Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Unpredictable Northeast Kingdom

I spent the past week in the northeastern part of Vermont on a fishing trip. This region of the state is referred to as The Northeast Kingdom or simply "The Kingdom" by locals. In 2006, The National Geographic Society named it as the most desirable place to visit in the country. I have no idea how they arrived at such a conclusion, but I do agree that it is a beautiful area. The top photo is of the farm road that our rental house was on. It connects to the Vast snowmobile trail, which led me to a nearby swamp with beavers and an active heronry.

Four of us went on the trip this year; my father, my cousin, a family friend and myself. A fishing trip, like most other trips, requires careful planning including choosing an area to have good fishing opportunities, the proper boat for the area, fishing gear, food supplies, etc. The reason you do all this is that you hope to have a certain degree of control over the outcome of your trip. The reality is that virtually nothing in life is certain and this trip was a reminder of that.

We did not catch a lot of fish as we had hoped. Probably the top fish caught was a 21" Lake Trout, but other than that the fishing was very slow. Fishing can be unpredictable in these areas. The fishfinders shows there are loads of trout in the ponds but if the water temperature isn't just so then they won't bite. I find that the weather forecasts aren't reliable in the far northern regions either. All week I saw rain in the forecast but other than the day we arrived, we barely saw a drop. I hoped to finally find the elusive Black-backed Woodpecker at a place called "Moose Bog" during our stay but the only woodpecker I saw in that area was a Northern Flicker. The house we stayed at was more than adequate but some of us were disappointed to find that the pool table that was listed on the website turned out to be nothing more than a toy. From my standpoint, it was more house than we needed. I prefer a simple cabin in the woods where the emphasis is on nature and you don't have to be concerned about breaking anything. We still enjoyed the trip even though not everything worked out exactly as planned.

Coincidentally, I had been listening to an audio book on my MP3 titled-Comfortable With Uncertainty-108 Teachings . I don't identify myself with any particular religion, but this book had some interesting insight about accepting the unpredictability in life. I found that the narration, which was delivered in a whispered, breathy, tone with flute music playing in the background, also served well as a natural sleeping aid.
I either saw or heard a good number of birds within walking distance of the house. There were numerous Black-throated Blue (above) and Black-throated Green Warblers constantly singing in the area, but they were tricky to photograph. Most of the warbler photos seemed to be blurry or lacked the lighting to show their color, like this one. The male Black-throated Blue Warblers are very pretty when well lit by sunlight. They also have a very soothing Zurr, Zur, Zur Zwee song. I was impressed by the sheer number of those two species. Other interesting species that I encountered near the property included: Blackburnian Warbler, Swainson's Thrush, Belted kingfisher, Common Loons, Common Mergansers , Adult Male Northern Harrier (Gray Ghost), Red-breasted Nuthatch, Ruffed Grouse, Barred Owl, Osprey, and Broad-winged Hawks.
We saw a big hill in the distance that had been cleared by a logging company and decided to climb to the top to get a view. This is a view overlooking Lake Seymour with some mountains in the background. The house we were staying at would be in the left hand corner of the grassy field on the right side of the picture.
I fished for some Brook Trout in this small stream on my way back down the hill. I caught 8 brookies, which were very small but fun to catch anyway. I caught them with worms that we collected the night of our arrival. It rained that day and we were able to collect enough to last the entire week. Anything to save a buck.
As you can see from this photo, I didn't get back until it was nearly dark. Once the sky turned dark, there were thousands of brilliant stars visible in the night sky. Deer and turkey visited these fields every day.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife turned out to be a valuable source of information for places to fish and hike. One of the places they suggested was "Unknown Pond" near the town of Norton. My cousin and I found the name to be very intriguing. The only way to reach it was by hiking up to the top of a very steep hill, way out in the woods. We were getting pretty winded on the way up so I stopped to take some photos of plants. I think the top one is some kind of Trillium. Can you identify this yellow-flowered plant?
After a couple of cell phone calls to Charlie at the Vermont fish and game, we finally found Unknown Pond. We walked around the entire shoreline. That's my cousin Bob walking along the shoreline.
Are these frog eggs of some sort or something else altogether?
What type of birds would one expect to see at the top of a mountain in the middle of a remote part of Vermont situated at the top of a mountain in an Unknown Pond? - Gray Jays? Bicknell's Thrush? Boreal Chickadee? The answers to those questions are No, No, and No. To my surprise, I found a pair of Solitary Sandpipers feeding along the edge of the pond. Not what I expected at all.
The above photo is of a Magnolia Warbler, which was taken in The Wenlock Wildlife Management area. It took us two attempts to find the trail to Moose Bog and I was lost in the woods for an hour on the first attempt. I was sort of disappointed that I never found the Black-backed Woodpecker, but then again, I'm afraid once I find it, the thrill of the search will be over. We did spook up a grouse which might have been a Spruce Grouse, but we didn't get a good enough look at it. Most of the birds we saw were along the main dirt road. I saw my very first Boreal Chickadee who was singing a raspy song in a tree branch above me. He only gave me a quick look before flying off into parts unknown. We had an excellent view of a singing Canada Warbler. There were plenty of Golden-crowned kinglets in the area and Winter Wrens were singing everywhere.
click to play
I was able to catch two very short clips of the Magnolia Warbler, which I spliced together, but at least I was able to capture it while it was singing.
No trip up north is complete without spotting a moose. "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat". - See you next time Bullwinkle!

19 comments:

Nan said...

I am so pleased I can answer a question for you after all the knowledge you have given me! The yellow flowers are trout lilies. You were up in my part of the world - different state but close. Beautiful moose. And those birds are wonderful - not familiar to me, most of them.

Kallen305 said...

Larry, great shot of the Solitary Sandpiper! It sounds as if you had a great time up North with a lot of great birds and other things. Your troup lillies are beautiful!

Carol said...

Love that Moose. In all the time I spent hiking and hunting in VT...I never saw a Moose.

www.wildlifearoundus.blogspot.com

Larry said...

Nan-thanks for identifying the flowers for me. I've been through most of Northern New England. I really like the scenery.

kallen-thanks-it was surprising tome to see the Solitary up on a mountain top.

Larry said...

Carol-If you ever visit the Connecticut Lakes region in New Hampshire, you are sure to find several if you drive up route 3 between Pittsburg and the Canadian border at dusk.-In Vermont-114 heading up towards The Averil Lake area is good.

Whitemist said...

Ah, the trillium. First on I saw was in West Virginia 31 years ago. Loved it. I can not believe they have the trout Lillies up already. I have seen them in Stamford, but not yet this year.
The moose reminds me of a trip I took to Yellowstone when I was young, great shot!

Lana Gramlich said...

Very cool! Vermont is a beautiful state. That whole area's very nice, actually...New Hampshire, New Brunswick, etc.

matthew houskeeper said...

Beautiful!
Years ago I went on a canoeing trip on the CT River just south of St Johnsbury, VT. Loved it.

Blessed With Four said...

One day - one day I will get up that way and view what you have shared. What a delight it would be to see a moose in real life, what a truley special animal they must be. The farthest I have been is New York for some training and I did not get to adventure out of the city (Rochester). I have to make plans to visit the New England states - will put it on my bucket list LOL

Thanks for sharing Larry - as always

MaineBirder said...

Sounds like you had a great time. Moose, wildflowers, birds and frog eggs. Nice find of the Sandpipers!

Larry said...

Whitemist-Thanks-The moose makes a lot easier target to photograph than birds if you can find one.

Mathew-I don't mind canoeing if the canoes are stable enough.-It's a nice way to experience nature though.

Blessed with four-Thanks-My wife and I just watched the movie Bucket List last night-pretty
good.-

Mainebirder-Yes-A little bit of everything-Like a visual buffet of Nature.

dAwN said...

Oh..what a nice trip! Fishing and birding! Yes you have trout lilies there.. http://www.wildaboutgardening.org/en/features/section5/trout_lily/trout_lily.htm
I hear ya..I love rustic cabins in the woods. no frills...but glad your stay worked out fine..
and you caught fish and saw lots of birds!
like magnolia in video!

Crafty Green Poet said...

thanks for sharing your trip! Some of those photos could be of Scotland!

dAwN said...

Larry
for some reason I thought I left you a post about this already..but maybe not..

a few bloggers some of whom you are probably familiar with are getting together June 13th for a bird walk..check out this link http://is.gd/Cc9x you can reply in the comment section if interested.
Please join us if you are interested..spouses and or friends are welcome.

Kathiesbirds said...

Larry, what fun! I am jealous of all the birds you saw. I always love to explore new places! It looks lovely in spring but I bet its a bear in the winter! Sorry about the fishing and I'm with you on the simple cabin thing! All I need is a dry roof over my head, a good camp fire and a good book to read! (Oh, and a good meal helps a lot also!)

Larry said...

Dawn-Sounds interesting-If it's somewhere I can reach by car in an hour or so then I could probably make it.

Kathie-Yes -winters are pretty rough there.The ice doesn't melt on the lakes until late April or May.

Susan said...

oh so jealous! been going up to Vermont summers for nearly twenty years and never saw a moose! We did see a black bear run across the road last summer though :)

Ruth said...

My husband's annual spring fishing trip was less than successful this year too, with rain, wind and few fish. At least you had other things to interest you...better than sitting in a cabin playing cards til the weather clears. The Red Trilliums are also called Wake Robins. Nice assortment of birds!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Larry,
I always like to see the lists and pictures of birds you see on your trips, but I'm glad you saved the best (the moose!) till last. I would be totall thrilled for the chance to see a moose in the wild.