On May 16, 2014, I participated in the Audubon Society’s Birdathon, a challenge to observe as many bird species within a single 24-hour period as possible. This was my eighth year participating in the event, all of which took place wholly or in part in the Adirondack Park. For the fourth time in five years, I returned to the Pepperbox Wilderness for another try at some bushwhacking birding, hoping this time to surpass my best results in the area of 51 species set back in 2011.
Unfortunately, things did not go as well as I hoped. In fact, this year’s results were the worst for the Birdathon in the Pepperbox Wilderness since I restarted my participation back in 2010. Not only were they the worst in the Pepperbox, but they were the worst of any year I had participated in the past, including 2002 when I birded the trails within the Five Ponds Wilderness during a late season snowstorm. That is pretty bad!
What were the reasons for such a terrible year? Nothing obvious stands out. The day before was very wet, with frequent and steady rain, enough so that a myriad of streams still flowed down every hillside the next morning. The early morning was frigid, apparently not only the cause of my late start, but that of the birds as well. Other than that, I am at a loss for a reason, other than just bad luck on my part. Maybe I am just getting older and cannot hear as well; next year’s results may show for sure.
Below you can find a table with the results of my birding/bushwhacking adventure through the Pepperbox Wilderness during the 2014 Birdathon. The numbers of detected species during the first four years of the Birdathon in this Wilderness Area are included for comparison. The method of detection (i.e. visual (V) or aural (A)) for those species detected this year through 2011 is listed, where for 2010 there is only a presence/absence indicator (X).
There were no highlights this year, in fact, many common birds went missing this year. Raptors were almost entirely absent, except for the turkey vulture. Flycatchers apparently took the day off, as not a single species showed up, despite the least flycatcher calling the day after along Raven Lake Road. The thrushes almost pulled the same trick, except for the hermit thrush. Two common sparrow species (swamp and song) decided to keep a low profile too, much to my chagrin.
This year’s Birdathon yielded only 41 dismal species, placing it at the bottom of my eight years of participation. This year was the worst year for the Pepperbox Wilderness, destroying (and not in a good way) last year’s total, the previous worst one. The bar graph compares the final number of bird species for the eight years of my Birdathon participation. Keep in mind, comparisons between the different Birdathons are problematic, given the different strategies employed and areas visited each year.
What will I do next year for the Birdathon? Probably return to the Pepperbox Wilderness once again. I am still not convinced that the area has yielded all it can in bird species. An obvious statement given this year’s pathetic results.
Wish me better luck for next year!