Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Bog Blog! - 13-16 Sep 2010

Robin and I spent a week in Hamilton Co., NY last week. She took a watercolor painting class in Old Forge, while I birded the Big Moose / Inlet area of the Adirondacks. Our stay at the Big Moose Inn was wonderful with several days of Common Loon (Gavia immer) sightings on Big Moose Lake just outside our window.

I had researched the area for birding opportunities, and Ferd's Bog seemed to be the most promising. Its location was just minutes from where we were staying, so I was eager to spend some time there.

Weather was generally cloudy and cool with intermittent rain all week, but breaks of sunshine produced some really nice sky contrast for photography. Fall colors ranged from ~5% when we arrived on Saturday (11th) to about 45% by the time we returned home on Friday (17th). Birding was overall very quiet, so most of my time was spent photographing the flora of Ferd's Bog using both the Nikon Coolpix P6000 and Nikon D300 with either the Sigma 18-50mm Macro or 400mm f/5.6.

13 Sep 2010

I parked at the Ferd's Bog entrance off of Uncas Rd. and made the 0.3 mile hike to the bog itself. The intial walk is downhill through a heavily forested hillside lined with numerous ferns, mosses, Red Maple (Acer rubrum) and Black Spruce (Picea mariana) .  The only birds heard were a pair of Brown Creepers (Certhia americana) and Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus).  I stopped several times to play recordings w/ the hope of attracting Boreal Chickadees, Gray Jays or Black-backed Woodpeckers, but got only silence in return.  The overcast skies were ideal for photographing mushrooms, lichens, Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula) and Sphagnum Mosses (Sphagnum spp.) that blanketed the ground. I did my best to identify the mushrooms I photographed, so please feel free to correct me if my ID's are offensive to your taste buds.

As the bog appeared before me I took immediate notice to the hundreds of tiny white moths covering the numerous Labrador Tea (Ledun groenlandicum) plants lining either side of the 'SuperDecking' boardwalk. A pair of American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) were rough-housing clear across the bog, and you could hear their screeching as they chased each other through the trees. The bird at left landed on a snag about 200 ft. away, a bit too far for a decent digiscoped image. But I had just picked up a Hoodman Loupe and was anxious to give it a try. A few minutes later I was treated to a pair of Sharp-shinned Hawks (Accipiter striatus) soaring overhead (unfortunately too far away to photograph against the dark skies).

I was pleasantly surprised to find Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia spp.) everywhere I turned. Clusters of the carnivorus plant were nestled among the Sphagnum and Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) and ranged in color from bright greens to dark purples. Tamarack (Larix laricina) trees were everywhere, as well, and were just starting to change color from summer green to autumn gold.

With no birds about I turned my attention to photographing the moths and the varieties of mushrooms, mosses and lichens in my near vicinity. The mushroom at left showed a sulcate (furrowed) stipe and is thought to be Laccaria spp. (possibly L. striatula).

I heard a quiet 'tseep' and found a Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) perched only 150' away, close enough for a couple of digiscoped images. Ideal digiscoping is less than 100' but this wasn't a bad attempt given the scarcity of birds.

I wasn't quite willing to leave the boardwalk today, so I headed back toward the car. While I walked I took the time to concentrate on some of groundcover lining the forest floor. Creeping Snowberry was everywhere, and almost as numerous as the mosses and shelf fungus lining the trees. I found this (suspected) Vermillion Waxcap (Hygrocybe miniata) and had to photograph it w/ the Coolpix. Tiny Red Maple seedlings were bright red and stood out among the mosses and snowberry.

I was done by noon, and got back to the car to find some lunch. I managed to scare up a Veery (Catharus fuscescens) on my way out, but saw no other birds the rest of the day.

14 Sep 2010

I was determined to pick up some boreal birds, so I headed back to the bog after dropping Robin off in Old Forge. This time I decided that if birds weren't to be found I'd make use of the 18-50mm Macro lens and spend more time on the ground.

The American Kestrels were still about, but rarely close enough to observe. I hiked into the bog toward an open stream, hoping to get close enough to a pair of Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) that had flown by, but they were gone. As crouched in a thick patch of Bog Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) soared momentarily overhead before flying back to the north.

As with yesterday, the tiny white moths with yellow heads and shoulder spots were everywhere, actively mating and just fluttering about. I spent a few minutes getting some more macro shots of them before heading back to the boardwalk.

I ventured from the boardwalk onto the bog mat near the forest edge, hoping to get some nice images of Pitcher Plants. I was careful to avoid stepping on anything but sphagnum moss, and was rewarded with a few, fairly exposed clumps of Pitcher Plant. The image at left even had a nearby Vermillion Waxcap (?) mushroom growing alongside. As I walked I found numerous tiny clumps of these bright red mushrooms, always within inches of the Pitcher Plants.

Clouds were starting to break, giving away to patches of blue sky. I took the opportunity to create panoramas with the 18-50mm lens, orienting the camera so as to capture sequences of images in portrait mode. I would then later stitch (up to 16 images) a series of images using Adobe Photoshop CS4's Photomerge Utility. What a brilliant piece of software. It managed to create some wonderful panoramas with seamless effort. As hard as I tried, I could not do it manually.

As I reached the boardwalk I realized that my 400mm lens had fallen out of my vest pocket. I had to wander back out onto the bog mat with the hopes of finding the lens. Luckily, it only took a few minutes to see it lying in a clump of moss. Close call!

I then headed out to where a small stream connected to an open portion of the bog. A small foot trail led along the edge of the stream, so I was confident that I wouldn't go through the mat. The grasses were starting to turn yellow, and the contrast against the sky was really something.

With the continuing lack of birds I decided to head back toward the car. I hiked back into the woods and spent more time photographing the lichens and mosses growing in the more upland, drier portions of the woods. Reindeer Moss (Cladonia spp.) and lichens (Cladonia chlorophaea) are some of my favorites, and it was fun to see and photograph them again.

This (suspected) Mycena spp. mushroom was sprouting through a clump of snowberry and just glowed in the woods. The Vermillion Waxcap that I photographed yesterday appeared just a bit drier today, but still quite lovely.

As I climbed out of the woods I noticed how the 'wet' sphagnum was gradually replaced by 'drier' ferns, mosses and lichens. Club mosses (Lycopodium spp.) became more apparent, and British Soldier Lichens (Cladonia cristatella) appeared. This possible Pholiota squarrosa stood out like a prickly golf ball on a decaying log. This bright yellow-orange Dacrymyces palmatus looked like wet brains oozing out of the wood.

One more moth photo and I was done for the day.

15 Sep 2010

Though its labeled Ferd's Bog, this panorama was actually taken up the road from Big Moose Inn along the Crooked Lake pathway. Its a 2.5 mile path that circles a hidden lake, and was the location where I found my first fall warblers of the year (how embarrassing...). I ran into a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers (Dendroica coronata)and Black-throated Blue Warblers (Dendroica caerulescens) and got nice looks through the binoculars. Farther along the path a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) was belting out its 'WIK-WIK-WIK...' song. I couldn't bring it closer w/ the BirdJam. The highlight of the walk had to be seeing a huge tree with 10 ft girth growing atop a large boulder with no soil around. Erosion over the years must've exposed the boulder and root system. Cool.

16 Sep 2010

I had originally planned to drive to the Moose River Plains for some birding, but the dirt road was extremely rough. I didn't want to risk the Ford Fusion on it, so I turned around and headed back to Ferd's Bog. Glad I did.

I decided to hike the bog mat around the perimeter of the lake to see if I could pick up some birds. Not 150' from the boardwalk when I heard a pair of Boreal Chickadees (Poecile hudsonicus) singing along the edge of the woods. Try as I might, though, the birds wouldn't come out into the open. I did attract a pair of Chestnut-sided Warblers (Dendroica pensylvanica) but couldn't photograph them through the trees.

I picked my way out to open water where I spotted 3 Wood Ducks swimming in the open. They were too far away to digiscope, besides, I had no secure ground to plant the tripod. A pair of American Kestrels were flying back and forth along the far shoreline.

Just then 3 Gray Jays (Perisoreus canadensis) approached from the far shoreline and landed just feet away from me. In my panic I dropped the scope and tripod to the bog mat and fired away w/ the D300 and Sigma 400mm. With binocs around my neck I was choking myself as I photographed a beautiful bird against the light sky. They stayed only a few moments to check me out, then flew off to the woods behind me. Still, I managed a few nice keepers and got to enjoy them up close! Woo-hoo!

Deciding to head back I picked my way through vegetation, taking care to avoid stepping on anything delicate. Hoping to get back to the boardwalk I walked directly across the bog mat, but soon came upon some open water. While backtracking I got stuck in an area with tussocks of grass, and while hopping to a (presumed) secure patch of ground, I slipped and fell into the muck. One leg sank to my hip, and I had to fight to keep the camera/lens/scope from getting soaked. It took a good few minutes to secure myself and pull myself out, but not w/o getting a couple of soakers.

Sloshing back to the boardwalk, I stopped only briefly to capture a few more pics of the nearby vegetation, then decided I needed to get back to the hotel and shower off before I get any poison sumac (my last bog trip resulted in a full-body rash so I was extremely leery of my sensitization).

Problem was, though, my buddy/boss Mike I. was at a business conferene giving a poster of mine and needed information. This required driving into town where I could get a cell phone connection, so instead of driving in one direction to go back to the hotel (no phone service) I drove to town to talk to him. Once that session was over, I figured I could grab a quick sandwich and head back, but the sandwich took forever to make, and I now had the opportunity to visit Robin (who was now on her lunch break). So, after visiting w/ her a bit, I drove back and cleaned up. Luckily, no reactions to bog flotsam (yay).

Timing couldn't have been better, 'cause no sooner did I reach the Big Moose Inn that the skies opened up for heavy rains. They wouldn't cease for the next 2 days, and we were ready to head home. So, Gray Jays put a nice ending to a wonderful bog trip!

Click here for slide show of all images taken during the trip!  Hope you enjoyed.


forestal said...

wonderful post taking through a nice time in the area. very nice photos too.


stephenn richardsonn said...

Thanks for sharing wonderful post.

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