CANTON – With a tripod and spotting scope over his shoulder, Clarkson University professor of biology and St. Lawrence Land Trust volunteer Tom Langren led 15 people down a gravel road in search of birds Saturday morning.
Not much was searched – the birds were everywhere. Before the bird watchers even arrived, Mr. Langren said he spotted 14 different birds near the parking lot just off County Route 14 in the Wildlife Management area of the State Department of Conservation of the Upper and Lower Lakes.
Some of the discoveries were visible, but most were audible, he said. Migratory birds arrived in St. Lawrence County in large numbers this week after traveling from South and Central America and the Caribbean, he said.
“It’s a great day to do this because it’s all back,” said Langren on Saturday. “Some of them probably stopped by last night.”
The St. Lawrence Land Trust Spring Guided Bird Walk is an annual event sponsored by the Land Trust. The road that winds through grasslands, old and young forest and ends at a viewing dock that juts into Middle Lake is possibly the best birdwatching spot in upstairs New York, Langren said.
The Upper and Lower Lakes wetland, which connects the Oswegatchie River to the Grasse River, is part of one of the largest wetlands in the northeastern United States, Langren said, making it an ideal location for a wide variety of bird species.
A birdwatching walk is a slow affair with frequent stops to listen and peer into the trees. The songs of chickadees, bobolinks, and warblers filled the air. The more experienced bird watchers in the group could choose the different species of each bird family from the songs alone.
While many of the birds heard in the forest had just arrived from distant places, many were less exotic.
“If you think you hear a lot of robins back here,” said Langren, “it’s because you hear a lot of robins.”
While robins are common in suburbs, they are still a forest bird and interesting because robins have one of the most complex songs of any songbird.
Perhaps the highlight of the walk through the forest was a noisy back and forth between barred owls declaring their territory. While only one of the birds was spotted, the loud calls echoed through the forest for a few minutes.
Bird watchers spotted loons, terns, trumpeter swans and blue herons in the reeds on the dock at Middle Lake.
According to Langren, the Middle Lake has become a breeding area for bald eagles, cranes and trumpeter swans in recent years.
It was raining lightly when the bird watchers came out of the forest and stopped every now and then to look for birds when certain songs were heard.
The final lengthy stop ended with a successful sighting of a towhee on the edge of a clearing just a few feet from where the cars were parked, waiting to leave the bird watchers with a greater awareness of the songs that make up the backyards of the north country fill this spring, bring home.
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