Monday, October 25, 2010

New Adirondack Birds

Eight Loons on Star Lake in 2010
Growing up in Star Lake 50 years ago, my friends and I considered ourselves natural woodsmen with inborn knowledge of the plants and wildlife around us. In fact, we knew little. We exemplified those people who know too little to grasp the depth of their ignorance. Our knowledge of birds was mostly restricted to the larger and more conspicuous kinds familiar to almost everyone.

With that disclaimer, let me report that in recent years we have seen species of birds in and around Star Lake that were unnoticed and probably not there (or very rare) in the fifties and sixties. Here are the ones recently noticed:

Common Loons. We were aware of the presence of loons in the Adirondacks, but never saw one on Star Lake. We spent a lot of time on the lake, mostly in speedy motorboats, and therein may lie a connection; the constant high-speed recreational boat traffic of the time may have kept them away.

Wild Turkey. We have read that the mast-poor Adirondacks formerly provided insufficient winter food for turkeys. Sometime in more recent decades they developed the practice of feeding on winter buds, and this appears to account for their presence and current abundance.

Canada Goose. Those we have seen are probably the giant Canada variety, or so-called nuisance geese—resident populations derived from released individuals. They have shown up in many parts of the country.

Turkey Vulture. We did not notice them in the past and suspect they were either absent or very rare visitors.

Double-crested Cormorant. The appearance of this bird should be no surprise. Populations were seriously depressed by DDT in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, but recovered quickly. Cormorants are now abundant, increasing, and often unwelcome almost everywhere.

 Is global warming involved? Perhaps, but as noted above, other explanations suffice in some instances.

Canada Geese on Star Lake, 2007

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