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Published July 15, 2014
Tags: Life List Happenings, Boreal, Bicknell's Thrush, Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Eastern Kingbird, Vesper Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Prairie Warbler

My first birding trip to the Adirondacks this past May left me wanting for more. On that trip, I didn't find any of the boreal species that I was seeking, so ever since then, I've been hoping to go back and try again. I finally got the chance last week - and this time - I wasn't disappointed!photo of the view from Whiteface Mountain Celeste Morien accompanied me on the three day quest and we both ended up doing quite well. Celeste got THREE life birds for herself: Northern Goshawk (a long time nemesis), the Boreal Chickadee, and the Black-backed Woodpecker.  I got those same three plus three more: Gray Jay, Bicknell's Thrush, and Red Crossbill.  We couldn't have been happier - er, well, that's not quite true.  We would've been ecstatic had a Spruce Grouse walked across our path!

We had 20 different warbler species on the trip; not entirely surprising as many warblers breed in the Adirondacks.

One of the highlights of the trip was all of the sightings of fledglings that we saw. At Fort Drum on the way to the Adirondacks, we saw two sets of four Eastern Kinglet fledglings - all begging for food with parents in close attendance.  There were newly fledged Vesper Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, and more! photo of Eastern Kingbird fledglings One of the sweetest fledgling experiences was that of a Boreal Chickadee.  We found the little guy in the boreal region of the Adirondacks. It was our very first Boreal Chickadee sighting and the fact that the group we came upon included a fledgling was wonderful!  The young bird seemed very tired and was being waited on hand-and-foot. The adults were bringing food to the youngster as it napped in-between visits.  Maybe because it was a life bird for both of us, I'm not sure, but it was one of the most fun sightings of the trip.

A pair of Black-backed Woodpeckers had babies, only days old, inside a nest cavity in boreal habitat in Essex County. They could only be heard and not seen yet but we were quite content to watch both adults make their many trips to and from their brood, enraptured with the whole, wonderful glimpse into their family life. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ventured too close to the nest and both adult Black-backeds made short work of his presence! I don't think he'll be back any time soon.  This is most likely a re-nesting for these woodpeckers as it's late in the season for them to have new nestlings. Their first nest was probably predated by an Eastern Red Squirrel (a common enemy) and they're trying again. I sure hope the new little ones make it this time!

Another highlight was when a mother Ruffed Grouse walked across a dirt road with two older chicks.  Talk about cute!  The only thing cuter was when, on our ride home, we stopped for another Ruffed Grouse hen with NINE even YOUNGER chicks!  The mother was chasing after an unruly chick and, of course, the other eight had to follow.  If it wasn't for the fact that they were crossing a four lane highway, it wouldn't have been so nerve-wracking.  Celeste and I stood guard, waiting to flag down a car or truck had one come up on them, but as it turned out, they all made it safely to the other side before any traffic came our way.  Phew! photo of Ruffed Grouse hen and 3 of her 9 chicks
A young Northern Goshawk gave us several views as he flew down a dirt road, always keeping ahead of us.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to get any photos of that beautiful creature!  We did manage to get, however, many photos of the Gray Jays and their young - and - up on Whiteface Mountain, another Boreal Chickadee and several Bicknell's Thrushes.

The Bicknell's Thrush is in jeopardy; its winter habitat is diminishing quickly and its restricted mountain-top breeding range is predicted to continue to degrade due to climate change. The American Robin, rarely seen on the lower levels of the Adirondack mountains are now being seen at higher and higher elevations. As temperatures are increasing, other species are expanding their ranges too. Ticks and mites are moving into higher elevations, responsible for the deaths of more and more moose who have no defense against this new parasite. When examining moose carcasses, biologists are finding many to be teeming with tens of thousands of ticks who have literally sucked the life out of their defenseless hosts. We even saw a Snowshoe Hare with ticks hanging onto its face. Ugh!  It was a sobering look that we were given - one that showed the daily, very real and escalating struggle that many mountain species are dealing with all directly related to climate change.

I've already gotten rather wordy here, so I'll not go into all that I learned about these special, boreal species.  Maybe another day, I'll describe how fun the nearly tame Gray Jay can be, what a nasal-like sound the Boreal Chickadee has, how perfectly round the holes are that the Black-backed male bores and what a devoted, hard-working mate he is, and oh, what magic it is to hear the wonderfully complex song of the Bicknell Thrush at the top of a mountain before the sun rises.  And all the while, through every forest and on every mountain in that region, the White-throated Sparrow sings its haunting song.  I am sorely missing that song right now...
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Gray Jay
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Gray Jay
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Young Gray Jay
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They will eat from your hand in some areas!
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Boreal Chickadee
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Boreal Chickadee fledgling begging for food
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Bicknell's Thrush singing
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Bicknell's Thrush
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Bicknell's Thrush
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Black-backed Woodpecker (male)
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Black-backed Woodpecker (female)
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Black-backed Woodpecker (male)
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Ruffed Grouse chick
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Ruffed Grouse hen and one of the nine very young chicks
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Grasshopper Sparrow
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Young Vesper Sparrow taking a bath
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Another group of 4 Eastern Kingbird fledglings with one of the parents
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A Ruby-throated Hummingbird (right side of trunk) enjoys the sap brought out by the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
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Broad-winged Hawk
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Prairie Warbler
Reply from: Gale on 7/17/2014 7:35 PM
 Great narrative and photos Sue! Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience!
Reply from: Sue on 7/18/2014 9:51 AM
 Thanks, Gale! And thanks for finding the avocets the day before this trip!