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Pepperbox Birdathon 2010 Day Two, Part Two

Deer Pond

Deer Pond

The following is an account of the second half of the second day of my trip to bushwhack my way through the Pepperbox Wilderness while participating in the National Audubon Society’s Birdathon. The Birdathon is a 24-hour contest to detect as many bird species as possible and this was the first time I participated since 2002 and the absolutely first attempt in the trailless Pepperbox Wilderness. The second half of the second day consisted of backpacking around the northern point of Sunshine Pond and hiking south to Deer Pond before making a mad dash to Cropsey Pond before the day ended.

When I reached the northern most point along the western edge of the wetland I took a new bearing and headed for the inlet of Sunshine Pond. After 30 minutes of traveling through mixed forest, I arrive at a swampy, coniferous forested inlet to Sunshine Pond (point 10). Upon completing a short struggle to get across the inlet, I head toward a small pond just northwest of Sunshine Pond at a bearing of 246 degrees.

To see the bird species detected near the Sunshine Pond inlet click here.

At about 1 PM, I arrived at the small pond (point 11) and observed a male hooded merganser and a male mallard taking flight from the water apparently spooked by my sudden appearance at the waters edge. The pond was a typical Adirondack beaver pond with a shrubby and wet shoreline. I moved around the northwest tip of the pond and when possible headed directly south back toward Sunshine Pond. The skies begin to darken and the wind picked up before I departed from the beaver pond.

To see the bird species detected at the beaver pond northwest of Sunshine Pond click here.

After climbing over a hill through a hardwood forest (point 12), the forest became increasingly coniferous as I descended to Sunshine Pond. I once again reached Sunshine Pond at 2 PM, at a shallow bay along its western shore (Point 13). As I approached the shoreline, I flushed a pair of wood ducks and a male mallard, apparently the same ones I spotted from the opposite shore earlier (from point 7). The skies had returned to complete overcast and with the loss of the sun, the temperature decreased as the breezy conditions continued.

Sunshine Pond from western shore

I made my way around the bay to the west, and because of the late hour I headed directly toward the north shore of Deer Pond at a bearing of 221 degrees. At this point I was way behind on my scheduled route for the day and it was becoming increasingly likely that I would never make it to Moshier Ponds.

I fought through fairly dense spruce/fir for almost the entire approach to Deer Pond. Wet conditions on the ground increased as I drew closer to the north shore of the pond. I found it necessary to veer east toward higher ground to avoid wet areas, so I actually arrived on the east shore of Deer Pond. I crossed a shabby beaver dam separating Deer from Sunshine Pond but managed to maintain my still dry feet. As I worked my way around Deer Pond, I flushed up 3 male mallards (point 14).

The shore around Deer Pond is shrubby and dry. In years past, when the water levels were lower, it was possible to walk along the edge of the shore on a carpet of grasses. With the water levels higher during this spring it was necessary to struggle through the shrubbery to reach the outlet at the southern end of the pond.

The shape of Deer Pond vaguely resembles a balloon, with a round northern section (the pond proper) and a southern tail with a natural rock dam at the outlet. I moved around the eastern shore and into the southern tail of the pond. There are several large rocks scattered about within the pond forming islands. In addition, near the southern outlet where the water flows over some rocks there is a large flat rock along the shore.

Fighting through spruce/fir

Deer Pond

Exhausted and starving, I stop at the large flat rock to finally eat my lunch at 3:30 PM (point 15). I heard an eastern bluebird singing off to the west, presumably located in one of open wetlands along the outlet stream of Deer Pond. This bluebird would be the last new species I encounter until I reach Cropsey Pond.

Since it will take me a while to filter water and eat lunch, I lay out my tarp in the bushes to dry off in the wind. The skies turn so dark while eating lunch it appears more like twilight than almost 4 PM, and I put on my rain gear in an attempt to prevent any rainfall (I will discuss my theory on how to prevent rain from putting on your rain gear in some post in the future).

Deer Pond outlet

I observe a pair of hooded mergansers moving off to the north and away from me as I filter water and eat lunch on the large flat rocks near the outlet of the pond. After finishing lunch and repacking away my tarp, I begin to look over my map again while common ravens call nearby.

It became apparent after reading the map that I would not be able to complete my original plan of traveling west along the outlet of Deer Pond to Moshier Creek, north around some of the Moshier Ponds and then south along Moshier Creek until finding the outlet of Cropsey Pond. Instead, I decided to head over two ridges to the south and directly to the outlet of Cropsey Pond. Even taking this direct route, I was concerned about getting to Cropsey Pond before dark.

I moved past an old trail near the southern end of the Deer Pond (it may connect to the old hunters trail that I entered in on the previous day) and worked my way over the rocky outlet stream to its western bank before moving around a beaver pond just south of the Deer Pond. This area was confusing and didn’t seem to match what was illustrated on my topographic map (Stillwater 7.5×15), probably due to all the beaver activity.

I moved along the beaver pond’s western shore until I was able to cross its outlet stream on an overflowing beaver dam. By the time I reached this point it was 5 PM, and I took a bearing of 223 degrees toward the largest beaver pond in a series of ponds about a kilometer southwest. From this pond, I would continue southwest through the cull between two knolls and down a steep slope down to one of the series of beaver meadows/ponds along the outlet of Cropsey Pond.

Beaver dam

I quickly started to climb through an increasingly hardwood forest as I left the wetland along the Deer Pond outlet behind. Given the late hour, I maintain a fairly quick pace over a few knolls through a largely open and mature hardwood forest (point 17). The softwood component of the forest increases as I start to descend into the ravine hosting the first series of wetlands.

In a particularly steep section, I follow a deer herd path between two large and duff covered rocks. I used my poles get through this short, steep section but unfortunately they proved inadequate as my feet slipped out from under me and I slide down the herd path and through my two hiking poles. I heard a loud “SNAP” and I found myself looking back uphill from my prone position on the ground at the bottom fourth of my left hiking pole still in the ground and the remaining ¾ of the pole lying next to me on the ground.


My light weight hiking pole, manufactured by a friend of mine, one of my most prized pieces of hiking equipment was almost in two pieces. I nearly cried after the initial shock subsided and despite the distance I had yet to go today, I took a moment to pay my respects to a fine piece of equipment.

Broken hiking pole

After completing what my fall started and breaking the hiking pole into two pieces, I placed the smaller piece in my backpack and strapped the longer piece on the side of the pack. At this point, I could see a small beaver pond down slope and I started to move toward its eastern end. At 5:50 PM, I crossed the beaver dam at the pond’s eastern end (point 18) and looked at the map to obtain a new bearing of 243 degrees through the col of two little peaks to the southwest.

After trekking through the col under mostly mature hardwoods, I descended into the valley containing the outlet of Cropsey Pond at a beaver pond (point 19). It was only 6:15 PM and I didn’t have far to go before camping for the night now. I followed the shore of the beaver pond to the southeast until arriving at the next beaver pond, which was largely dry but had not been so for long given the wet soil and lack of herbaceous cover.

The beaver pond contained a small stream winding its way through the middle of the wet and bare soil with bleached stumps scattered throughout. A large beaver dam in with a huge gap in the middle explained the rather dry conditions. There was more water on the eastern side of the dam but only a little more than on the western side.

After passing the eastern end of the dry beaver pond, I reentered the forest and crossed to the southern side of the rocky stream. This prepared me for locating my campsite on the southern shore of Cropsey Pond. After unsuccessfully searching for an acceptable campsite along the northern shore of Cropsey Pond on a previous trip, I was bound and determined to try to find one along the southern shore.

I made my way to what appeared to be a peninsula on the topographic map. In actuality the wet bay to the south is mostly full of vegetation due to a series of beaver dams within one of the inlet streams feeding Cropsey Pond. I found a nice campsite on top of a hill overlooking the pond (point 20) and started setting up my tarp around 6:30 PM, well before dark.

Dry beaver pond

Wet portion of dry beaver pond

While setting up my campsite, I spotted a pair of common goldeneyes on the pond; my last species for the 2010 Birdathon. Later, I observed a male mallard and a pair of hooded mergansers on the pond. Spring peepers were keeping me company by calling nearby throughout the evening. A beaver swam around in the vicinity of my campsite, frequently swatting the water with its tail in an attempt to scare me away (it didn’t work). By 9 PM I headed off to sleep since it had been a long and rough day and I was exhausted.

To see the bird species detected at the beaver pond northwest of Cropsey Pond click here.

And thus ends the 2010 Birdathon….

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