Waterfowl and Changing Temperatures

As with any change in season, winter begins with a tug-of-war over temperatures as fall temps plunge one day only to rebound the next. But as December begins and the calendar races toward the holidays, winter is usually able to claim victory on a more consistent basis. And so our lakes (including large lakes like Schroon Lake), which have been supporting migrating ducks like Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and Common and Hooded Mergansers, freeze over, pushing these birds elsewhere. Birders interested in such species will be wise to head to points along Lake George or the southern Champlain Valley, where the lakes remain open for longer, and they can check out the Champlain Region website to learn more.

Winter Finches and Bohemian Waxwings

With winter’s arrival, our woods are often quiet, with the scattered chatters of Black-capped Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and perhaps a White-breasted Nuthatch or Brown Creeper to infuse life into the bare trees. But there are still flocks of birds around, as any trip to local bird feeders will show. These often support a variety of birds – most notably flocks of finches which may include Purple Finch, American Goldfinch, or Pine Siskin. Birders can also hope for Evening Grosbeaks or Common Redpolls, and in the years when redpolls move south from Canada, they often bring with them a few Hoary Redpolls as well.

Even less regular are Pine Grosbeaks which may be found in years when they’re isn’t much food to our north. They are usually noted in and around towns where ornamental shrubs offer them fruit to eat. The same is often true of Bohemian Waxwings, which come south during most winters, arriving any time throughout the season.

Snowy Owls, Shrikes, and other Specialties

And any gathering of birds may attract a hungry raptor which may not have left the region for an easier winter further south. This is particularly true for birders who take the short day trip from Schroon Lake to the Champlain Valley were local feeders might draw in a lingering Cooper’s Hawk or Merlin. The same is true of Northern Shrikes, which are attracted to the hedgerows of the region. The fields across the region may likewise keep some raptors around during the winter, and this year is anticipated to be good for Snowy Owls – on their way south from the arctic after a successful summer of raising young. Several Snowies were already spotted in the North Country by late November/early December.

And any field in the Adirondacks or surrounding valleys which attracts raptors can also be good for other wintering species like Horned Lark, American Tree Sparrow, Snow Bunting, or perhaps a Lapland Longspur with them.

But for birders who’d rather explore the forested Adirondack landscape, even the cold of winter offers sought-after specialty birds. These include Gray Jay, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Boreal Chickadee, species found year-round in the coniferous and boreal habitats of the region, including the Roosevelt Truck Trail and Cheney Pond and Lester Flow Trails between Route 28N and Blue Ridge Road. Such places make for great snowshoeing or cross-country skiing opportunities while looking for birds. And the entire Route 28N corridor south to Minerva offers similar habitats and birds if you want to stick closer to your car.

Not only that, but this year is forecast to be good for both Red and White-winged Crossbills, and both species were found in numbers this summer when they nested in the area thanks to the cone crop in our conifers. Crossbills can be found in many of the same places as our resident boreal species and their songs add life to the cold and often austere landscape of the Adirondack winter, evidence again that there are many good birds around regardless of the temperature outside.

And so fall leads us straight into the cold, white days of winter and all the birding opportunities they present. Find the perfect place to land with our lodging.