Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bog Meadow Brook/Quechee Gorge

A few days ago I went searching for a different birding spot since I'm so familiar with Betar, I can predict what's going to be there. This is not a bad thing, but it gets quiet over there during early fall migration, and I wanted a place less predictable for myself. And thus, my drive to Saratoga Springs, NY.

I highly recommend Bog Meadow Brook Trail if you're anywhere nearby, at almost any time of the year (though spring = mud, winter = deep snow). The main parking lot is on Route 29/Lake Avenue but I find the first leg of the trail isn't great for birding because you can hear the traffic for quite a ways. There's more parking on the other side, off Meadowbrook Road just before County Rd 67 (take Exit 14 from I-87 and head east on Union Avenue/9P).

Bog Meadow is an old railroad track mostly grown over without rails left; there are some wooden boards perpendicular to the trail, I wouldn't recommend walking on them if they are wet unless you feel like slipping and smacking your head against a nearby tree. The entire trail is almost all varying levels of marsh, save for one section of forest with a lot of understory growth. One section includes a boardwalk over an open wet area, and further along you come across an even larger wet area - great for spotting marsh-loving herons and the occasional egret or, as we had in spring migration, a northern shoveler, first spotted by yours truly.

My latest walk along this trail was really productive. There were plenty of fledglings all down the trail of various species, and a nest that included two American robins nearly ready to fledge themselves! And fall migration is apparently hitting this spot already. Solitary sandpipers do not breed in this area as far as I know, and I first became acquainted with the species in the spring at the yellowthroat research site just north of Skidmore College. A pair stayed for a week or two there, before finishing off their migration north. I ran across yet another pair at Bog Meadow two days ago at the boardwalk marsh, one standing guard on a rock, the other slightly bobbing it's head while foraging as if it had a mild case of hiccups. If I had not been sure of their ID based on either field markings, I eventually saw the characteristic white spotting on their upperparts and clean white breast and flanks. These guys were my best spotting of the day/week!

There were multiple great blue herons along the trail in the wet spots, lazily walking about at the boardwalk marsh. One heron found himself in a more dangerous spot in the larger wet area along with an obviously spooked green heron trying to hide along the shore I was walking along. Both birds would try to find a hiding spot, and then be forced to alight for a few minutes, grazing the water with their feet while trying to stay out of a red-tailed hawk's way. The hawk would be invisible somewhere along the tree line but call consistently before swooping down over the water and back up again. I also had a red-tailed hawk calling near the forest, and it had flown down so low over my head that my reflex was to duck. The herons also might have been freaked out over the presence of an osprey, of which I had never seen at Bog Meadow in the past! A belted kingfisher was consistently flying about over the water and calling in alarm.

Another species I had never seen at Bog Meadow in the past and saw two days ago was a yellow-bellied sapsucker. Even more amazing, this one was a juvenile, complete with a gray head with two broad white stripes - if you look in the Crossley Guide, you can check this out. The only way I knew the species was by looking at it's back, wing, and tail black-and-white pattern. Bog Meadow is rife with other woodpecker species. This time I heard a red-bellied woodpecker and downy woodpecker.

The most irritating observation for birders this time of year at Bog Meadow is the load of flycatchers, mostly Empids, and therefore nearly unidentifiable as they are quiet due to the end of the breeding season. I had quite a few. One was likely a yellow-bellied based on the shape of it's eye-ring. I also had other flycatchers, including a juvenile great crested and a bunch of eastern wood-pewees, the latter of which still sang.

The sparrows are mostly gone now, although I had a late swamp sparrow singing.

Bog Meadow was predictably caked with cedar waxwings and American goldfinches as Bog Meadow is full of berry-producing plants and trees for the waxwings, and the goldfinches had recently been breeding. American redstarts and yellow warblers are still around in tiny numbers, as are warbling vireos and red-eyed vireos.

I heard raspy chipping along a wet part of the trail and had a laugh, as it was obvious to me what I was hearing - a common yellowthroat. I am glad they are still around. This little guy popped right up into clear view for a few moments before flying off. I can certainly say I will miss them when they finally all migrate.

Yesterday I headed out to finally explore Queechee Gorge, located in Central/Western Vermont. It was worth going, although the birding there is not great. I had a yellowthroat there, a redstart, a yellow warbler, and my favorite sighting of yesterday, predictably a spotted sandpiper right at the base of the dam, foraging around the rocks. This was the first time I got a great view of a spotted sandpiper, and the way they bob their entire body really makes it an easy ID.

If you head out to Quechee for anything, visit VINS. It's not my favorite nature center, but they do have live birds of prey and you can walk there from the gorge. The surrounding shops otherwise don't have a lot of bird-related items, though the Quechee Visitor Center alerted me to the Connecticut River Birding Trail, which I did not even know existed!


Woodswalker said...

I sure wish I had you along each time I walk Bog Meadow Trail. I see and hear lots of birds but don't have a clue what they are.

Lindsey said...

Aww, we'll have to get together for Bog Meadow some time, I am spending a lot more time down that way now that I have 2 jobs down there. :) I thought of you when I was there, there are plants there I wish I recognized!