were remarkably difficult to photograph, even though the birds were often only a couple of feet from us.
From there we traveled south through the ‘Golden Triangle’ and visited Noblewood, Westport, Essex and Port Henry along Lake Champlain, where we had perhaps the best birds of the day and you will find out about in part II, but before then don’t forget to check out Corey’s account at 10,000 Birds.