Mountain chickadee on branch

New York has wonderful birds. I love New York’s birds with a passion, from the parti-colored pigeons to the spring warbler fiesta to Jamaica Bay’s herons and ibises (but not the sandpipers. Never the sandpipers.)

Still, there’s something about the moment, at six am, when two Sandhill Cranes stand tall out of the marsh grass and set up a back-and-forth call that echoes off the mountains. Or the equally raucous cries of two Great Blue Herons in low flight through the mist over the lake. Or the blended high and low chorus of Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees picking through a larch together, with the occasional bleat of a Northern Flicker or a Red-naped Sapsucker in the mix. Yes, summer, when heat and humidity bow down even the hardiest New Yorkers, is a fine time to get back to the mountains and check in on what’s going on.

What was going on along Seeley Lake was fledging. Young, rough-looking Mountain Chickadees, Orange-crowned and Yellow Warblers, fluffy little Mallards, young Tree Swallows and more abounded. These young birds were met with some easy pickings, at least the insect-eaters among them; all sorts of bugs abounded, especially (to my sorrow) mosquitoes.

There was more general business of life too; Common Ravens chatted querulously about the appearance of our party at Camp Paxson, where a couple of friends were getting married, and a brilliant adult Bald Eagle perched over the ceremony to the delight of the photographer. I even spotted a pair of American Dippers on the way home, and while I can no longer use this as an automatic excuse to taunt Corey, that hardly takes the luster off these unique birds.

I’ll be back in New York in early August, leaving plenty of time to be frustrated by sandpipers; but first, I’ll enjoy the mountains a bit more.

Written by Carrie
Carrie Laben, after years of writing and birding in New York, moved to Montana to pursue her two great passions more effectively. She recently graduated with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Montana in Missoula. When she is not cranking out essays and speculative fiction stories, or wandering around on mountains failing to see the birds she is looking for, she is likely to be drinking one of the many fine local microbrews or attending a potluck with something from the local farmer’s market in hand. On Mondays from 3 to 3:30 Mountain Time you can find her answering questions about birds on live chat at