Thursday, August 17, 2017

Visit to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

I haven't visited Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in a number of years and since we sold the property up in the Adirondacks, I haven't even driven past it in over two years. Yesterday that changed.

With three other members of the Tiadaghton Audubon Society, I ventured north early Wednesday morning to view and photograph birds at Montezuma. Fresh from all the excitement created by the visitation of a rare White-winged Tern in our own back yard, this would be a much more relaxing outing. Robin and Sean, Gary and I would spend over five hours walking and driving around the refuge's main pools, the Seneca Canal and surrounding areas. We'd run into a couple of folks who had made their way to the WW Tern sighting, too.

When the day was done, I had over 200 photos to go through (many duplicates with just slight changes in camera settings) and over 35 species on my check list. My list of species doesn't do justice to the sheer numbers of individual birds we saw. There had to be hundreds of herons, egrets and coots for example. And migration hasn't even begun! Nothing spectacular pops up on the list, but we all had a very nice day spent with good company doing somethings we all love doing.

First the list:
Montezuma NWR--Wildlife Drive, Seneca, New York, US
Aug 16, 2017 8:15 AM - 1:45 PM
Protocol: Traveling
6.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Walked the trail around the visitors' center then drove the road through the refuge and ended over on East Road past May's Pond.
37 species

Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Wood Duck
Mallard
American Black Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Osprey
Bald Eagle
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs 
Ring-billed Gull 
Caspian Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Kingbird
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S38677291

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

Now the photos--well, some of them anyway:
Killdeer

Osprey (There were many, many young osprey as well as juvenile Bald Eagles about. Never did see and adult Eagle, however.)

Green Heron. We saw many of these come flying into the channels and reeds Only a couple allowed us a peek at them.

American Coot. There were rafts and rafts of coots foraging on the algae in the ponds and/or just paddling about..

Pied-billed Grebe. Dozens of both adult and immature grebes were fishing in the ponds.

Common Gallinule.  There were many of these in the narrow channels between reeds. And a surprising number of little black, puffball/lollipop babies were also present.

Wood Duck. Many hens were seen. This one played coy behind some reeds.

Trumpeter Swan. A dozen or so trumpeters were spotted in different spots. This one was snoozing in a shallow pond and woke up only long enough to show its black bill and to do a little stretching.

Greater Yellowlegs. Scores of shorebirds were to be seen. Few could be IDed without debate. LOL!

Lesser Yellowlegs. I think.
Common Egret. Hundreds were to be seen hunkered down in the pond next to the NYS Thruway and at the end of East Road. HUNDREDS

Great Blue Heron. Again, hundreds were present virtually everywhere, but especially at the end of East Road.

American Bittern. How Sean spotted this guy is a mystery.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Surprise! Suprise! Surprise!

Lots of interesting stuff happening around here this week.

First was a surprise visit from a Eurasian species of bird: a White-winged Tern. Seldom seen in North America this little guy showed up in a small lake over near Wellsboro on Thursday morning. It was identified by members of the Tiadaghton Audubon Society and was confirmed by some folks from Cornell. It helped that the person, Rich Hanlon, reporting it to Cornell had pictures--and is the minister of the Wellsboro Methodist Church. The two folks with him are among the top birders in Tioga County according to eBird.

As one might expect from the appearance of such a rarity, folks are flocking in from all over to get a glimpse of this super cooperative bird. This morning there was one guy who had flown from Texas to Philadelphia and rented a car to drive out here just to see the bird. There have been folks from Michigan, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey and New York (Long Island and West Point area so they weren't just hopping over the state line). Even folks from PA drove from Pittsburgh and Philly area just to add this bird to their life lists. TV news crews and the local newspaper showed up and did  interviews with Rich Hanlon and some of the birders.

I've been over to look at the birds and to meet and talk to some of the visitors  a couple of times--Friday afternoon and again this morning. I might go back tomorrow morning to see if it's still here. Rich Hanlon will, of course, be occupied elsewhere. ;-)

White-winged Tern at Nessmuk Lake, 2017_08_11
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My second surprise was finding another yellow jackets' nest. Remember the nest I said was under the cover to the septic tank? I thought I might have to wait until we had some cold weather to take care of that nest, but when I got back from Quebec, I found something--probably a bear--had shoved the cover aside enough to reach in and rip out the wasps' nest. The paper from the nest was torn apart and there was precious little left. I watched the area just in case and saw only one or two bees flying around. Nothing special--or threatening. Today I went out to cut the grass and even pushed the cover back into place without raising any wasps.

HOWEVER, as I was cutting the grass I happened to glance up at the awning of our travel trailer. A small stain on the white of the one awning drew my attention and that's when I saw it--and them.

The damn wasps have built a paper nest between the two awnings not far from the door of the trailer. It's above the white awning for the kitchen bump out and below the black awning that would create a shaded patio.
Wasp nest between the awnings

One of the b*st*rds exiting the nest.


*Sigh* I guess I'll have to get out there with some spray after dark when every bee should be home. I'll soak it good with Spectricide from a safe distance and hope for the best. Then, when the spray has worked overnight, I'll hit it again. THEN I'll knock that bad boy down using the garden hose.

******

Third: While cutting the lawn, I noticed the sky was darkening a bit but thought little of it--until I ran out of gas when I was about 5/6ths done (just the area behind the house to do--maybe 10' x 40'). That's when I heard the rumble of thunder off in the distance. There wasn't much of a breeze and I could barely make out any movement in the clouds overhead, still, I figured, I had better hurry up and finish! And so I refueled the mower and proceeded to double-time my efforts.

Just as I finished and was putting the mower into the shed, the first drops fell. They were soon followed by more and more and even more. As I sat and watched on the covered porch, the sky opened up and torrents of rain fell straight down while thunder pealed about two mile away. (See the lightening flash. Count "one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two...." If you get to one-thousand-five and then hear the thunder, the storm is about one mile away.)

This lasted just about 30 minutes and then, suddenly, it stopped as if someone had turned off the faucet. And the sun came out. I'm sure someone, somewhere got to see a beautiful rainbow. Unfortunately, it wasn't me. Too many trees--and a mountain--in the way.

******

Four: Terry has gone south for the week. She'll be attending an EGA Seminar down in Ashville, North Carolina, right after she goes and visits her cousin in Columbia, South Carolina. So it's just me and the cats (four indoors and four outdoors) for the week.

******

That is all. Enjoy the rest of the weekend and don't forget to look skyward tonight for the Perseid Meteor Shower. It's supposed to be a good one and the moon won't rise until after 11 PM.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Getting Lost--and what to do about it

Having done my fair share of hiking, both in groups and solo, and having witnessed several search and rescues while living in the Adirondacks (the victims were 0-4 and never very far from safety), and having been "confused" a time or two myself,  I have to say that this article on Surviving in the Outdoors: An Emergency Guide, is an excellent how-to. The trick with all these types of articles is to practice what they're preaching BEFORE you actually need to do it for real. (Of course, if you do practice them ahead of time--when you're perfectly safe and capable of getting home--then you're more likely to always be perfectly safe and able to get home!)

Hunting season is coming up and there will be guys roaming the back country hoping for a shot at that wall hanger that's hanging out where others seldom go. If you or some one you know will be in that crowd, make sure they 1) read the above linked article, 2) are like a Boy Scout-- always prepared, 3) have a recent map of the area they will be entering, 4) have a good compass, and 5) know how to use the last two items!

Stay safe.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

A Week in Quebec

I went fishing last week with my buddy--and Terry's cousin--Joe. We had booked a week of fishing for Northern Pike and Walleye with Caesar's North Camps. We've been fishing with them on an annual basis since our youngest boys were 10 years old--some 24 years ago. The camp we chose this time was one we hadn't been to before, Lac Nancy, named after Oliver's wife. The lake was reputed to have some very fine walleye and pike with the latter going up to the 50" mark.

Well, to make a long story short, we didn't find that 50" pike but we did find some of the largest walleye we've run into. While we have found one or two individual walleye that were bigger than the 6.5 pound, 28" one that I caught, the size of the "average" walleye we caught on this trip as far greater than that we've found elsewhere. I'd say half of the fish we caught we would have had to throw back because they were over the 18.5" slot limit. Only about 10% would have gone back because they were too short, less than 14". Everything else--and we caught 165 walleye--was in the slot an could have been take to fill our limit. We chose--and Oliver ruled--that we could only retain what we could eat and that, for us, was one pike and two walleye.

We arrived early on Friday after driving 610 miles from the Aerie to the village of Clova and flying another 30 minutes north to Nancy's Lake. After unpacking our gear and rigging our lines we were on the water and out exploring this new--to us--body of water. We covered the entire shore line of the roughly 2x1 kilometer lake and found there were few weed beds that looked like our normal pike haunts so we opted to concentrate on walleye. After lunch we found a spot that, while unremarkable in that it was 100 meters from the shoreline and out in the open water, produced a couple of nice walleye and even a pike. Joe marked that spot with a bouy so we could find it again. Good thing he did, too. We fished that spot almost exclusively over the week and caught all but one walleye and one pike within 5o meters of that bouy! In fact, on Saturday, we caught 70 walleye and three pike in that area.
Cabin at Nancy's Lake

View from the cabin of Nancy's Lake

Our meals for two nights: one pike and two walleye.


The one Northern Pike we killed. About 30 inches in length.
We spent the majority of our time fishing 3/8 oz. jigs with various and sundry colors of 4" plastic split tails. The fish seemed to like the black and the orange/yellow colors but we caught some on just about every color in our tackle boxes. Jigging meant we fished without any wire leader so important to catching the toothy pike but we still managed to get seven nice sized pike (30+ inches) to the boat. We did lose a couple larger pike early in the battle when they got the jigs too far into their mouths and they easily snapped our 6 and 8 pound test lines.

We kept the one pike because Joe wanted to see if he could filet it so as to eliminate the Y-bones. He got most of them.

The weather was pretty cooperative in that we had 60-70 degrees every day and 50-60 degrees at night. Two separate storms kept us off the lake after dinner Sunday and Tuesday evenings. One produced a lot of thunder but no lightening, the other produced lots of lightening and plenty of accompanying thunder. Both storms produce 2-3 hours of torrential rain. The Tuesday storm also kept us off the water after lunch as the pre-storm winds produced rollers of 1.5-2 feet and even lots of whitecaps on the lake. The only other rain we got was on the final Friday as we awaited the plane to fly us out. That storm blocked out the horizon with the rain being so heavy. We couldn't even see the island some 750 meters away. This rain also delayed our flight by almost three hours as the Cessna could not fly.

Rich with a 6-1/2 pound walleye that measured 28" in length.

Joe with a nice walleye that easily would have been over the slot limit of 18-1/2 inches.

Another big walleye.

And yet another huge walleye.

Joe with the largest Northern Pike we managed to boat. I'm guessing it went around 35 inches.


We did, eventually, get back to Clova and the truck at 2 PM for our 13 hour drive home. We managed to get back to the Aerie around 2:45 AM despite the heavy rain we ran into south of Ottawa and all the way down through Elmira. I hate driving in the rain at night.

Division of labor:
  • I did most of the driving northward but we split the long ride home about 50-50. We also split fuel costs.
  • I piloted the boat the entire week.
  • Joe, who purchased and packed the groceries, did all the cooking. (He had it easy this week as he only had to clean three fish.)
  • I did all the washing up after meals.