Time, Same Place
someone reads Wings, or any other birding publication for
that matter, they will quickly discern the notion of traveling
to scattered locations to bird is not only a popular pursuit,
but desirable as well; particularly if they hope to add to
their life lists as well as experience new locales, ecosystems,
etc. This is also a great way to participate in birding fellowship
as you meet new people and make new acquaintances and friends
in far-flung places across country and even globe.
But there is another contingent of birders who generally
eschew all that and return to the same location again and
.and again. I, in fact, know one of
these people - actually he is me. For I have made the pilgrimage
to Ferd's Bog over thirty times now. Believe me this is not
a brag. My friends, and sometimes my wife Donna, have wondered
aloud about this sort of wacky, albeit harmless, obsession.
And for that matter so have I.
Like exactly 8:30 am October 7, 2001, as I stood on a snow-covered
bog boardwalk being pelted by snow and ice and everything
in between on 30+-mile-an-hour winds waiting for something,
anything to show up. Trusting another soul would arrive in
that miserable bog to demonstrate that you're not as crazy
as you may think you are. But no one does, forcing you to
conclude, "Yes, you're probably border-line certifiable." Especially
when your thoughts turn to a warm and cozy cabin just miles
down the road, the one you had just been sleeping in.
"Hey isn't that a Three-toed?!" as a blur flies
by your head - no just a missile of broken vegetation aiming
for your miserable, ice ringed head. And just when you think
it can't get any worse
you're suddenly alerted by the
imme-diate need for indoor plumbing. But I digress.
There is an upside to all this, and that is your ability to derive the pulse
of a place, to witness the ebb and flow of life in the bog from one season
to the next. And from this certain patterns begin to emerge. Call it bog
minutia, these are observations that reveal themselves over repeated visits.
For example: Boreal Chickadees almost always make their presence known between
the hours of 8:00am and 9:30am, usually falling completely silent by 10:00am.
Also they generally feed just inside the conifer perimeter of the bog and
are usually very difficult to see.
From 1992, my first trip there, until the most recent October
visit, I have yet to see a Three-toed Woodpecker, but there
have been several instances where others have, just before
I got there. This then, certainly qualifies as one of those
nemesis birds that long-time birders are always haunted by.
On the other hand I have seen Black-backs there quite handily,
but they can be very unpredictable. On my first '92 trip,
in May, I observed no less than three in a spirited territorial
dispute. After that, I wouldn't see Black-backs in the bog
until '96. This probably results from the birds' nomadic
behavior being driven by their unique foraging habits. And
for what it's worth, I've seen more females by a small percentage
Another little tidbit is how Sue Drennan mentions Rusty
Blackbird as a gimmie in Ferd's; however in all my visits
I've only seen one - in Sept '97 as it was migrating through,
or so I presumed.
One particularly interesting body of obser- vations involves
raptor activity in the bog. It appears that migrating birds
of prey may set-up temporary shop in the bog as they make
their way South. In October '96, Donna and I watched a Gray
Jay attack a male Sharp-shinned, which, in turn, was pursuing
another Gray Jay. After the missed attempt at break- fast,
the Sharpie flew atop one of the higher Eastern White Pines
that ring the bog. This proved to be most unfortunate for
the raptor as the Gray Jay was joined by a roving gang of
five Blue Jays which all began to mob the accipiter relentlessly
in an interesting display of corvid cooperation.
Other attacks that were observed included one in September
'97 that involved a Merlin taking an attack dive at a hapless
Gray Jay sitting on the bog periphery. Ten minutes of screaming
jay later, the Merlin moved on not looking as if it made
a kill. And finally, this year, another Sharp-shinned pursued
a pair of Gray Jays all around the bog leading me to wonder
if these raptors are mistaking the Jays for the accipter
meal of choice: Mourning Dove. In addition to all the avian
sights, repeated trips have allowed opportunities to observe
both Black Bear and a Fisher crossing Uncas Road, and finding
fresh Bobcat tracks in the bog.
I often wonder if the day will come that I finally lose
interest in making that 3½-hour trip up to Ferd's
Bog. I have begun to branch out, finding some really promising
birding spots on the Pocono Plateau. Then there's my two
breeding atlas blocks in the Catskills that should be keeping
me busier than they have (but that's another story). I guess
I would be able to answer that question if it wasn't for
that little voice in my head that I still hear
prodding me, promising me, if I can drag myself
out of bed, and into the car, today's the day I'm going to
see that Three-toed Woodpecker!
Over Dutchess, November