I did a little birding and hiking with Wren in Point AuRoche earlier this week. We started around Cumberland Head just north of Plattsburgh, checking out the mouth of the Saranac River and the Ferry Terminal. There was a mixture of open water and ice at the river mouth, but there were very few birds besides a handful of Mallards and a lone American Black Duck. The ferry terminal was equally quiet as the open water of the lake allowed waterfowl and other birds to be anywhere they chose rather than funneling them to where the ferry had opened the ice.
Elsewhere on Cumberland Head I found a few Common Goldeneye and Common Mergansers as well as a couple Red-tailed Hawks – one of which had an entourage of American Crows to escort it from the area! Then I drove to Point AuRoche State Park where we hiked for a spell on their network of trails.
The trails were icy and slick and I skidded my way carefully, attempting (sometimes failing!) to punch through the first layer of ice to give me more grip. The depth of the snow did not warrant snowshoes, but they may be useful for anyone going there. The thick ice was treacherous in places and the grip of snowshoes or crampons would be helpful. After all, even Wren took several slips and spills in her reckless enthusiasm which I tried in vain to curb for her safety.
I checked a few conifers to see if could find a roosting owl, but came up empty. For the most part the woods were quiet. One of the few birds we found was a Ruffed Grouse which we accidentally spooked or we may have never seen it. We walked around along the beach and a few adjoining trails, and I spotted a few Common Goldeneye and Common Mergansers along the edge of the ice. We also found a dead Raccoon which didn’t appear to have any trauma to its body. The icy surface wasn’t giving away any evidence of tracks of what might have happened and I inspected the raccoon a bit to see if I could decipher what happened – keeping Wren from nosing the coon since some diseases and pests can be transferred from dead animals. In the end I was unsure of what led to its demise and we moved on.
Since the ice made walking difficult, we drove over to the trails which lead to Long Point and walked briefly on the plowed roads. There we found a few flocks of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings, but I didn’t find a Bohemian Waxwing in the mix. They have been slow in coming south this year. Ice fishermen were plying their trade along the ice of the bay, but we checked out the open water on the east side of Long Point, and I was happy to find a few Red-breasted Mergansers, two of which were males.
After finishing our hike we drove from the State Park around Point AuRoche in search of raptors, but were surprised to only turn up a couple Red-tailed Hawks. We did see a few Wild Turkeys feeding in a cutover corn field and I found another small group of Red-breasted Mergansers at the public boat launch. We also found Hooded Mergansers to give us all three merganser species on the day. There was also a cluster of Common Goldeneye there, and I looked through every flock of Goldeneye I found, but didn’t find a Barrow’s Goldeneye within them. There are undoubtedly some in the Champlain Valley; it is just a matter of searching for them and tracking them down. After having covered the entire area, we turned south towards home in search of a pot of warm chili.