Sunday, October 18, 2009

Warren County Bike Trail

I've had various discussions that have left me confused...sometimes people tell me I should be grateful that I have nature trails nearby. Strange, as I have lived in many places and have never lacked for them. But what I mostly find strange is that the major 'nature trail' we have right here just outside the blue line of the Adirondacks does not see much use besides some cyclists.

So for you locals, I encourage you to check out the Warren County Bike Trail. It's not just for those who have two wheels. Yesterday morning, three of us nature lovers (Sue and Jackie) got up bright and early to begin about a 5 mile, 6 hour ramble here from Round Pond to the southern beach of Lake George. It felt like the dead of winter temperature-wise, but there was not a lot of complaining as we were all fascinated by what potentials were laid out ahead. The weather was actually much better than what was called for, as the sun was shining upon us for most of our adventure.

I paid little attention to many of the plants, besides virgin's bower, one that I had previously been unfamiliar with. I believe what we were seeing were the seed heads, which I found impressive, but anything in nature that creates squiggles or curves fascinates me. Also amazingly impressive were the witch-hazel trees/shrubs lining portions of the trail, in brilliant yellow. Witch-hazel really stands out amongst the typical deciduous trees of the mixed forests north of the capital region.

I paid attention to the birds, as I always do. What fascinated me was to find the further north we went, the pattern of birds changed to those who enjoyed more of the shrubby habitat to those of deeper, more northern woodlands, as one would expect as one slowly makes their way into the Adirondacks. Juncos, a bird at home in coniferous forests, didn't appear till we crossed the route I tend to consider the Adirondack Park border. It also became much quieter bird-wise past this route, also seemingly typical of deeper forests...some stretches I neither heard nor saw a single bird for dozens of minutes at a time.

Upon looking at my field journal, the very first part of the trip now seems unfamiliar to me. It is not a route I tend to follow, as part of the trail here is along the roadside, one that I find dangerous in the afternoon hours. However, there was definitely bird activity even here:

- downy woodpecker
- common raven (2 - the low crawnk call they give really broke the silence)
- blue jay (20+)
- American crow (4)
- black-capped chickadee (10+)
- white-breasted nuthatch (2)

The next part of the trail felt like home to me, and if you've followed my blog in the past or know me, you know the bike path from Birdsall (a name that makes me chuckle) Road to Ash Drive is a frequent visiting spot of mine, as the Glen Lake fen is home to dozens of red-winged blackbirds during the spring and summer months, and the occassional indigo bunting or bay-breasted warbler. We slowed here for photos and I fell into my old birding pattern:

- white-breasted nuthatch
- American robin (6)
- cedar waxwing (2)
- black-capped chickadee (10)
- red-winged blackbird (about 30, 2 males and 2 females seen hanging with grackles)
- american crow (7)
- blue jay (4)
- Canada geese (10)
- common grackle (about 50 in a flock that landed in front of us in a cacophony)
- white-throated sparrow (3)
- mallard (3 males, 2 females swimming around the fen)
- great blue heron (it tried to blend into the reeds but the sun was right on it)
- pileated woodpecker (hammered while we were around, which made such a fantastic loud sound!)
- song sparrow

From Ash Drive there is a more forested part of the trail that I always thought of us plain, and probably lacking in birds, as my one previous walk down it turned up nearly nothing. I was completely surprised at what was found, and Sue knew of an off-trail trail that had a wet area that was apparently where white-throated sparrows go to party. We had a good laugh at how their poor renditions of "Oh Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada" (or "Old Sam Peabody" which I don't prefer) sounded like really old recordings, and some individuals stopped halfway through the song as if it was just too much for them. I got some good views of what I think of as one of the more beautiful sparrows:

- white-throated sparrow (14)
- American robin (5)
- blue jay (6)
- black-capped chickadee (19)
- red-winged blackbird (2)
- white-breasted nuthatch (3)
- American goldfinch (15, 3 of them were juvenile males and 3 were females...goldfinches still confuse me at this time of year, their pale gray coloring just still seems so unusual to me, so it's a good thing they are usually calling, "Potato chip!" or, "Are you here?")
- cedar waxwing (4)

If one is birding on the Warren County Bike Trail, one should stand at the intersection with Glen Lake Road and enjoy the birds there, as they love the messy, viny, shrubby habitat right on the corner. This whole section all the way to Route 149 is interesting bird-wise. There are also spots you can visit off the trail that have American wintergreen, though if you ask me I wouldn't eat many of those berries on an empty stomach. It's interesting to read that wild turkey will occasionally snack on it, as I noted yesterday that we were certainly in turkey habitat. If I remember correctly, this was also the spot with fun Lycopodium spores:

- white-breasted nuthatch (7)
- American goldfinch (14)
- northern cardinal (1 absolutely stunning female, another hidden one nearby making those piercing chip notes, likely the male)
- white-throated sparrow (8 of those who need singing lessons)
- blue jay (8)
- black-capped chickadee (22)
- song sparrow (one actually still singing!)
- downy woodpecker (2)
- cedar waxwing (7)
- American robin
- brown creeper (I'm truly excited about this sighting. I have a difficult time finding them, and this one was flitting about on multiple tree trunks rather than spiraling up any one of them)

Route 149 to Route 9 is not as exciting bird-wise, and it is a portion of the bike trail I'm likely to pass up for a regular birding spot, unless I absolutely desire to see large numbers of juncos again (and I very well may as that species really tugs at my heart-strings). It is very quiet in spots as it is a deeper forest habitat, and I noticed quite a bit of road noise. Also, this is where I consider the border of the Adirondack Park begins, and one can tell by the birds - this is where juncos begin, and larger numbers of chickadees occur. There's what appears to be an old road or rail trail near a monument in this section that is worth a gander, as it is full of lichens and clubmosses. Here in my field notebook I wrote with excitement, "Pixie cups! Running cedar!":

- hairy woodpecker
- American robin (5)
- dark-eyed juncos (7 - it is actually difficult for me to call them dark-eyed, as I call them by their subspecies...up here they are the slate-colored)
- white-breasted nuthatch (4)
- cedar waxwing (2)
- black-capped chickadee (28)
- unknown sparrow, at first thought, wondered if it was an American tree, and glances at a field guide seem to be confirming this.
- blue jay (4)
- unknown woodpecker species drumming in the distance, such a great sound in the woods
- northern cardinal
- downy woodpecker
- common raven

The last stretch, from Route 9 to Lake George, is interesting. For the most part it was also a bit disappointing bird-wise, except for an exciting incident closer to the lake. I was a bit annoyed that the trail yet again ran alongside the road, but there's a fun stop at Magic Forest (a really old fun park), with creepy huge statues of Uncle Sam, Paul Bunyan, and Santa Claus. If you really have a look down a hill nearby, you can see a giraffe and two palm trees. Don't ask me why such randomness...I have never understood Magic Forest. The habitat further along got a bit interesting, there were a few invasive Norway maples, and a lone sassafras that even in this weather is still delicious:

- blue jay (2)
- American crow (4)
- black-capped chickadee (14)
- white-breasted nuthatch (2)
- dark-eyed junco
- red-bellied woodpecker (a male making a loud, high-pitched 'cue cue cue' call - I'm not yet familiar with this call)
- hairy woodpecker (a female...she was being chased around by the agitated red-bellied! It was really exciting to watch the showdown)
- downy woodpecker (was near the other woodpecker drama, calling away)
- American crow

Our rambling concluded at the Lake George Battlefield Park and Fort George State Park. I did not bird here, as I was too busy taking in the park. I've walked alongside it many times, yet never entering until yesterday, and was absolutely impressed with it's expansive size and scattered tree forest. The view of the mountains and the lake are stunning from that viewpoint and the sense of history there makes it worth a visit. There's also delicious pizza in Lake George!


Woodswalker said...

What fun to retrace our route through your notes! I can't wait to get at least one working eye so I can see some of the birds you saw.

I saw some kind of thrush -- hermit or wood, I can't be sure -- at my birdfeeding station here in Saratoga today. Movin' through, I'm sure.

It was great to meet you at last. Let's do it again.

suep said...

wow lindsey, what a great record of what was flitting about at the edges of my own awareness - you are proving the power of field-notes, that's for sure.
I went back to visit the "Peabody Bypass" today, they are still there, busy picking honeysuckle berries right out along the main trail, and having little conversations in the bushes.

Lindsey said...

Jackie, I can't wait for you to be able to see the birds too! Though I must say, my trick to having such huge lists is a combo of sound and sight not by color, but by flight patterns and contrasts and shapes since I know that lighting often obscures things. I'm glad to hear there are still thrushes! :)

It was great to meet you as well, and we will have to do something similar soon.

Sue, I spent the past two days putting my notes into ebird, and it's so amazing how one can relive old rambles just by reading through those notes.

I dunno why I keep being unsure about whether all those cherry-birds are still around since we're obviously hearing them and you are still seeing them! :) I love how they sound like they are talking to each other (and likely are).

Squirrel said...

I loved all of your different perspective on you trip. Like you I take notes but never really seem to do much with them. I will check out ebird. Thanks for letting me tag along.

Lindsey said...

Hello Squirrel (I love your journaling name)! Even knowing "suep" well, and reading the Woodswalker blog frequently, I found it interesting how different the perspectives us three had of the same trip! I bet the three reads gave an interesting, well-rounded view of everything we saw that day.

Hope you enjoy ebird! They have a neat "Top 100" area on there where you can see who logs the most checklists and who contributes the most species for a specific area, which is fun. I had no intentions of reaching the top anywhere, but managed to in a few counties!