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Fall at the VIC
Oct
11
2013

            Wren and I took a hike at the Paul Smith’s College VIC this past weekend, enjoying the fall colors.  The day, like so many others of late, was warm and sunny, and the chance to get outside was not to be missed.  The VIC’s network of trails takes hikers through a wide range of habitats, and we started our walk along Heron Marsh, the centerpiece of their trail system. 

            The marsh and its accompanying water bodies are a great place to find wetland birds, and while it was generally quiet in the afternoon, we did see a small collection of ducks which included mallards and several wood ducks.  I checked out several of the overlooks of the marsh, also hearing swamp sparrows calling from the cattails. The woods were likewise quiet in the early afternoon, but I slowly began to amass a bird list from the fall flocks that we encountered. beech - VIC

            Black-capped chickadees, golden-crowned kinglets, red-breasted nuthatches, as well as a few blue-headed vireos and brown creepers moved through the trees together, feeding. I soon heard the characteristic call note of ruby-crowned kinglets too and in brushier areas we found small flocks of sparrows, their numbers dominated mostly by white-throated and song sparrows.  It took a while, but we eventually found feeding flocks of yellow-rumped warblers in several places as well, but I didn’t find any other warbler species mixed in with them.  Most of our warblers have headed south. 

            We walked from the marsh up into the woods and wandered through a mixed deciduous forest that was aglow with color.  While some of the taller trees had lost their leaves in the winds and rains of last week, the understory of American beech surrounded us with yellow.  Despite the yellow immersion of the beech forest, my personal favorite leaves were the deep purple-red of hobblebush – perhaps the deepest red we find here. I stopped for a few photos and Wren nosed through the growing layer of leaves on the ground.  In this way we meandered, eventually coming to the Boreal Life Trail which we took to see the bog. hobblebush - VIC

            There the tamaracks were just starting to change color, and we enjoyed the subtle yellows, browns, and reds of the grasses and shrubs on the bog mat.  We checked out the view of Barnum Pond (a nice paddle, by the way) from the tower, watching a great blue heron fish along the marshy edge.  With that we finished our loop and headed back to the visitor center.  And there was still time in the afternoon to find a place to go swimming. 

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About The Author

Alan Belford has spent much of his life outdoors exploring and learning about wildlife – particularly birds. Alan is often out hiking, paddling, running, or cross country skiing – with his Labrador retriever Wren at this side. A certified teacher and former cross country, baseball, and ultimate frisbee coach, he loves teaching others and has taught multiple natural history (specializing in ornithology) courses for both college students and the general public. He is a licensed guide in New York State, he has traveled widely both domestically and internationally, and he is also a published travel writer and photographer – focusing on outdoor and nature writing.

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