At this time of year I begin to check out the back side of Lake Colby in Saranac Lake for ducks and other waterfowl passing through our region on their way south. We have not had a significant cold front in a while, so when I went to Lake Colby the other day, I wasn’t expecting much. I was correct in my forecast. It is a bit early for ducks, but they will be arriving soon. There were a couple double-crested cormorants and common loons on the lake though.
The songbirds and other woodland birds proved more exciting than the birds on the lake. Flocks of black-capped chickadees containing both golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets moved through the trees, and a blue-headed vireo called. I also found a small group of yellow-rumped warblers - another common fall species – and both pileated woodpeckers and northern flickers called in the distance.
I poked around in the marshy edges of the lake and its bordering bog mat, and found a few sparrows – something I was looking for. There were good numbers of white-throated sparrows, song sparrows, and swamp sparrows. I walked down the railroad bed to the other side of the lake and found a few savannah sparrows as well. I was looking back over the lake when a call note behind me caught my attention. I turned to find a rusty blackbird perched on a low tamarack. I quick tried to put a longer lens on my camera since I had been taking photos of fall foliage, but the bird flew fairly quickly. I often find rustys in flocks this time of year, but I didn’t see any other blackbirds around.
I walked a few steps further where I heard some sparrows calling, and found a few song and swamp sparrows. Then an adult white-crowned sparrow popped out into view – a very handsome bird. I was happy with this find, but my attention was soon caught by another sparrow that was staying partly hidden. It was a Nelson’s sparrow – not a common species and one that passes through our region irregularly at this time of year. Unfortunately the Nelson’s was quickly chased by a swamp sparrow, and I couldn’t find it again. I walked down the trail looking for new ways to view the small stand of cattails along the bog mat in an attempt to refind it. But all I found was one lone swamp sparrow.
Although I had hoped for a second look at the bird, I was happy with my find and after scouring through the area some more, gave up the search to relocate it. I turned and walked back out, finding a young white-crowned sparrow and a great blue heron as I went.