Exploring the Moose River Plains

An Early Start on a Cool Morning

After a pleasant night camping, Wren and I headed into the Moose River Plains fairly early in the morning to look for wildlife. The long, winding road cut us through mixed deciduous forest where the American beeches still clung onto their leaves before we dropped to the coniferous forests of the Plains. Soon after entering, the car spooked a Snow Bunting off the road which was evidently gritting or gathering seeds along the grassy edge of the dirt track. Snow Buntings are tundra birds and it was odd to see one in the middle of a forest! The bird flew along ahead of us, unwilling to loop back behind us and I accidentally chased it a few miles further into the forest before we were able to slip past it at a wide spot in the road.

The huge area encompassed by the Moose River Plains offers a number of hiking trails and we were heading to Helldiver Pond to see if we could get lucky with a moose – although word on the street is the big bull which has frequented Helldiver in the past hasn't been seen at the pond consistently this year. As expected, there was no moose at Helldiver, but I stood and listened quietly in the soft morning light while Wren nosed the edges of the boggy pond, eventually settling to chew a few sticks. Pine Siskins, American Goldfinches, and Purple Finches flew and called overhead.

Otter - Larry
We watched a family of three North American river otters fish at Helldiver. Photo courtesy of www.masterimages.org.

Otters and Snow Buntings

A light splash and a snort caught our attention and I scanned across the pond to find 3 North American river otters swimming and fishing. Wren paused from her chewing with ears perked to watch them. The trio appeared to be a mother and two fair-sized young, and the three dipped and dived in a way that made fishing for a living look fun. Soon one of them caught a fish and scrambled ashore to eat its catch only to be followed by a second otter which wanted a share of the booty. The fish-catching otter seemed to keep its entire prize, however, and the second individual headed back into the water – too cold for my hands, but plenty warm for them, and for Wren who had already taken a dip.

Soon the second otter caught a fish and hopped onto a grassy hummock along the shore to eat. I am always amazed by their hunting efficiency. As I was watching them a Red Crossbill called from overhead adding another finch to our total.  Not long after, the otters finally started taking notice of us standing on the small wooden platform. They quietly slipped away and we walked back the trail to the car.

Red Crossbill - Larry
We heard a few Red Crossbills while exploring the Plains. Photo courtesy of www.masterimages.org.

We backtracked along the road to the Lost Ponds Trail where I often find birds in the brushy area near the wetland, but before we arrived, I spooked another Snow Bunting off the road. Perhaps it was the same bird as earlier in the morning. This bird cooperated for me by perching in a low tree and I was able to stop the car, get out, and take a series of photos before moving on to where a second Snow Bunting fed in the parking area. There at one of the adjoining campsites Wren and I finally paused for breakfast as a few Black-capped Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets called from the trees. After a quick hike on the Lost Ponds Trail, we headed to check out Icehouse Pond before we left the Plains to explore some other spots on our list for the day.

Snow Bunting
This Snow Bunting cooperated for me to snap a few photos.

A Few Final Stops

We eventually found our way to a hike along the canoe carry trail (along Route 28) to Brown's Tract Inlet. The inlet was quiet but serene, and Wren leaned from the boat launching dock in a vain attempt to reach the water for a drink. So we walked around and accessed the inlet further upstream from the bridge, and Wren plunged in for a swim and a drink all at the same time. Her body has been getting accustomed to cool weather, and our recent warm spell must have felt hot to her!

Wren.Brown's Tract Inlet
Wren explores Brown's Tract Inlet

After the hike we drove back to the Brown's Tract Ponds where my initial plan had been to paddle. But our short days had caught up with us and we didn't have much time to explore the ponds by boat, so I simply scanned them for any ducks. Instead of paddling, we drove down Uncas Road to stop in at Ferd's Bog to see if we could find anything there in the evening shadows. Ferd's is a good place to look for some of our sought-after boreal bird species. The evening was quiet - yet beautiful - and I chatted for a few minutes with a hunter who told me he was just happy to be out exploring in such an amazing place even if he didn't succeed in shooting anything. I would have liked to stay out another night myself, but other duties called and we headed home as darkness fell.

With so many places to explore, Hamilton County - set in the heart of the Adirondacks, is a year-round outdoor recreation destination. Check out our outdoor recreation, lodging, and dining pages and start planning for your next Adirondack Experience!

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