Leaves and Songbirds

While the fame of fall’s splendor often stems from the changing red, orange, and yellow leaves, it is equally as amazing for birding. It begins during the dog days of the latter half of the summer when shorebirds pass through the region on their way back from the arctic, and when mixed flocks of songbirds whisper fall to whoever is watching and listening. Scarlet Tanager (photo courtesy Glenn Bartley/Vireo)

These flocks can be fantastic. Their diversity can be composed of Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo Buntings, Least Flycatchers, Olive-sided Flycatchers, Philadelphia Vireos, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Blue-headed Vireos, Black-billed Cuckoos, Veeries, Swainson’s Thrushes, Wood Thrushes, and a long list of warblers. After all, over 20 species of warblers pass through the region during migration, and their numbers can include any of the following:

  • Yellow Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Pine Warbler
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Northern Parula
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Ovenbird
  • Palm Warbler
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Canada Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Mourning Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Bay-breasted Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Cape May Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • American Redstart
And these flocks can be found along any road, any hedgerow, marsh, field, or trail in the region as they move through the trees and bushes in search of food, and they offer almost endless possibilities as each flock is different from the last. But their numbers and diversity are short-lived, and just as the individual flocks pass through the trees and suddenly seem to vanish, the time of year when we have such diversity is soon gone as well. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (photo courtesy Brian E. Small/Vireo)

That means that we need to take advantage of such opportunities when we can, but the departure of the flocks doesn’t leave us empty-handed. Some warbler species – like Yellow-rumped Warbler – linger later than the others, and they are part of the fall assemblage of species which includes Black-capped Chickadee, Blue-headed Vireo, Brown Creeper, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and White-breasted Nuthatch. The warblers are also soon followed by sparrows and our locally breeding Song, White-throated, Chipping, Swamp, and Dark-eyed Junco are joined by species like Savannah, Fox, White-crowned, Field, and Vesper. And, since fall is often the best time of year for rare or out-of-area species, birders should be prepared for odd species should they come across them.

Boreal Birds and Finches

Contrasting with the migrants, fall is also a great time to search for our resident boreal species such as Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, and Boreal Chickadee in places like the Roosevelt Truck Trail and the Route 28N corridor in Minerva. Such places are also excellent for Pine Siskin, Red Crossbill, and White-winged Crossbill, and all three may arrive in mid-fall, or in years like this year when our conifers are draped in cones, crossbills may already be present in numbers.


Mid-fall is also a good time to listen for the flight calls of American Pipits and Snow Buntings, and it is also the time of year when we often find the first Bohemian Waxwings and Northern Shrikes of the season – which may remain in the area all winter. But while shrikes are relatively rare in the fall – other species of raptor are not. In fact, the fall hawk migration is spectacular, and birders can find any species of raptor from Merlin to Northern Harrier, to Red-shouldered Hawk, to Golden Eagle.


But as fun as it can be to observe, the hawk migration may not touch the migration of water birds through the region, when the assortment of birds on local lakes, Schroon Lake, Lake George, and Lake Champlain includes ducks and geese like Red-breasted Merganser, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, all three species of Scoter, Brant, Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal, and both species of scaup. Other birds include Red-necked Grebes, Horned Grebes, Red-throated Loon, and Common Loon. In fact, any species which occurs in the North Country can be found during the fall. Many of these species will spend the winter on the open waters of Lake Champlain once the local lakes have frozen, and interested birders may want to check out that website to learn more.

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.