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Given the VT Birds thread regarding Bicknell's and Swainson's Thrushes, I
thought that this post from NNY birds listserve would be of interest to
birders in Vermont. 

 

Many thanks to Joan Collins of Long Lake, NY for having taken these surveys
over the years..

 

Rich Guthrie

New Baltimore,

New York

 

From: [log in to unmask]
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Joan E.
Collins
Sent: Monday, June 25, 2012 7:15 PM
To: [log in to unmask]; [log in to unmask]
Subject: [nysbirds-l] Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks of NY

 

I posted this to our Mountain Birdwatch list serve, but thought it might be
of interest to NYS Birds and Northern NY Birds also.

 

6/23/12 Whiteface Mountain, 4,865', clear, calm winds, temp 52 to 58
degrees.

 

After the past decade climbing mountains in the dark, and/or carrying a
camping pack up peaks, it is a joy to have a drive-up mountain!  Four of the
six survey points are along the Whiteface Memorial Highway, so I can
actually drive between points also!  (Points 5 and 6 are down the trail, so
I actually have to walk a little!)  I abandoned a survey on Wednesday, June
20th due to 40 mph winds and blowing fog (Judith told me she abandoned Big
Slide the same morning!).  Sean O'Brien had accompanied me to record
Bicknell's Thrush and the Fox Sparrow (more on this bird below) for the
Cornell Lab.  We spent a sleepless night in my car buffeted by high winds
that never abated.  Saturday morning's conditions were perfect.  Here are
the results (given that we actually do 4 surveys at each of 6 points now, I
took the highest count of a species for each point):

 

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 7 (1,1,1,1,2,1)

Black-capped Chickadee - 0

Boreal Chickadee - 0

Winter Wren - 11 (2,2,2,2,1,2)

Bicknell's Thrush - 9 (3,1,2,2,1,0)

Swainson's Thrush - 18 (5,3,3,3,2,2)

Hermit Thrush - 0

Blackpoll Warbler - 8 (3,1,1,1,1,1)

White-throated Sparrow - 17 (3,3,5,3,2,1)

Fox Sparrow - 2 (0,0,1,1,0,0) An outlier way out of range!

 

Red Squirrel - 0

 

Additional non-surveyed species found on Whiteface's summit:

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

American Robin - they have been up there for several years now!

Nashville Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler (heard at point 6)

Dark-eyed Junco

White-winged Crossbill

Pine Siskin

 

I am frequently on Whiteface Mountain with clients and I found the singing
Fox Sparrow on June 14th.  The bird is holding a territory at a location
between 4200 and 4300 feet.  It was still there as of yesterday, June 24th.
Fox Sparrows do not breed in NY, although maybe that will change now?!  Sean
O'Brien accompanied me again for the Saturday survey and he recorded both
Bicknell's Thrush and the Fox Sparrow (beautiful recordings and I wish I had
his wonderful recording equipment).  I suspect I heard the same Fox Sparrow
at points 3 and 4, so there is probably only one.  When the Fox Sparrow
began to sing at my 3rd point, I could still see Sean down the road.  He
looked up my way and although I couldn't see his expression, I know he was
smiling!

 

Sean and I have both been alarmed by the changes on Whiteface this year.  It
appears that Swainson's Thrush is now the most abundant thrush species on
the summit.  Sean had an earlier trip up Whiteface and was unable to find a
singing Bicknell's Thrush to record among all the singing Swainson's
Thrushes.  Last year, I would estimate that it had become 50-50 at the
summit, but it is clearly apparent this year that Swainson's Thrushes have
rapidly overtaken Bicknell's Thrushes in numbers.  (Yesterday, several
Swainson's Thrushes were observed carrying food for young near the summit.)

 

I surveyed Blue Mountain (3750') for many years, and I could usually count
~15 singing birds on my hike to the summit for the 4:30 a.m. survey (this
peak is no longer surveyed).  This year, I led a nocturnal climb up the peak
during the Adirondack Birding Festival on June 9th in perfect conditions
(clear with calm winds) and we only heard 3 calling birds and no singing.
The summit was filled with singing Swainson's Thrushes.  It was truly
alarming.  The movement of Swainson's Thrushes into higher elevations has
been extremely rapid.  (A change that Dan Lambert predicted would occur as
our springs warm due to climate change - the cold springs kept Swainson's
Thrushes in lower elevations.)

 

To end on a lighter note, we found 2 snowshoe hares on Wednesday night near
the summit, and one Saturday morning!  The high winds and blowing fog on
Tuesday-Wednesday made for a surreal experience on Whiteface.  Sean and I
drove up to the parking lot during the night and the tunnel into the
mountain was lit up with fluorescent lights!  Also, the ticket takers' radio
was playing.  It was like an eerie scene from "The Shining"!  The light
coming out of the tunnel looked odd amid the blowing fog and the radio
playing with no one there was just creepy.  For those unfamiliar with
Whiteface, Franklin D. Roosevelt had the road, tunnel, and elevator built in
the 1930s.  The tunnel is very long and leads to an elevator that goes up
300 feet to the actual summit rocks.  Every time I get in that tunnel, the
"what ifs" start in my head - "what if there is an earthquake", etc.

 

Joan Collins

Long Lake, NY

 

 

 

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