A barred owl photo by Mark Renz
Posts Tagged ‘barred owl’
Posted in Adirondacks, Bird Watching, Rail-trail, tagged Adirondack Nature Company, barred owl, black flies, black-backed woodpecker, Bloomingdale Bog, Delaware & Hudson line, Ed Kanze, High Peaks, yellow-rumped warbler on June 23, 2011| Leave a Comment »
By Ruth Fantasia, Albany Times Union, link to original post
While you might think viewing avian wildlife as a languid pastime for nature geeks, 48 million Americans reported they watch birds according to a 2006 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
And 42 percent of those travel more than a mile from home to bird-watch, visiting both private and public lands, and spending almost $7 billion in food and lodging during birding trips in 2006. Which is why tourism officials in Lake Placid, N.Y. and the Adirondacks’ “High Peaks” region are promoting the area as a birding destination.
The area has what naturalist and guide Ed Kanze calls “a marvelous mix of rich, wild habitats teeming with birds” and a “wonderful juxtaposition of wild nature and civilized comforts — an ability to get up early and get out in an incredible place, and then retreat to a fine restaurant or lodge for all the comforts.”
Wide swaths of boreal forest in the High Peaks attract wildlife species that don’t usually visit more deciduous areas in adjacent regions. “In much of New York state wood-warblers, among the prettiest of North American birds, are transients except for a few species,” Kanze says. “In this part of the Adirondacks, a high proportion of them linger and breed.”
Walking through the Bloomingdale Bog, an old rail bed converted to a hiking-biking-snowmobile path, Kanze hears the songs of various warblers and we catch a glimpse of a yellow-rumped warbler in a nearby tree. “So much of birding consists of listening, and that’s another feature we specialize in here,” Kanze says. “It’s quiet. You can hear the orchestra in all its glory and pick out the individual musicians.”
We’re greeted by a group of young gray jays. Larger and more curious than their cousin blue jays, these birds will fly to your hand if they think you have food for them. I can’t fool them though. One comes close enough to make sure my hand is empty, then rejoins the others playing in an open space between wooded areas.
“You can always tell when you’re looking at a gray jay,” Kanze says. “They’re the only birds that will drop off a branch, spread their wings straight out and soar, and then flap them before landing.”
Kanze, a licensed guide who owns the Adirondack Nature Company with his wife, Debbie, leads birding hikes for several hotels including the High Peaks resort, the Lake Placid Lodge, the Mirror Lake Inn and White Pine Camp.
As we walk along the path waving away the mosquitoes and black flies, Kanze discusses not only birds but the history of the old Delaware & Hudson line, the spring azure butterflies that flit along our feet and the swamp laurel blooming in the bog.
While spring and early summer are best to hear bird songs and to see the largest number of species, other times of the year make good bird-watching as well. During fall and early spring walks you can spot lesser seen migrant species, and in winter, the cold, snowy Adirondacks serve as the balmy south for far northern breeding birds such crossbills and evening grosbeaks, Kanze says.
One of the less observed woodpeckers, due to its fondness for nesting in burned out areas, is the black-backed woodpecker. On a tip from two other bird-watchers in the area, Kanze and I travel to a stand of dead trees near Moose Pond, to find the elusive bird.
We hear it long before we see it, a faint tapping on wood that starts and accelerates like a sewing machine. “I think we’re hearing him work on the nest from within the tree,” Kanze says.
We’re looking for a perfectly round hole in a tree, and I find one, but there’s no activity. Kanze finds another empty one as well, but then toward the top of the same tree he discovers a fresh hole. “Look at how perfectly beveled that hole is so they don’t injure their wings when they go in,” he says in awe. “It’s just as if a carpenter drilled it with power tools.”
“Pish, pish, pish, pish.” Kanze starts making a noise. It’s a technique bird-watchers use to draw birds out of hiding, sort of like hunters calling turkeys. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” he says shrugging. It worked earlier in the day with the gray jays, but several types of warblers stayed under cover.
The black-backed woodpecker doesn’t want to miss a thing though, and sticks his head out of the hole. He’s got a bright yellow cap and a mustache that extends back toward the nape of his neck. Looking at us straight on, it seems as if he’s laughing at us. We watch him pop in and out of the hole for several minutes until we can no longer hold up our binoculars.
After a few minutes of rest and mosquito swatting, Kanze tried the call of a barred owl to coax the woodpecker out again. “Who-who–wha-hoo, who-who–wha-hoo,” he calls in a tempo that sounds like “Who cooks for you?”
The woodpecker ignores him but an owl answers back.
“Who-who — wha-hoo,” calls Kanze “There he is.”
I can’t see it.
“See that tree that goes to the right a little then turns left?”
“See those reddish leaves?”
“Yes, I see the leaves.”
“Look just above them.”
“I still don’t see it,” I say.
Then it blinked. Two black round eyes surrounded by saucers of white and brown feathers.
It turns, it poses. It turns back and blinks again.
Black flies are attacking my head like the black-backed woodpecker pecking at the tree, but I can’t take my eyes off this magnificent owl. After several seconds the large bird shrugs, then raises his wing tips and flaps away.
-Wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants, a hat and comfortable walking shoes.
-Spraying your hat with insect repellent will go a long way toward keeping the bugs away from your face and ears.
-Bring along binoculars, a rain poncho and insect repellent.
-A guidebook is helpful, especially if you don’t have a guide. Naturalist and guide Ed Kanze recommends Peterson field guides because, he finds, their description of bird calls are the most helpful.
BIRDING IN THE HIGH PEAKS
The High Peaks Resort is offering a special birding weekend Friday and Saturday, June 10 and 11. The package includes one night’s accommodations, a full day of guided bird-watching, breakfast, a boxed lunch and a High Peaks birding kit. Price is $244 per person, double occupancy. Birding enthusiasts can also contact the hotel about arranging other dates. Call 518-523-4411 or 800-755-5598 for reservations. For more information on the High Peaks Resort go to www.highpeaksresort.com.
Ed Kanze is an author, conservation historian and licensed and insured nature guide. He offers full- and partial-day hikes in the Tri-Lakes (Placid, Saranac, Tupper) and Keene Valley region. Partial-day hikes, which allow him to “say goodbye to my kids in the morning and see them for dinner at night” cost $375. Full-day hikes with extreme early departures, late returns or both, cost $550, plus mileage if outside the Tri-Lakes and Keene Valley. Contact him at 518-891-3632 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.