Waking up in a beautiful place
My friend and I camped along Horseshoe Lake the other weekright along the St. Lawrence-Franklin-Hamilton county lines. Wren and I woke early while it was still dark, and I lay in my tent listening to the overhead nocturnal calls of migrants such as Veeries, a Wood Thrush or two, and an early Swainson's Thrush.
Soon the soft light of morning began to drift into the tent door and other birds, like Red-breasted Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees, began to call in camp. When the Blue Jays began to scream loudly from the trees, breaking the peaceful start to the day, I knew I had lingered too long. It was time to get moving.
But our progress in camp was slowed by an irresistible sunrise, which cut through the mist hanging over the lake and brought patchy warmth to wherever it landed on the chilly morning. We finished getting ready and headed over to the Horseshoe portion of Hitchins Bog, which is reached along the dirt road heading to Lows Upper Dam.
Birding along the bog
The cool woods were initially quiet, but we soon stumbled upon a small flock of birds that was dominated by Black-capped Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets, and we found a few other species mixed in with them, beginning our list of warblers for the day with the likes of Nashville and Yellow-rumped.
A short distance down the trail we found a large pile of bear scat – dark and loaded with seeds from all the fruit the bruin consumed during this splendid year for wild berries.
Soon after that, we came across another flock of songbirds – this one larger than the first – and we sifted through it for Least Flycatchers, Blue-headed and Red-eyed vireos, and warblers such as Blackburnian, Northern Parula, Nashville, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Tennessee, and Black-throated Blue.
We eventually reached the sunlit portion of the woods, where the two edges along the bog met, and we were led along the path by a small group of Palm Warblers that kept themselves somewhat separate from the other birds feeding in the row of trees illuminated by the sun.
Our warbler list continued to grow with Black-and-white, Chestnut-sided, Common Yellowthroat, and more of the same species we had previously found on our walk. In the end we tallied 11 species of warblers on the short outing.
Woodpeckers were also in good supply with Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, and Pileated and Hairy woodpeckers calling and joining the flocks.
Even with all of this, it was difficult not to stop combing through the shifting flocks to admire the fog and dew-draped spiderwebs stretched across the glowing bog mat. An Osprey flew on crooked wings in the distance toward Hitchins Pond, and a Common Loon called from the same direction.
We finally turned to go – there was ground to cover on this day – and we still needed to take down camp. And there was the small matter of eating breakfast – by this time we were all quite hungry!
Camp break down was quick, save the regular distraction of songbirds in the neighboring trees, and the continued magnificence of the sun on the water while we ate. I felt like I could have camped there all week, and it was sort of a shame to pack up after spending a splendid night in a spot like that.
But we were soon on the road heading south toward Sabattis Bog, where a short stop added both Red-tailed and Broad-winged hawks as Cedar Waxwings fed and called from the tops of the trees along the edge of the bog mat.
We headed down to the DEC complex along Little Tupper Lake, where we refilled our water bottles for the day, and where Wren took a quick swim at the beach – her exuberance for that place bubbling over every time she's there.
A cluster of Common Loons fed on the water in the glistening sunlight, and we watched them dive while Wren fetched sticks. She would have stayed there all day, and despite my own reluctance to leave, I had work to do, so we continued on toward more adventures.
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