Bog Trekking and Birdwatching
This past weekend I helped lead a trip into Massawepie Mire, the largest bog in the Adirondacks. Massawepie is an enormous complex of habitats centering on the bog which is accessed via an old railroad bed. My co-leader and I met our group in a parking area surrounded by mixed deciduous forest and we began our day by listening to species like Red-eyed Vireo, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, and Black-throated Blue Warble.
We walked down to the canoe access on Masswepie Lake and looked over the glassy surface for Common Loons or other water birds. We saw no birds on the lake, but the morning was tranquil and peaceful as we caught brief glimpses of a Song Sparrow while listening to a Magnolia Warbler. Massawepie Lake is a great paddling opportunity and it is accessible for the next week or so before the Boy Scout camp begins its summer schedule.
Blue and Mourning Warblers
From the lake we began the long, winding drive down towards the small parking area near the old railroad bed. Along the way we passed through young stands of deciduous forest with a healthy understory of small trees and shrubs where I heard a Mourning Warbler singing. We stopped and located it fairly quickly, having splendid looks of the beautiful bird sitting low in a shrub and showing off its yellow belly and the black bib on its breast. We soon realized there were at least two Mourning Warblers singing and a Black-throated Blue Warbler also flew in close to us and gave us nice views.
With that we continued down the road, identifying a variety of species from the car. We passed the turn to the bog, allowing us to check out the woods along the road in a few more places and we tallied at least nine singing Mourning Warblers in the process! We also found a variety of species including Black-and-White Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ovenbird, and two migrating Tennessee Warblers as our list of warblers continued to grow. We joked that the birding was so good along the road that we might not even make it into the bog!
But we did eventually arrive in the parking area and took an immediate detour to view the small bridge which crosses the South Branch of the Grasse River. There along the alder-choked stream we had nice views of Common Yellowthroat, Alder Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, and Chestnut-sided Warbler. As we walked back towards the railroad bed and the bog, we checked out another Chestnut-sided Warbler and an American Redstart, as our last Mourning Warbler of the day sang from the low shrubs.
We began walking along the railroad bed into the bog, the habitat changed from deciduous to coniferous along the bog, Magnolia and Nashville Warblers became the predominant species singing almost everywhere. The buzzy song of Palm Warblers drifted across the bog mat to our ears and we had difficulty for a while being able to get a good look at one. We eventually had great views of them on our way back out to the parking area after we had turned around.
No Luck Siting Boreals
As we walked, Tree Swallows fed on insects above the bog and we also had distant views of a Bald Eagle and a Cooper’s Hawk as well as a calling, flyover Common Loon. And, while the area can be excellent for boreal species such as Boreal Chickadee and Gray Jay, we didn’t succeed in turning any up on this day. We did, however, come across one singing Lincoln’s Sparrow after another and everyone had great looks of a few of these often difficult-to-see birds. White-throated Sparrows and Common Yellowthroats rounded out much of what we had along the bog mat itself and we reached another small bridge crossing the Grasse River a little over a mile from the parking area. A Canada Warbler was singing in the wet brushy habitat near the bridge and it soon popped out only a few feet from us looking at us with its yellow-bespectacled eyes.
We relaxed on the bridge listening to distant Alder Flycatchers and Swamp Sparrows along the waterway for a bit before retracing our steps towards the parking area. The day was warming and while we were a bit hot along the railroad bed, the sun had driven the insects into the shade where they were waiting for us when we came off the trail. The breeze that was picking up was also helpful in keeping the bugs at bay and it had the duel benefit of cooling us as well.
These same warm air currents and breezes provided lift for a Broad-winged Hawk which was soaring overhead at the parking area when we reached it. It was our final species on a day which had been dominated by warblers. After all, we had happily totaled 16 species of them.
Be sure to check out the birding page for more birdwatching locations.