Outdoor Adventures with Gary Lee - Vol 29
Suddenly, we are back to some spring like days, which aren’t going to last very long as winter weather is pushing in from the west. Just ask the people in Denver; there was a fifty car pile-up there last week. When we went through there a month ago, it was stop and go at 55 MPH, so I could see how that could happen, especially when the roads are snow covered.
I took a trip over to Lake Champlain, up above Plattsburgh, to see the flocks of snow geese that had been gathering in the farmlands along the lake. Karen and Diane Bowes came along to keep me awake on the ride home. We got to Point au Roche State Park, a place where I had seen thousands of snow geese a few years ago, a little after noon and there was not a bird to be seen. The lake was very rough, so I thought the birds were probably inland feeding in a corn field somewhere. Much of the corn had been harvested and the fields plowed under already, and most of the other big fields were standing corn.
Just turning on Point au Roche road, there were hundreds of crows feeding in the grass fields, with more coming in. I hadn’t seen that many crows in one place since they were roosting in downtown Utica a few years ago. We did Lake Shore Drive, along the lake up to Chazy Landing, and saw several ducks and a few Canada geese along the way. While parked and watching some ducks, Diane spotted a big flock of Snows coming across the lake, which flew right overhead. There were probably four to five hundred and some stayed out over the lake. We tried to follow these birds, who were sure to land inland somewhere to feed, but we lost them. We checked all the side roads, back and forth, hoping to bump into this big flock on the ground some place, but had no luck. Then just an hour before dark, we spotted the big flock attempting to settle down in a field not far away. We got back on Route 22 and followed them for a way, as they all settled down in an open field, along with some Canadas and some black ducks. They seemed nervous and kept moving. The sun was fast going down, but it made for some nice pictures as the sun shone through the moving flock. I didn’t happen to see neck bands on any of these birds, nor did I see any in the photos I took. There were probably four to five hundred moving birds in low light, so I could have missed any bands very easy.
The ducks we saw were mostly mallards, but we did see some blacks, scaup, bufflehead and both hooded and common mergansers. The male common mergansers were getting their colors back for the winter. We also saw on lone cormorant and a lone snow goose that could have been injured during the hunting season.
During last week, no matter where I went, I would see red squirrels running across the road or out in the woods scurrying around picking up cones they had dropped from the spruce trees. I also saw several chipmunks, both in the yard and out in the woods, picking up the many beechnuts that came down with the wet snow last week. I never saw that many beech burrs on top of the snow. One day it was like raining burrs that covered the ground under the beech trees. The nuts had already come down the week before and everything has been either eating them or storing them for the winter. One morning I had 42 crows picking the beechnuts from my driveway, right beside the deer who were eating the nuts also.
I had told someone last week that I thought the bears had gone to bed. Well I was wrong, as I’ve seen some bear tracks this week. This warm spell could have brought them back out, or maybe they never went to bed. I thought they may stay out much later with all the beech nuts that are on the ground, and maybe they did. At one place I walked in a half mile and when I came back out, a bear had crossed my tracks in the snow, but I didn’t see it. With all the wild food, I don’t think they need your bird feeder seeds.
With all this freezing and thawing, it would be best to stay off the ice, even on small ponds, as they may not be safe. Please warn your children to stay off the ice until we get some colder weather again. I did see some ice fishermen on the back bay of the Hudson River up in Newcomb Saturday, but I wouldn’t be out there. I believe one fishing party already went through the ice somewhere and a person was lost. Better safe than sorry!
I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.