Outdoor Adventures Vol. 52
Maybe we are done with the snow, but you never know with the crazy weather that is still going across the country. I’ve been going to the Crown Point Banding Station for over thirty years and I had never seen snow fall there before last week. I was actually sleeping in my truck and woke up as a gust of wind rocked the truck. I looked out to see a blinding snow squall going across the field in front of me. At first, I thought I was dreaming. But no, it was snowing. Several squalls came through later in the day also. Lake Champlain’s temperature, right in the front yard, is about 48 degrees, so the snow didn’t stick very long, but it sure knocked down the passing birds. We had cold rain a few times also, which put the birds down and looking for a snack before going any further north. It was the coldest seven days in a row that I’ve ever spent at the station and the birds were moving around eating the midges hatching out in the area. There were four Eastern Bluebirds nesting around the site; two had young already and two on eggs that hatched while I was there. The Tree and Barn Swallows were just starting to build nests and struggling to find enough to eat.
We had a special treat, as a Say’s Phoebe, a western bird, was still around the site. We saw it several times catching bugs right around our tenting area, but it never got into a net. It was competing with the Bluebirds, so there were squabbles when it got near their nesting boxes.
We put bands on 427 birds of over thirty species during the week, over 130 of these were Yellow Rumped Warblers. A couple birds that we don’t catch every year that we banded were a Pileated Woodpecker and two Sharp Shinned Hawks. There were a couple nips taken by these birds while in hand. A few other nips were taken when we caught a couple Northern Cardinals and a few Rose Breasted Grosbeaks that can take a chunk of skin when they bite.
The oldest bird that we caught so far was a Song Sparrow that we banded in 2014, as a second-year old bird then. This bird nests right near our banding area and we have caught it nearly every year since it was first banded, but it keeps coming back. We had about fifteen returning birds banded in previous years including Black Capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, White Breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal, Wood Thrush, Brown Thrasher and Rose Breasted Grosbeak. Some of these birds were student birds and these people will receive a certificate that their bird had returned. No student birds this year as we could have no visitors at the station and the five of us had to maintain our spacing and were always wearing a mask, except when eating.
Another thing that we were doing at the station this year was collecting two tail feathers from certain species of birds for a Bird Genoscape Project. What is learned from these feathers is the migration route that these birds take from their southern wintering grounds to their northern breeding area. This information is gained by scraping from the quill of these feathers. This is being done to map the population-specific migratory flyways of over 100 species of migratory birds. This project has been going on for about three years and routes for some birds have already been established.
It was another nice weekend here in this area and many people were out and about on the trails, lakes and ponds in the area, hiking, boating, canoeing, bird watching, fishing and turkey hunting. If I saw twenty cars in a parking area, I sure would not have taken a hike there, but many did. There are so many places in the area that get little or no use like the Haderondah Area, where there were only four vehicles. The Pigeon Lake Wilderness Area has several access points off the Big Moose and Higby Roads and Uncas Road. There are plenty of places to roam in that area, but take a map and compass, as your cell phone may not work. Canoeing or kayaking down the North Branch of the Moose River before the flies come out is always a nice trip.
The blackflies are just coming out, but that’s another story. See ya.
A Say’s Phoebe