Outdoor Adventures with Gary Lee - Vol. 179

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The weather remains more like September than November as temperatures have gotten up in the sixties several days now. We’ve had some hard frosts which has done in most of the greenery in the woods, except some of the ferns that remain green all winter even under the snow. The deer have been working on the fern curls since there is a lack of a mass crop of nuts of any kind. I saw where they were working on the black cherries that dropped from the trees, just like eating nuts, but I don’t think the nutrient value or fat making is the same in the cherries as in the beech or acorn nuts. When there were chestnuts around, that must have been a big source of fall food for the animals and birds. Those nuts fed the flocks of Passenger Pigeons that once blackened the skies when they flew over. It’s hard to believe that a pigeon could eat a chestnut, but they did. I’ve watched ducks and turkeys eat both acorns and beechnuts. The chestnut is about the same size as an acorn without the cap. 

I have ten chestnuts grown from the nuts now in my yard. They are in their second year, and some are almost three feet tall. I have them fenced as I think the deer would nibble on them. I’m growing them until they flower and then they can be pollinated with pollen from some genetic trees that will produce nuts for growing more trees that will be able to fight off the blight that killed thousands of these beautiful trees all over the east coast states. Stump sprouts still come up from the energy stored in the roots of these diseased trees and some of those produce nuts yet today. There are a few larger trees that survived the blight and nuts from those trees have been used to produce some tolerant trees. Pollen from these trees is used in hopes of getting a strain that will resist the blight in the future.  

Where I grew up in West Milton, near Ballston Spa in Saratoga County, there were some of these stump sprouts growing around the old farms there. I picked some nuts from the ten-foot-tall sprouts and took them to the NYS DEC Tree Nursery between Ballston and Saratoga. They planted these nuts and trees grew from them only to be killed by the blight before they were two years old. I did find a couple larger trees in the woods that were nearly a foot DBH still living, but never did get back to see them again as they were on the Government Atomic Project property. They may still be living for all I know. 

Later this week, another hurricane is going to hit southern Florida. Subtropical Storm Nicole is in the Atlantic and is expected to become a hurricane late Wednesday and hit south Florida early Thursday morning. It is going to cross the state into the Gulf of Mexico then swing north and go across the Panhandle of Florida into Georgia and up the coast of South Carolina by early Saturday. 

This is happening just when lots of our birds are trying to make their way to the wintering grounds in the Caribbean Islands and some on to South America. Many of the birds I had here last week have gone that route, as I only have a few sparrows still around. On Saturday I had over forty American Goldfinch move in, so I put up the net and I was catching a few when I saw a hawk fly by the windows chasing one of the finches. Into the net they both went and out I went to capture the Sharp Shinned Hawk. It didn’t catch the Goldfinch, but they were only a few inches apart in the net. I got it out and into the house for a band without getting snagged by his sharp talons. Put on a band, measured the wing, took a couple pictures in hand and out the window it went. 

Earlier that day I did catch another Golden Crowned Kinglet male which had very little crown, so it was born this year and on its way south. Some of these little birds do stick around all winter, as you might see them with a flock of Black Capped Chickadees foraging in the woods. I’ve gotten them on the Old Forge Christmas count a few times in early December. 

Sunday morning a few Evening Grosbeaks showed up at the feeders and this morning a dozen were at the feeders along with a female Cardinal. You never know what might show up during migration. 

Hope you all got out to vote and by now we will know which way the government is headed for the next couple of years, but that’s another story. See ya.   

Above photo: Sharp Shinned Hawk in hand

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 Golden Crowned Kinglet in hand

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