Putnam Highlands Audubon Society: Third Saturdays Walk Series: Granite Mountain Preserve, August 17th, 2019 Field Notes

Granite Mountain Birders.jpg

On Saturday, August 17th, the Putnam Highlands Audubon Society (PHAS) led their “Third Saturdays” walk, in partnership with Hudson Highlands Land Trust (HHLT), at Granite Mountain Preserve. Leaders from PHAS included Lew Kingsley, Perry Pitt, Scott Silver, and Ryan J Bass while Nicole Wooten represented HHLT.

The 20 participants braved the humid weather to enjoy a rich and diverse experience, not just of birds, but of the various native woodland plants and trees that provide habitat while supporting insect life that birds depend upon. We hope you enjoy these photographs.

In the dense understory, we were treated with the beautiful clear song of a Hooded Warbler. Despite the bold black namesake hood contrasting with it's bright yellow body, this bird remained hidden in the shrub layer. It is a documented breeding bird in Putnam County, but locally infrequent, making such an observation notable. To watch a video of a Hooded Warbler sing, please click on this link from Cornell University's All About Birds web site. Archival photograph of Female Hooded Warbler courtesy of Kyle Bardwell.

yellow bird.jpg

We observed or heard 14 species of birds, including Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photograph courtesy of participant Mike Knaggs). As the name suggests, the Sapsucker will feed on sap, "tapping" the tree much like we'd tap a tree for Maple syrup. They drill "wells", long rows of circular holes in tree, and not only feed on the sap, but the insects that are attracted to it. While observing this behavior, we watched a Ruby-throated Hummingbird visit the sap wells for a tasty treat. According to Birds of N. America, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker selectively drills in trees with high sugar content, such as this Birch species. photograph courtesy of participant Mike Knaggs.


In addition to birds, we spied a Pickerel Frog, hidden under a log on the forest floor. The New York State DEC has a wonderful guide to the Frogs and Toads of New York. To learn more, please click this link. The frog expertly blended in with its surroundings. Had it not jumped across our path, we would have surely missed this fun observation! it be collected in the wild. Archival photograph by Kyle Bardwell.


Granite Mountain Preserve has an established shrub layer of Spicebush photo courtesy of Lindera Benzoin. These native shrubs provide nesting habitat for various woodland birds, including Warblers and Thrushes. Spicebush is a dioecious shrub, meaning that there are distinctive male and female plants. In late August and early September, the female plants produce a bounty of berries which provide food for Red-eyed Vireos, American Robins, Gray Catbirds, Swainson's Thrushes, even Pileated Woodpeckers, among many other species.


Spicebush is also the larval host of the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly, pictured here nectaring on Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Archival photographs by Ryan J Bass.


Along the trail margins, we observed multiple instances of Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), a delicate evergreen plant found in woodlands in eastern N. America. Unfortunately, it is rare or threatened in parts of its range. According to the Department of Environment (Canada) causal factors for its decline include recreational activities and "trampling". For this reason, we limit our walks to fewer than (20) participants to ensure that our native plant populations remain strong and reduce our environmental impact. Although quite ornamental, Striped Wintergreen does not transplant well due to the unique relationship it develops with the fungi in the soil. As such, it cannot be found in the nursery trade nor should it be collected in the wild. Photograph by Ryan J Bass.


A checklist of the birds seen or heard was submitted to Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird Project. To view our checklist, please click this link.

Our next “Third Saturdays” walk is scheduled for September 21st, from 8:30 - 10:00 am, in partnership with Glynwood Farm. To register, please click this link.

The “Third Saturdays” walks are free and open to the public, guided by volunteers, and supported entirely through donations. Should you wish to donate, please visit www.putnamhighlandsaudubon.org or mail a check to the address listed below.

Granite Mountain Birders 2.jpg