Hello Fello Birders,
Today Zac Cota-Weaver and I teamed up with Tom Berriman in Ferdinand, VT to walk the Moose Bog Trail in pursuit of all things Boreal. The moment we stepped from the warm security of the car into –16 degrees winter, we were greeted with buzzy calls of Boreal Chickadees. A walk to the wetland area on S. American Pond Road yielded warm sun, snowshoe hare tracks, but little in the way of birds. However, the Moose Bog Trail proved to be the start of a January day that can’t be beat in the NEK.
White-winged Crossbills sang their typical variety of trills, or called while flying overhead. Pine Siskins were heard buzzing everywhere. One old set of tracks in the snow gave us hope that we might encounter a grouse. Two Gray Jays floated down to us (when they heard Tom’s jay whistle) and gave us long satisfying looks. The jays were trumped however when a very soft and subtle sound came from close by in the woods...Zac and Tom both heard what they thought might be a grouse leap frogging from tree to tree. We all slipped off the path to investigate and soon Tom announced in a whisper, “Spruce Grouse...directly above me.” We watched (from an unusual perspective) for only a moment before the bird watched us walk away. WHAT A DAY!
Next we took the snow-covered boardwalk (be careful if you walk it) to the “bog,” and soaked up plenty of sunshine while enjoying the next act. We had estimated 12 White-winged Crossbills in total along the trail, and now several of them were here at this forest edge, this fabulous Amphitheatre. We watched several males perform territorial displays, calling in flight, and singing from treetops. (They’ve been here for over eight months...they’re likely breeding). It was just a matter of time before a Black-backed Woodpecker revealed itself with its distinctive drumming.
Feeling the victory of (an unanticipated) Boreal Slam, we walked the road back to our cars and headed to Victory. The temperature, now on the other side of zero by 16 degrees, felt balmy. WHAT A DAY! Our next destination would be a spot along Victory Road, about a mile before River Road, to look for more Crossbills. This is a nice open valley and wetland, a place where Tom and I have both had luck finding them in the past. Sure enough, as we approached the spot, a male Red Crossbill was in the road getting grit. Three males circled the area, possibly showing signs of breeding. (The birds have been in this area now for over eight months...they’re likely breeding).
Finally, we took River Road, heading toward home, with just a few more planned stops along the way. Tom and I launched into a brief conversation on the History of Birding. (When we experience an uncommon species in an specific spot, we expect it to be there again, like right now...) Sure enough, there were crossbills south of Roger’s Creek where the river valley widens. And Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, and an Evening Grosbeak.
And so, why shouldn’t there be a Northern Shrike near Roger’s Crossing (like there was a few years back)? Right on cue,teed up in a lone tree, for all of us to see in all its beauty...
WHAT A DAY!
Thank you Tom, Zac, and fellow birders who took the time to read this post! I hope you can get up to the NEK to see these gems.