Paddling and Birding Ticonderoga Marsh

A warm start

It was warm and approaching mid-day when Wren and I took to the La Chute River in Ticonderoga to paddle into Ti Marsh the other day. That’s out of the ordinary for me, as I don’t usually paddle during the heat of the day, but that’s how plans sometimes go. I let Wren take a quick dip so she was cool and wet before we pushed off.

Birding along the La Chute

The river offered shade on our way out which was a nice plus, and I hugged any overhanging tree in search of it. The trees not only provided shade, but also birds – which despite the late hour were quite active. Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and Red-eyed Vireos seemed to be the dominant species, but there were others mixed in – like Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and Warbling Vireo. The species I was most interested in finding was a Louisiana Waterthrush - one had been found singing along the La Chute early in the summer but I hadn’t had a chance to check it out until weeks later.

Louisiana Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush

Louisiana Waterthrushes are well known to arrive early in the season to breed, stop singing early, and then head south early, so I wasn’t sure how I’d do in my attempt to find one, but it was worth a shot. They are not common in the North Country – being much more common along streams further south – and so I was interested in finding one since it would be a cool find for the region.

Not far down the river I decided to play a recording of a Louisiana Waterthrush song – something else I seldom do  – just to see if anything answered. Almost immediately after I played the recording a waterthrush began to sing from a branch overhanging the river! The first song on the recording hadn’t even finished yet. Excited by this I turned off my recording and watched the bird sing – one of my favorite bird songs to hear. It flew down along the mud and logs which line the river, bobbing its tail – and singing and chipping now and then. I sat for a while to see if it would come close enough for a photo, but I began to get hot in the sun while waiting in vain for a shot. So we moved further down river – our trip already a success.

Osprey - Larry
Osprey - Larry

Ti Marsh and a rising thermometer

I had also been interested in seeing if there were many mud flats exposed with our water levels so low this year in case any shorebirds were using them as they migrated south. I did find mudflats, but no shorebirds – although there is still plenty of time in the migration for the flats to get some use this summer.

I also nosed along the cattails in search of bitterns or other marsh species, but mid-day is a tough time to find these birds. I did, however spook a couple Green Herons which were hunting from the mud and the logs along the edge of the stream. There were also a few Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks as well as Swamp Sparrows and Marsh Wrens. We continued out into the marsh, cutting through the vegetation to look at Fort Ticonderoga, perched high on the bluff above. A few gulls and Caspian Terns fed on the more open expanse of water where the marsh meets Lake Champlain. An Osprey flew overhead and I also watched as Barn and Tree Swallows fed on insects above as common map turtles basked in the sun.

Wren - Ti Marsh
Wren - Ti Marsh

Unlike those turtles, I’m not one for basking in the sun and it was getting hot – most noticeably once we had cleared the trees and had lost our shelter. So I turned us around to head back only to find I had to work quite hard against a growing wind – created by warm weather and the potential for storms. In fact, it became a bit of an arduous push to get us out of the wind’s full force, and I finally exhaled and downed a jug of water after I reached a more sheltered spot. For her part, Wren was hot too, but she just had to sit in the boat and let me do the work to get us back to the car.

Once I was back on the river the going became a lot easier – and we chased a Belted Kingfisher as it landed on logs and snags ahead of us – finally looping back around towards the marsh as we approached the take out – which we were happy to reach. We were both hot and tired when we got back to the boat launch. Wren immediately waded into the water to cool off and we both drank from the cold water I had stashed in the car – the best way to top off a hot paddle.

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3 Quick CATS
Fort Ticonderoga: Fall for it!