Took an afternoon hike up Balsam Lake Mountain in the western Catskills w/
my wife. I didn't expect too much given the time of day but I was surprised
at the bird song this late. The highlight for me was a singing male
BLACKPOLL WARBLER at the summit which is 3731 Feet above sea level. Once
you get above 3500 feet balsam fir rapidly takes over and by 3600-3700 feet
it is pretty much a forest almost exclusively of balsam fir. The trees are
not that tall likely owing to the harsh climate up there. There were at
least 3 SWAINSON'S THRUSH singing easily heard from the fire tower. I also
had  at least 3 BLACKBURNIAN WARBLERS in this area, a MAGNOLIA and a few
singing in the boreal zone. I made it a point to find this bird visually to
rule out a CAPE MAY or BAY-BREASTED WARBLER which would be out of range but
in good habitat.

Some other items of interest: BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLERS were the most
common warbler on this hike present from the beginning of the blue trail at
Dry Brook Trail head.  I counted 16 singing males and they were wholly in
the deciduous woods of sugar and red maple, black cherry, various species
of birch and beech. There were no conifers over the first 2/3 of the hike
yet this species was the most common warbler. The BLACK-THROATED GREEN was
absent from the boreal forest zone and even in the mixed zone above 3500
feet. I noticed BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLERS in with the BT Greens but
beginning around 3000 feet  or so and going into the mixed zone but also
absent in the boreal forest zone. RED-EYED VIREOS were abundant in the
deciduous forest zone but rapidly declined as you approached 3500 feet and
were absent above this level.  HERMIT THRUSHES were the most common thrush
in the deciduous forest to the mixed conifer/deciduous zone but also absent
in the boreal forest zone. There was one WOOD THRUSH at the base of the
trail. I also noticed only 1 AMERICAN ROBIN at the beginning of the trail.
DARK-EYED JUNCOs were present from the base of the trail to the summit.
There were no species that live in "edge" habitats or clearings.

There were also very few squirrels or chipmunks. I noticed just 2 chipmunks
and 1 squirrel over 6 miles of hike. There were also virtually no crows or
blue jays either and no cowbirds. This was a large expanse of forest with
little to no edge so species diversity was down but you could see there
were less predators or cowbirds either.  Some of the smaller patches of
woods that I hike in Broome and surrounding counties are literally full of
chipmunks, red and gray squirrels, crows and blue jays. So you can see the
difference between a big patch of forest and fragmented patches of woods.
It is amazing that many of these same species hang on in fragmented
forested areas outside the Catskills and Adirondacks given the presumed
higher amount of predation and more cowbirds!

One other neat thing was a lone CHIMNEY SWIFT flying by the fire tower
which is around 3800 feet above sea level. This bird wasn't staying around
and heading east.

My ebird list is here:

Dave Nicosia


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