Loons

The sound I associate with hanging out on a lake or pond in the evening in the Adirondacks is the loon. The sounds they make to me are peaceful. I was lucky enough to see loons on two Adirondack lakes in June.

I took this picture from a tour boat during a rain storm.
Location

Where do you find loons? They prefer wooded lakes and ponds with large populations of small fish. They prefer lakes with islands and coves for protection. Both lakes I found them on I would not have spotted them from shore. During the day I found them fishing in the middle of the lakes. One one lake I kayaked around for almost an hour before I caught sight of a pair. On the other lake I was on a tour boat when we spotted one. The Great Lakes region has between 5,000- 7,200 pairs while New England and New York have around 2,250 pairs. Well known for having loons are the New York Adirondacks, Maine, and Minnesota, although other states also have them.

Great Fishermen

Loons are expert at fishing. They can dive as deep as 60 m or 200 feet. They normally dive 4 to 10 meters (13- 33 feet). They swallow their prey underwater. They have powerful back legs that propel them in fast chases underwater.

Loon with one of its powerful back legs in the air. Loons have webbed feet.
Nests

Loons breed in spring and summer. Their nests are shorelines. I heard one loon calling as it got dark from what appeared to be the property of a wealthy person. I respect property and would not trespass. I did kayak by the property on another day, but could not get a good view from the lake to see if there was indeed a nest there.

Sounds

To hear a loon click on the following link. The site is from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ENNzjy8QjU

Here are some other sounds loons make from Birds Inc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2PVTZwap-Q

If you are lucky enough to camp or stay right on a lake in the Adirondacks that has loons, you may be lucky enough to hear them right after the sun goes down. They are an iconic sound of the Adirondacks.

Adirondack Boathouses

Boathouses are a covered structure with direct access to body of water. Some say it is only for the storage of boats and boating equipment. They also regulate them in some areas of the Adirondacks. In those areas they can not have bathrooms, beds, a kitchen or heating. In other places they have all of those things. Lake Placid tends to have more of the latter in this description.

This is known as a his and hers boathouse. Each boathouse appears to also have family living quarters.

The original style of the houses and boathouses was labeled Adirondack. It was used in the great camps, some of which were built during the Gilded Age for the rich. Adirondack style is known for using local materials such as birch and cedar logs that were whole, split, or peeled logs. Using bark was common as well as granite fieldstone. The inside of these houses or boathouses they would use rustic furniture. Some of these boathouses pictured are quite old while others may be a modern take on the boathouses of old.

Modern take on the traditional.

There are two main lakes near the village of Lake Placid. The one most people see on the main business thoroughfare in the village of Lake Placid is actually Mirror Lake. Mirror Lake is about a mile long and covers about 128 acres. There are homes and businesses around the lake. Lake Placid, however, is on the north side of the village. Lake Placid covers about 2,170 acres.

This one fits the one description of a boathouse- one story, no heating, plumbing, or electric.

Most of the shoreline around the Lake Placid is undeveloped. However, there are some pretty specular homes and boathouses on some parts of the lake. Most of the homes are well over a million dollars. CEOs of companies own these as vacation homes, as well as musicians, and other famous people. In other words, the top 1 percent vacation in these homes. Some homes are only accessible via boat.

This appears to be more than a boathouse. There are some very expensive boathouses for rent on this lake having what you would normally find in a house.

I took an hour long pontoon boat tour with Lake Placid Marina and Boat tours to see the lake. If vacationing in the area this is a nice boat trip. The captain, Captain Cook, is very knowledgeable about the history of the houses and their inhabitants. Yes, I went in June 2020. This boat tour is operating. As of the end of June, the Adirondack region is in stage 4 of opening up.

If visiting the Lake Placid area consider going on this boat tour. Not only do you learn some of the history of the lake, but also experience some really scenic mountain and lake views.

For more information about the boat tour use this link: https://www.lakeplacidmarina.com

We were told this family had a girl who watched Lion King every night. It was the only video they had.
Asian style pagoda boathouse
I believe the boat captain said this lake has the largest collection of wooden boats on a lake.

The Adirondacks and Thousand Islands are Open

Have you had your vacation plans cancelled for the summer? Are you looking for some place to vacation while social distancing? If you live in New York or other nearby states upstate New York may be the answer.

The northern most part of New York includes the Adirondack Mountains and the Thousand Islands. The hotels and campgrounds in these regions are open. Popular activities in these regions include hiking, fishing, and boating. These are great activities that are easy to socially distance.

There are some things you need to be aware of before you leave. You must bring a mask to wear. Most businesses have signs up on the doors stating do not enter unless you have mask. If you are sick do not go. Hotels have signs on their door stating if you are coughing or sneezing, or generally feel sick, do not enter. Be prepared to pay by credit card or cashless. Not all places in these times will accept cash. Not all hotel restaurants were open in June. Some places offered bagged breakfast. Some food businesses, even though this region by the end of June was in stage 4 or opening up, still do not let anyone within the building.

What is available during your stay? Expect to not have cleaning service while you are there. This seems to be a statewide mandate. In some places outdoor pools are open. I did not see any indoor pools open in June. As of June museums are not open. Some stores are not open and they have help wanted signs up. Evidently they are having a hard time bringing back laid off workers. It is said they are making more on unemployment during this crisis. Many places have hand sanitizer to use before you enter. Kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and paddle boats are available to rent.

Sunset on the St. Lawrence River looking towards the Canadian side.

Enjoy a hike! Enjoy time on a lake or river. It is possible to have a vacation and socially distance. Getting back to nature can be fun!

How to Find an Owl in the Woods

How do you find an owl in the wild? Actually in my case the owl found me. I was hiking through the woods, which I have been doing a lot of lately on a lot of different trails, when an owl flew right over my shoulder coming from behind me. I have repeated found owls since so I will give you some of my tips.

The owl flying over my shoulder peaked my interest so I kept looking in the areas I hike. Look for an old growth forest with lots of older, thick trunked trees. If they have holes in them, this may be a forest to find some owls. Sometimes they take over nests of hawks, but others times they may nest in a tree hole.

Sometimes I have caught them by seeing movement through the woods. It was a parent hunting. They may fly from a tree to the ground, or from a tree to another tree. The breakfast of champions for owlets seems to be chipmunks. It may be because there are so many of them, or the fact they at times make a lot of noise thereby identifying themselves.

Most of the time barred owls I found do not make the typical “Who cooks for you?” call that is ascribed to them. I have heard a lot of other calls and sounds I have not heard on recordings. If you find them listen to the noise they make and try to remember it as it may help you locate them the next time.

Baby after fledging the nest.

A babies make a weak screech sound when hungry and calling for food. They may do this in early morning or early evening. If you find babies, commit the sound to memory. It will help you locate them in the future.

This appears to be an owlet as well.

If you are quiet and aware you have a better chance of finding them. You will have more luck if you do not bring a dog with you. You will have more luck if you go by yourself or have a friend who agrees to be quiet while searching. Don’t have your phone sounds on. If you are preoccupied you may not hear them. If your sounds are on they may stay quiet. You have to be aware of your surroundings and listen to the sounds of the woods.

Two siblings just hanging out. The third one is an outlier. He is always nearby, but usually hiding behind branches.

Sometimes other birds announce the parent owl’s whereabouts. I have seen bluejays going crazy loudly complaining and followed the sounds to find the parent owl. Sometimes that has led me to the owlets. I have not seen them harass the owlets in this manner, just the parents.

Sibling love

After the owlets fledge, the parents and owlets move around to different areas each day I have found. Expand the region you search in around the nest to locate them.

Close to feeding time at least one of the parents would be nearby.

Parents would sometimes be nearby after they fledged, other times not. If you hear a hoot, check it out. They may be calling their mate or their young. You can not always count on them being nearby, unless it is feeding time.

The main advice I have to give is be quiet and respect nature. Do not get too close. Keep a respectful distance. Don’t tell too many people, as they will tell some etc. and the owls may leave and not return. I have heard one story of a whole group of photographers walking through the forest everyday following the owls around and the pair left, never to return. So enjoy nature, but respect nature!

Owlets

Do you like surprises? It depends on what it is I guess. For almost week I saw one baby owl in the tree hole, so I thought there was only one. However, one day I arrived one was in a neighboring tree having most likely fledged that day, and one was looking out the hole. Later, another head popped next to the owl in the hole. So all in all there were three owlets.

It was a suprise to see another head pop out.
The second one fledged and hung around the nesting tree. One left to go. It took him another two days before he flew out of the nest.
I think he was trying to figure out what to do next. Or maybe he was waiting for his sibling.

Seeing three owlets was definitely a surprise and a good one at that. Be quiet on your walks through the woods. It is amazing what you can witness.

Self- Isolating Barred Owl

I have always wanted to see an owl in the wild. This past week or so I got my chance. I have caught sight of one each day on a walking trail in a nearby park. I wasn’t sure which kind of owl it was, so I asked my birding friends. The conclusion was a barred owl. The call I have been hearing was not the typical call a few days into finding them. The ones I have sighted use a different call.

Barreds owl have brown eyes and a small yellow beak. It is named after the bars on its chest.They have no ear tufts.

Standing at attention, but more likely stretching his legs.

Barred owls live in older growth forests where they have a better chance of nesting in a tree cavity. This park has lots of trees that fit that category. They also like to be near water. This park is on the Hudson River in New York. They will take over nests of other birds though as well.

Yawning or craving dinner?
Sun-bathing

I am so happy I had the chance to see an adult and the baby owl. The who-oo of a parent led me to see them and the baby. I kept a respectful distance. While you enjoy nature, be quiet and be observant, you never know what you will see.

Self Isolation- Great Egret

Have you ever had bad lighting conditions, but thought it may be your only chance to capture something? This was one of these times. Luckily, I am still employed. Morning light in this area separated from the river by the Metro North Railroad tracks would be optimal as it would be behind you. Late afternoon light is not good in this area. This is the first time I have seen one of these. I am sure they are quite numerous, but others times I have been to this location I have not seen this solitary bird including the following days.

It caught several fish while I was there.
Bon appetit!

This is the great egret or sometimes it is known as a white heron. I thought it was a heron, but a few people passing by said no, but they did not call it an egret either. I will admit I am not a bird expert. I have trouble differentiating different kinds of hawks. It kept a distance, these photos were taken from quite a distance, but it pretty much ignored me and other hikers.

Maybe someday I will find this bird again with better conditions. We can always hope. Stay safe and stay healthy! Surround yourself with positive things. Go out in nature.

Caught a Fish

It has been raining a lot in New York. I have been working from home. Mornings, which are the best time to go out and view these birds of prey, have been out. Many times on the weekend, like tomorrow, the weather will be bad. Sometimes I am able to go down after work and view for a half hour or an hour. I have not seen them bring in a fish this Spring. Normally I spend my Easter Break watching this nest, but our break was taken away from us. These pictures were on one of those not so great weather days around 6 p.m. Although the lighting is far from optimal, I feel lucky to have seen this eagle bring one in from the Hudson River. Enjoy the parks! Enjoy wildlife!

They have one eaglet in the nest. So I don’t see them bring fish in as much as last year.

Tale of Two Nests

A few decades ago there was only one nesting pair of eagles in the New York. Today there are close to 500. Environmental policies banning DDT enabled this increase.

This first nest is along a major commuting highway that takes many drivers to New York City. They allowed us in to work for a little while on one day so I stopped briefly on my return. These first pictures are taken from the shoulder of the highway.

When the leaves are off the trees this nest is viewable as you are traveling south on the highway. It is on land that juts out into a lake. Since one parent seems to linger a lot in the nest I assume there may be a young one.
One parent briefly joined the other on a nearby tree.
It is the other one’s turn to sit in the nest.

This second nest is next to the Hudson River south of me. If you are lucky as I was today you will catch one of the eagles on a tree near the hiking trail in the woods as I did. The nest is too far away and more protected for some reason than the other nests are that are in parklands.

This pair’s nest is a few miles south of me next tot the Hudson River. You can not get near the nest, but I was able to see them perched on a tree together briefly near a hiking trail. They did not leave the nest unattended for long, so I assume this nest may have young ones as well.
This one was vocal.

It is good to see the population thriving in recent years. The Hudson River seems to draw them to build their nests. If the weather is nice next weekend I hope to see another local nest I have heard about. Stay safe and stay healthy.

Eagle Baby in the Nest

What do you call a baby eagle? An eaglet. Last year my favorite nest to watch had two eaglets. This year I am seeing only one head at a given time.

Luckily this nest still seems deep. It has high enough sides to keep the eaglet safe inside.

It has rained a lot. I did get a chance this past weekend to watch the nest near the Hudson River in New York for a little while. I finally saw the head pop out. I only saw one. I will have to ask the retired people who hang out there all day if they have seen more than that.

The parents took turns watching over the eaglet. A week ago a hawk was trying to get in the nest and the father eagle chased it away.

Parent coming in to rotate babysitting duties.

Unfortunately, as it usually does in April, it has rained a lot. That makes it hard to view the nest on the steep side of a hill. The window to view it is also rapidly closing with buds on the trees turning into leaves. More excitement awaits around June, when we may see the eaglet flying around near the nest.