Outdoor Adventures with Gary Lee - Vol. 35

024A1692 Mallards and a black duck in flight Mossy Pt. 1 18 20

Outdoor Adventures with Gary Lee - Vol. 35

The local winter industry of skiing and snowmobiling got saved for the third time this winter as last weekend was a washout for sure, as water was running everywhere, even across some roads. It took away most of the snow. Some was replaced mid-week, but not enough to make the trails safe, as many places had washed out and needed more snow. Then came Saturday, which saved some of the holiday weekend. I’ve seen some x-country skiers go by on the trail; some still wearing jeans, which are not winter wear. If you must wear them, at least put on a pair of gaiters to keep them dry up to the knees. Better yet, wear wool or some insulated rain pants and polyester under garments, which will whisk away the perspiration and keep you dry inside. 

You sure didn’t need to shed any clothes yesterday, as it started below zero and didn’t get much above 15 all day even with the snow.  When we made our first stop at sunrise, doing the duck count at Whallon’s Bay on Lake Champlain yesterday morning, 1/18, the wind chill was much below zero. There were a few ducks there, but they were very jumpy, as three bald eagles were watching the bay (two adults and one immature bird). Every time the eagles would take flight, the ducks would move further out in the lake. The only thing that stayed in the bay was a Canada Goose, the only one we saw all day.

My partner for the day, Tom Barber, had come over on the Essex Ferry from Vermont, but didn’t get out on the way over to see any ducks and I moved up the east shoreline. We picked up a few Mallards here and there, some Common Goldeneye and some Common Mergansers. We stopped at Noblewood Park in Willsboro for a short walk and got a few more Common Goldeneyes, some Buffleheads and our only Horned Grebe for the day. The water had a little chop from the south, which was breaking up the skim ice that had formed overnight in the bays. We went out on Willsboro Point, checking out the shoreline as we went, getting more Mallards and few Black Ducks. We found nothing at the point, where the wind was really blowing. We did get some ducks, hiding out of the wind, on the west side of the point. We stopped by a big house right on the bay and had several Mallards, 100 Common Goldeneyes and some Common Mergansers. We looked hard for a Barrow’s Goldeneye here, but didn’t see one. There were a pair of Bald Eagles flying across the open field there, which spooked the ducks.

We pulled into the boat launch and there was another birder looking over a world of ducks right at the edge of the ice in the bay. The was the biggest batch of ducks we saw all day 400 Goldeneye, 70 common mergansers, and 35 mallards. We didn’t get a chance to glass them for any Barrow’s Goldeneyes. Derek Rogers, another good birder watching them, said he didn’t see any for the half hour he was there with a scope mounted on his car window.

He had been watching small birds along the way also, and found a bunch of birds on Marina Lane, which we had just seen, but didn’t stop to check them out. He had several cedar waxwings, some white throated sparrows, robins and he did some spishing and got a yellow rumped warbler. This little bird is not equipped for the cold, at least not this cold for sure.  

Our next stop was Port Douglas, where we got three Red Breasted Mergansers, a few more Mallards, nine Black Ducks and 100 Common Goldeneyes. The train went by as we were there, so we decided we were safe to get on the tracks at the next stop, Port Kent. There were a few ducks there, with some bigger rafts of ducks out in the fog forming further out in the lake. We couldn’t tell what they were.


We went to our last stop at Wickham Marsh. As we watched from the tracks, we heard another train coming. It was a long freight, maybe even one of those coal trains from Canada with over one hundred cars and three engines. After it passed by, we went up on the tracks and got 130 Common Goldeneyes, 30 Mallards and three more Buffleheads, which ended our duck count.

To end our day, we stopped at Ausable Chasm to take a few pictures of the ice forming on the trees, as the mist off the falls and freezes on them.

On the way home, just before the snow started to fall, I stopped and took a photo of Blue Ridge Falls, along the Blue Ridge Road. About ten minutes later, when I reached the height of ground, it was snowing for the rest of the drive home.

Looks like good x-country skiing for a while, maybe to Santanoni, but that’s another story. See ya.

024A1649 Hoodies at Ti 1 18 202305843009225595606
Hooded Mergansers by Ellie George

Blue Ridge Falls

Ausable Chasm

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  • Ellie Connick 23/01/2020 9:04pm (2 years ago)

    Gary: Enjoying your keen and astute winter observations & stories from her in Florida. We have a mix of native and migratory ducks, birds & reptiles here now. Our special sighting is the Cara Cara who doesn’t mind all the photographers when he has that great big fish stolen from an osprey! The Titusville Birding Fest is in progress right now and hopefully the weather will improve. It has been chilly, rainy and windy. My nearby area is the very popular Viera Wetlands.
    I look forward to your columns every week. Ellie

  • suzanne olson 23/01/2020 7:25pm (2 years ago)

    Great photos , The one of Ausable Chasm is very unusual view. Blue Ridge Falls is gorgeous. I often wish it were possible to find the falls Gary writes about. SAO

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