A great thing about families is how our obsessions can rub off on each other. My kids have caught a bit of my bird mania, and having a prospective Civil Engineer in the house means touring old locks and canals all around New York State. So even when I’m on a bird-centric trip, and aforementioned kid stayed home, I find myself fascinated by the stonework left behind by a vanished era’s highway.
Five Combines Feeder Canal Park runs along the old waterway between the Hudson River and Old Champlain Canal. Mixed hardwood stands, a large grassy field (OK, it’s a capped landfill), and a cattail pond provide varied habitat. After several weeks of heavy rain, water thundered down the flight of locks that give the park its name.
Lock 4 seemed strangely narrow. Standard width for these smaller canals was 15 feet, but this one looked as though I could reach across it.
Lock 3 has started to collapse.The overgrown blocks of stone remind me of a lost jungle city.
The whole way down the path, we heard song and caught glimpses of common resident birds. The busiest spot was a pond before the last lock. A pair of Eastern Kingbirds tended their nest, secure in a tree surrounded by water, fuzzy little heads wobbling just above the nest edge. In a nearby snag Great Crested Flycatchers popped in and out of a hole. However late the season Baltimore Orioles never get tired of chasing intruders from their pendant nest.
At the last lock, a slow-flowing wetland leads to the old Champlain Canal and 7 miles of towpath.
A mothers’ group of female Mallards preened and chatted while their ducklings disappeared into the reeds. One stood on a nest and eyed us suspiciously.
30 species, all residents. Not a great birding day, but a pleasant break in the persistent precipitation.