Birding for the Bioblitz!

Another ATBI!

This year the Adirondack All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) took place in the Essex and Willsboro area of the Champlain Valley and I again helped with it. ATBIs, or Bioblitzes as they are often called, are conducted by naturalists and citizen scientists to help survey and document the diversity of the natural world around us. They are also events where naturalists from different disciplines can meet and learn from one another.

This was the first year we’ve conducted an ATBI in the Champlain Valley and we were excited to see what we might find. As usual, I helped coordinate the bird portion of the day, and our bird crew also noted quite a few mammals, reptiles, and amphibians since we were out scouring the woods and fields and didn’t exclusively find our feathered quarry.

Starting the Day in the Magic Triangle

The event was held on a few private parcels of land as well as state land in the Essex area and at Noblewood Park in Willsboro. As such we needed to divide our crew to successfully cover the area as well as we could. And so, while other members of the bird crew began elsewhere, I began my day along Clark Road – part of what some birders call the Magic Triangle. There I began by logging field birds like Savannah Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawk, and Bobolink, and walking the hedgerows and forest edges for species like Baltimore Oriole, Indigo Bunting, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, and Warbling Vireo. I stopped into Webb Royce Swamp where I was greeted by singing Swamp Sparrows and Marsh Wrens. Willow and Alder Flycatchers sang from the nearby bushes and I kicked up an American Woodcock while I was walking.

bobolink - Larry
bobolink - Larry

By the time I left the Triangle area, I had tallied about 60 species. But the morning was soon to transform into the afternoon and I had ground to cover. I passed through a private tract of land which others in my group were covering. I stopped briefly and took the opportunity for lunch while a Broad-winged Hawk busied itself by dive-bombing a Red-tailed Hawk. After briefly checking out another set of private parcels, I went to Noblewood Park where I hoped to meet up with the rest of our crew.

Good Birds at Noblewood

I had planned on spending a large chunk of the afternoon at Noblewood to afford me the opportunity to see what was moving along the lake. The car of one member of our bird crew was in the parking area when I arrived, but my friend was nowhere to be seen (it turned out he was looking for tiger beetles). I walked in along the trails and hooted for Barred Owl to agitate other species of birds into coming into me. It’s a common technique I use with varying success, but this time it worked wonderfully! I was soon surrounded by trees of angry, feisty birds bent on chasing the owl out. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker landed a few feet away from my head as a Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Hairy Woodpecker sounded the alarm up above. Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos, a Tufted Titmouse, Pine Warbler, and both White and Red-breasted Nuthatches scolded loudly as they searched in vain for the unseen owl. I checked species off my list and then decided to leave them in peace as I walked down to the lake.

Red-bellied Woodpecker - Larry
Red-bellied Woodpecker - Larry

Once there I scanned the flock of Ring-billed Gulls along the mouth of the Boquet River and a slender wading bird caught my eye. A Snowy Egret stood among the gulls and soon began to move around feeding! It was a good find for the area and an excellent addition to our list for the event. I also checked out the Caspian Terns and spotted a Common Loon on the water. But the mid-afternoon sun was warm and so I moved into the shade and sat on a log on the beach to wait and lazily watch the waves and skies. It was a pleasant afternoon for listening to the water with a breeze in my face, after all.

In this way I found 5 species of swallow: Tree, Barn, Bank, Northern Rough-winged, and Purple Martin. After a little while other members of our birding group arrived at the beach and we looked again at the Snowy Egret and the Bank Swallows as we compared notes from the day. They had come with finds of Black-billed Cuckoo, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, and other woodland species which I hadn’t found yet. This was good news because it meant we would likely reach 100 species for the day. We relaxed and talked, scanning the lapping waves until it was time to go.

Food and Gray Tree Frogs

While they were heading to the ATBI headquarters for dinner and a presentation, I quickly swung through Willsboro where I added Chimney Swift to our list. I then drove south to join them and arrived in time for most of an excellent presentation concerning the biodiversity of the varied habitats which compose the Adirondack Park. Then it was time to chow down and people swapped stories from their days in the field concerning what plants, mushrooms, insects, etc they had found. There is nothing like a lot of yummy food and drink to get people talking into the night.

Gray Tree Frog - Larry
Gray Tree Frog - Larry

I would have happily stayed all night but I needed to get home at some point and I wanted to check out Webb Royce Swamp again in the evening to find some night birds on the marsh. For the most part we missed these however, noting only a pair of Wood Ducks flying overhead and finding far more hungry mosquitoes than interesting birds. But the evening was beautiful as we stood and listened to an impressive chorus of gray tree frogs calling from the humid night. It was mesmerizing! We eventually pulled ourselves from our tree frog chorus trance, turned, and drove home – it had been a long day in the field and with 105 species of birds to show for it, we had earned a good night’s sleep.

If you want to come and explore the amazing biodiversity which the Champlain Valley has to offer, now is a great time to plan a trip. Check out our lodging, dining, and outdoor recreation pages. Bring your swimsuit, your boat, your field guides, and your binoculars and have fun exploring!

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