Trip Reports
Massawepie Mire, Adirondacks — June 7, 2009
posted 7/28/09 

Note: This field trip was sponsored by the Northern New York Audubon Society, a NYSYBC Partner Club. Many thanks especially to Joan Collins of Northern NY Audubon, who led a great bird walk for us.

At the first bridge, photo by Erich Lehner
At the first bridge, photo by Erich Lehner

Just three young birders joined Joan Collins, the tremendous leader from the Northern New York Audubon Society, at Massawepie Mire in the Adirondack Region of New York. We started off by birding the many roads leading into the mire and the area around the Massawepie Boy Scout Camp. Some of our first birds were warblers such as Black-throated Green and American Redstart. We also heard Wood Thrushes, vireos and many other warblers and also saw some Common Loons. 

We then stopped at a small parking lot and walked across a bridge and got a few more warblers and flycatchers. Some of us also got good looks at a Philadelphia Vireo in a tree. However, our attention was suddenly pulled towards the distant singing of an Olive-sided Flycatcher which is a boreal forest specialty and a lifer for some of us.

Then, we went back to our cars, stopped briefly and proceeded on into the mosquito death trap of the mire along a dirt road. Here we walked seven miles and got amazing looks at Palm Warblers feeding young, two families of Gray Jays and a Black-backed Woodpecker flying back and forth from its nest cavity at the Grasse River. These were lifers for some of us and amongst other birds, were the highlights of the trip.

Ovenbird, photo by Erich Lehner
Ovenbird, photo by Erich Lehner

On the way back to the cars, we marveled at a sign that threatened us if we trespassed but we didn’t dare test the threats because we were urgent to get out of the vast mosquito swarms. We then went to lunch at the Thirsty Moose and reflected on the trip and discussed the checklist. Thanks to Joan’s local knowledge and her ability to discern such diverse songs and calls, we ended up with 70 species for the trip.  

This trip was held the weekend of the Great Adirondack Bird Celebration. If you registered for the celebration, you were supplied with a delicious lunch at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center and some field trips to hotspots such as Bloomingdale Bog and Whiteface Mountain. There were even demonstrations and talks throughout the weekend that provided visiting birders with amazing knowledge, stories, and great birds. 

                                             — Greg Lawrence,age 16

The following was posted by Joan Collins, our birding leader, on the NNYBIRDS mailing list:
6/7/09 Massawepie Mire in SE St. Lawrence Co. (5:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)

Lunch at The Thirsty Moose, photo by Carena Pooth
Lunch at The Thirsty Moose
photo by Carena Pooth

Northern NY Audubon, in partnership with the NYS Young Birders' Club, held a field trip at Massawepie Mire on Sunday. It was chilly when we started (temps in the 40s), but it warmed up into the 50s during our hike. We were very fortunate to have calm winds during the entire trip, and just as we sat down to a nice lunch at the "Thirsty Moose (Pub & Grub)" in Childwold after the trip, the rain began! (The Thirsty Moose is just a couple miles from Massawepie and the only place to eat in this area. It had quite a long menu for a place in the middle of nowhere!) There were swarms of mosquitoes and most people wore headnets. When the mosquitoes died down on our hike out, the black flies emerged!

We began the trip birding around the South Branch of the Grass River near the parking area. Just as we were about to head back toward the mire, I heard a distant, singing Olive-sided Flycatcher (SE of the clearing over the bridge). I don't know if it would be legal to hike toward the Olive-sided Flycatchers, but I suspect it would not be legal. We hiked into the mire as far as the second bridge over Silver Brook for a round trip distance over 6 miles. We did not have time to hike the Mountaineer Trail. Seventy species were found throughout the morning (with a Broad-winged Hawk found on the drive to the Thirsty Moose - it was clinging to the side of a dead snag in a Pileated Woodpecker-type position!). Here are some of the species found (for those on the NYS Birds list serve, Hope Batcheller posted all 70 species):

[Note: Joan's list has been edited to include only species for which she added comments, since the complete list is shown below.]
Common Loon - 2 on one of the ponds along the drive in
Black-backed Woodpecker - female flying back and forth over the South Branch of the Grass River (about 1.5 miles into the mire) on our hike out - we suspect it had a nearby nest (it was flying back and forth as we watched all the Gray Jays!)
Olive-sided Flycatcher (location described above)
Philadelphia Vireo (heard by one of the students near the entrance) (just a note: I personally only post this species when I actually see it)
Gray Jay - 7! Herb Thompson was hiking ahead of us on the way out, and found Gray Jays at the bridge over the S. Branch of the Grass River - he signaled for us to be quiet as we approached, and we found 2 families of Gray Jays with at least 7 birds observed at once. One family with 3 juveniles (1 adult observed) was on one side of the river, and across from them was another family with 2 adults and 2 juveniles observed. It was Gray Jay heaven! This was also a life bird for Herb, so that made it even more exciting!
Common Raven (a piercing juvenile scream was heard on our drive out)
Tree Swallow - only 1 observed at the mire
Warblers (17 species; it would have been 18 if we had found the Northern Waterthrush singing which we did not): Nashville, Northern Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Pine, Palm, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Mourning, Common Yellowthroat, and Canada)

Palm Warblers were observed feeding young and we observed a juvenile with a stubby tail. We saw a couple snowshoe hares, and one had back legs that were still white!

These parents are troopers! photo by Carena Pooth
These parents are troopers!
photo by Carena Pooth

I can't even begin to convey how inspiring it was to hike with such wonderful teenage birders. There are so many things competing for young people's attention these days, but the students on this hike were intensely dedicated to learning all about wildlife (two of them plan to major in wildlife biology in college). The NYS Young Birders' Club is a new organization (under a year old), and is open to birders age 10 to 19. If you know of any serious young birders, please let them know about this organization. Audubon Chapters and bird clubs around NY can sign on as partners with the NYSYBC and lead at least one field trip a year for young birders from around the state. The NYSYBC web site is located at: I would also like to note that the young birders on the trip have remarkable support from their parents. The parents support their children's passions by driving them all over New York State for field trips - and I might add, there were 3 non-birding parents on the trip that endured swarms of mosquitoes and black flies for 6 miles of hiking in boggy habitat with no complaints! (And a 5:30 a.m. start time for the trip!)

                —Joan Collins, trip leader, Northern NYAudubon, age withheld

             View photo gallery 

List of Birds Seen on this Trip
by Hope Batcheller

Ruffed Grouse
Common Loon
Great Blue Heron 1
Broad-winged Hawk
Mourning Dove 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 4
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Black-backed Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 2
Olive-sided Flycatcher 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 8
Alder Flycatcher 9
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher 2
Eastern Phoebe 2
Great Crested Flycatcher
Blue-headed Vireo 5
Red-eyed Vireo 10
Philidelphia Vireo
Gray Jay 8
Blue Jay 2
American Crow
Common Raven 1
Tree Swallow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 3
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper 1
Winter Wren 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird 2
Veery 1
Swainson's Thrush 2
Hermit Thrush 7
Wood Thrush
American Robin 1
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing 18
Nashville Warbler 15
Northern Parula 4
Yellow Warbler 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 7
Magnolia Warbler 10
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3
Black-throated Green Warbler 5
Blackburnian Warbler 9
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler 19 --- family group with very     recently fledged young
Black-and-white Warbler 1
American Redstart
Ovenbird 6
Mourning Warbler 4
Common Yellowthroat 6
Canada Warbler 6
Scarlet Tanager
Chipping Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 5
Lincoln's Sparrow 6
Swamp Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 14
Dark-eyed Junco
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Red-winged Blackbird
Purple Finch 1
Pine Siskin 2
American Goldfinch 1

Species Total: 70