It’s been about two months since the last post, and about 5 weeks since we finished our 8-month “wander”, as they say in Australia. We’re now back in El Paso, TX, with plans to hit the road again in mid-January.
From Algonquin Provincial Park, in Ontario, we drove to Rochester, NY, on Oct. 2. Along the way, we dropped our canoe off for repairs, at the place where we bought it 14 years ago. It’s very hard to find people who work on Kevlar, and repairs can take a while. So we wanted to take advantage of being in one spot for several weeks, while in canoeing country.
During our 2½ weeks in Upstate NY, we spent most of the nights camped in the driveway of our friends Andrea Billin and Allan and Collin Sowinski, which was great fun! While there, we caught up with a number of other friends, including Carol Thomas; Marie Hall; Patti Hume; Jack Kaufman; John Nelson; Karin Topfer; Erika Sato; Paul, Cathy, and Liz Kane; and our financial advisor, Catie Arnold. It was great to see everyone again!
We got a good weather window to visit the Adirondack Mountains from Oct. 12 – 16, and stayed in one of our favorite places, the Moose River Plains. This area, east of Old Forge, has over a hundred dispersed campsites, a number of trails, and some nice short paddles. In addition to regularly camping there for recreational purposes, during the 20 years we lived in Rochester, we spent six years conducting a study of the vascular plants in the area, finding 522 species (link). On our first evening, we visited with Gary Lee, former Forest Ranger in the district. We spent a couple of hours trying to mist-net migrating Saw-Whet Owls, without any luck, but we did hear birds calling in response to the recording that was playing.
Although the Adirondacks had a fall color brown-out like that we experienced in Algonquin, a fair percentage of the leaves on the maples did not fall in September, and they came into good color during the second week of October, unusually late. So we actually had rather nice color, with maples past peak but good; aspens and birches at their peak; and tamaracks approaching peak. These yellows, oranges, and reds were nicely complemented by crisp brown beeches, and rich green pines and spruces. We saw Coyote well, had excellent Moose tracks, and enjoyed paddling the Cedar River Flow.
We spent our last two nights in Upstate NY with Dick and Grace Wheeler, at their home near Canandaigua Lake. We took two nice hikes and two good paddles, seeing a River Otter in West Creek.
We next visited my sister Cathy and her husband Doug in eastern Pennsylvania. Doug had a stroke over the summer, but is steadily improving, and his doctor says he should make a fairly complete recovery. It was good to see Cathy and Doug, and they and their children, Sara and DJ, are in our thoughts.
We next spent a couple of days in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, a fantastic area for botanizing and paddling (but earlier in the season). One day we went to the Brigantine Unit of Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, the first really great birding spot I visited when I was young. I was enjoying sorting through the numerous shorebirds (sandpipers and allies) that were present, as this is one of my very favorite bird groups. Most were Greater Yellowlegs, and as I was scanning with binoculars yet another flock of yellowlegs, I noticed a paler bird. As I was setting up the telescope to check it out, the only other person in the area walked up and said “There’s a Common Greenshank out there!” This Eurasian species, which had only been seen in the Lower 48 a few times before, was found just 30 minutes earlier!
I wish I had had the chance to identify it myself, but it was exciting to have independently spotted it. This was a new North American bird for Eileen and me, our only one in 2017. I got reasonable photos of the bird but a memory card accident wiped out our last few weeks of photos from the trip, hence the use of photos from past years in this blog post.
Leaving the Pine Barrens, we stopped to visit our friends John Buhr and Vanessa Lum, in eastern Pennsylvania. We then turned our sights on El Paso, choosing to take the slow route down the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. The fall color was actually quite lovely; although the highly colorful maples are less common here than farther north, there actually are a larger number of species that contribute to the more subtle display here, with many shades of yellow and brown from oaks and hickories.
Our last stop was in Hot Springs National Park (NP), where we toured, hiked, and camped for a night. I stopped here in 1981, on a cross-country trip to graduate school, but it was a new NP for Eileen. There are now only three NPs, out of forty-five NPs in the Lower 48, that we have not visited.
Once back in El Paso, we rented a small car, got an apartment in the same extended stay facility we lived in last year, and began the winter’s activities. Among these was analyzing the sightings from our 8 months in the field. We added 1353 records to our collection, which now has over 25,000 observations. (This is only a fraction of our sightings; to keep things manageable, we generally only keep the first five or so observations of a species, plus selected records for new geographical regions.) We found a total of about 386 species that were new to us, broken down as follows: 308 plants, 41 butterflies, 17 herps (reptiles and amphibians), 14 odonates (dragonflies and damselflies), and 6 mammals. This brings my species total to 9008, with a breakdown of 5,174 plants, 3,130 birds, 378 mammals, 124 butterflies, 121 herps, 22 odonates, and 59 others (mostly marine organisms). There should be a good chance of reaching the goal of 10,000 in the next couple of years!