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Birdathon 2011: Bushwhacking Straight to Cropsey Pond After Failing to Get Around Moshier Ponds

Southernmost Moshier Pond

On May 21, 2011 I birded some of the ponds and streams in the northeastern Pepperbox Wilderness in the Adirondack State Park for the Audubon Society’s Birdathon. The Birdathon is a challenge to locate as many bird species as possible in a single 24-hour period. This would be my second attempt to perform the Birdathon in the Pepperbox Wilderness. The afternoon of the Birdathon found me trying to bushwhack around Moshier Ponds before a thunderstorm forced me to make a fateful decision.

Date: May 21, 2011
Length: 5.1 miles
Difficulty: Difficult (due to effort and length)

The morning of the Birdathon involved a bushwhack along the Deer Pond outlet stream from the southwestern shore of Sunshine Pond. And by shortly after eleven I had made it as far as the southernmost Moshier Pond (see point 17) but I still had a long way to go to arrive at Cropsey Pond before sundown.

Turning northwards from the southernmost Moshier Pond, I navigated along the eastern shore of the rest of the Moshier Ponds. The going was not too difficult at first despite the coniferous nature of the forest.

View Route in a larger map

Unfortunately, the going got much more difficult as the coniferous forest became denser and thick with blowdowns. The bushwhacking got so difficult I was forced eastward to avoid the worst of it, leaving me to only capture occasional glimpses of most of the Moshier Ponds. Taking photographs and recording bird species also became only forgot to take photographs but to record bird species. And recording bird species was the whole point of being there!

After about a hour and a half of struggling northward through what seemed to be an endless coniferous forest I was finally north of the largest and northernmost Moshier Pond (point #22). Since I missed most of the natural landmarks along the way due to the thick forest, my location was entirely determined by my Garmin eTrex Legend HCx.

Since I planned on going around the northernmost pond to its western shore before heading south I had no choice but to force my way through the inhospitable forest surrounding its shoreline. But when I attempted to head west I was blocked by a broad, indistinct and swampy stream feeding the pond from the north. Not being able to cross (or unwilling to get really wet doing it), I continued northward hoping to cross at some point where the swampy stream was either narrow or provided a natural bridge (e.g. a beaver dam).

Unfortunately, the denseness of the young conifers bordering the stream forced me back into the forest to the east before heading north again. When the opportunity presented itself I cut back west to check on the status of the stream. Although aerial photographs, which unfortunately I did not bring with me, suggest a couple beaver ponds along the stream (probably with corresponding dams), I never encountered any of them.

[popup url=”http://www.bushwhackingfool.com/Linked-Pages/Species-Lists/Birdathon/2011/Birdathon 2011 Birds along Moshier Ponds.html”]Bird species detected along eastern shore of the Moshier Ponds.[/popup]

As it got later in the afternoon and I still could not find a crossing over the stream, I started to worry about being able to finish my intended route to Cropsey Pond. And when I heard the rumbling of thunder off to the west I started to think seriously about abandoning my plan and heading straight for Cropsey, just as I had last year.

Deer Pond

As the rumbling got louder I changed back into my rain gear hoping my new Golite Tumalo rain pant’s rain preventing ability would hold off the storm. Unfortunately the skies got darker and I finally gave up all hope of preventing the forthcoming deluge and hunkered down within some dense young conifers to await the inevitable thunderstorm (point #25).

Unfortunately this storm was not a quick thunder shower. During the nearly hour long storm, as the rain poured down and the thunder crackled overhead, I decided I ran out of time and would have to abandon my original plan. Instead I would have to head directly south to Cropsey Pond so I could get out of the woods early enough the next morning to report my results by noon.

Finally the storm abruptly stopped as quickly as it had started. I took a new bearing to the southeast and I headed directly toward the northern part of Deer Pond on my way to Cropsey. Since there was a ridge between the Moshier Ponds and Deer Pond I figured the forest would be mostly hardwoods and therefore allow for much quicker bushwhacking.

Deer Pond outlet crossing

Soon after skirting a wetland to the south (point #27), I exited the coniferous forest and was able to make good time over a rise covered mostly in hardwood forest. Another shorter thunderstorm struck along the way but after it passed I continued on until reentering the coniferous forest around Deer and Sunshine Ponds (point #29).

Upon reaching the coniferous forest surrounding Deer Pond (point #33) I headed dead south crossing my previous path from earlier in the day. Finding a crossing over the Deer outlet stream was a challenge given the high water levels but fortunately the same beaver dam I have used in the past was still useable (#34). After crossing the stream, I headed uphill slightly west of south directly toward my appointment with Cropsey Pond.

The climb over the first ridge and descent into the valley located between Deer and Cropsey Ponds was largely uneventful. Thankfully so, since last year I broke one of my lightweight hiking poles on my way down to the series beaver ponds situated within the valley.

Thrush nest

I flushed a thrush off her nest at the base of a small striped maple on my descent. It was probably a hermit thrush but since it appeared as just a brown flash before disappearing into the forest I could not be sure of species. After taking a few quick photographs I returned to my trek to Cropsey as I did not want to dawdle around the nest and leave my scent for a predator to find.

When finally reaching the series of beaver ponds (point #39) I followed the shore of the stream northwest until locating an old beaver dam just before a large open marshy pond (point #40). I headed slightly westward so as to travel through the cull between the two little “peaks” along the ridge between my location and the drainage containing Cropsey.

I descended into the drainage just west of Cropsey, almost exactly in the same spot from last year. A large beaver pond used to exist here but the dam was now breached and only a muddy, grassy meadow remained. An American robin flew across the meadow as I headed upstream to the southeast toward Cropsey just like the previous year’s Birdathon.

Beaver meadow near Cropsey Pond

Finally, Cropsey Pond was reached at about 7 PM. I immediately located the same identical camping spot as the year before along the southern shore. Exhausted by the long day, I set up my campsite in the dwindling light as the sun set below the forest canopy to the west.

A male common goldeneye remained out on the pond as I was busy setting up my campsite. A beaver approached the shore near my campsite and repeatedly slapped its broad tail on the water in a futile attempt to chase me away.

The black flies were horrendous here, disrupting my attempt to enjoy a long overdue peanut butter and jelly sandwich I failed to eat for lunch earlier in the day. It appeared as if the black flies were swarming in a desperate attempt to have dinner before retiring for the evening. Unfortunately, they decided to have me for their dinner.

Cropsey Pond

The long, arduous day and the swarming black flies were enough for me to call it an early night, especially since the birds did not seem to be very active for some reason. As I fell asleep I contemplated another year of less than stellar Birdathon results and started planning for next year’s attempt.

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