"There he is!"
"Wow, he's feisty."
"Look at him go after that guy."
Donald Trump at a Republican debate? No, this confrontation was much more civil. Short-eared owls were sorting out territorial rights with marauding northern harriers and with each other. And we had ring-side seats to the action.
Gwenne and I had joined the ADK Tuesday group for a few hours of birding in the Fort Edward grasslands. We were fortunate to have Laurie LaFond as our guide. She's an expert birder and has long championed preservation of the open fields found where the Hudson/Champlain Valley squeaks between the Taconics in the east and the Adirondack foothills to the west.
A little further on someone has placed a rustic bench made from an intricately weathered slab of limestone.
If the hay is not cut or grazed it gradually reverts to brush and then trees.
This grass ecosystem is habitat for large numbers of small mammals (think meadow voles) which are choice menu items for birds of prey (think hawks and owls). Many other bird species are attracted to meadow/grassland environments for breeding and nesting. The list includes: Upland Sandpiper, Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink, Bluebird, Sedge Wren and Savannah Sparrow. These are the factors that led Audubon to designate the grasslands as an Important Bird Area. By some estimates there are 13000 acres of open land in central Washington County with about 2000 acres forming the core IBA. Of this just several hundred acres are protected and managed.
Gordon Ellmers photo of Northern Harrier
Gordon Ellmers photo of Short-eared owl
It sort of reminds me of the decision to have children. You know it will be costly and involve some sacrifice but also that the rewards are well worth it. So it is with birds. Are we willing to bear the cost for the rewards of having them here? I don't know the answer to that but I do know I'm grateful for the dedication and hard work of the Friends of the IBA. And I know it's way more fun to watch hawks and owls than bickering republicans and democrats.
Laurie LaFond photo from Fiba's website
- The Friends of the IBA are a great organization that deserves your support. They have an upcoming bird walk on Saturday, March 19. Find out more here.
- FIBA's big event of the year is Raptor Fest held this year at the Washington County Fairgrounds on May 14 & 15.
- Audubon designates IBA's and the local chapter is very active with programs, outings and conservation efforts. Visit Southern Adirondack Audubon's website here.
- Dr. Gorden Ellmers takes great bird photos, many of them in the grasslands. Take a look here.
- DEC has maps and species profiles at their website.
River Road and the Hudson
Little theater on the Farm
Fred Wehner photo- Little Theater on the Farm is in the center of the grasslands. It's a great place for music and entertainment. Check out their 2016 schedule here.
Place at the Table - Mandy's
The owls begin feeding at dusk, hunting for meadow voles into the evening. I'm usually ready to eat anytime although I don't have a taste for voles. Pizza is more to my liking and after it got too dark for birding our friends, Steve and Licia, suggested we stop at Mandy's to enjoy some. Great idea!
Mandy's is a small, family owned place on the corner of Burgoyne Avenue and Schuyler Street in Hudson Falls. They're famous for their finger rolls but they also have delicious subs and pizza. Whenever we're headed up to the east side of Lake George or anyplace to the north we stop in for a couple of subs to fuel our adventures. Most people order and take out but there are a few tables for dining and the menu goes beyond the basics. Highly recommended.