Warm-weather birding

Early Spring Birds

Spring is slow in developing in the Adirondacks. One day is sunny and warm, while the next is chilly, raw, and wet. It offers us all a lesson in patience.

The birds likewise must be patient in the spring. Warm late winter days are often marked by the songs of species like Brown Creeper, Dark-eyed Junco, and Purple Finch. But cold days are largely quiet as the birds resume their winter vow of silence and eat to stay warm.

Spring is also noted by the differing fortunes of each day – the species composition changes regularly throughout the season, meaning birders need to be out as much as they can be in order to maximize their chances of finding something of interest. This is easily seen early in the season when water birds drop into the open holes forming on iced-over Adirondack lakes. One day may offer species like Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, or Bufflehead, and another day a completely different suite of species. In this way uncommon or rare species may be found, and anyone interested in looking for waterfowl and other aquatic species should visit Lake Champlain, checking out their website here. There they can find a long list of ducks as well as species like Red-necked Grebe, Horned Grebe, and Pied-billed Grebe.

Sparrows, Raptors, and a Growing Diversity

Early spring is also marked by a trickle of songbird arrivals, often led by the likes of Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Song Sparrows. Once again, its slow beginnings seems to test our patience as we all chomp at the bit for the arrival of May. But soon Eastern Phoebes and a long list of sparrows arrive in our yards, woodlots, and hedgerows, and April morning are often a chorus of Dark-eyed Juncos, Chipping Sparrows, and White-throated Sparrows, while we search through the flocks for Vesper, Savannah, Fox Sparrows, and others. Late March and April also often hold a few wintering species which increase our local diversity as Snow Buntings and American Tree Sparrows clear out on their way north.

At the same time April offers birders an array of raptors – some arriving to nest for the season and others passing through. And so we begin to hear the chatter of Merlin, the high-pitch whistle of Broad-winged Hawks, and piercing calls of Osprey for the first time of the year. At the same time, night-time raptors like Barred Owls and Northern Saw-whet Owls also pick up their vocalizations as they set up territories and search for mates. Nights in local marshes can also be exciting with the pumping calls of American Bitterns or the haunting winnowing of Wilson’s Snipe.

And all the while forest birds continue to arrive. Hermit Thrushes, Blue-headed Vireos, Northern Flickers, Palm Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Pine Warblers all show up for the season. Then the region is inundated by about a gazillion twitching wings of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and May begins with our first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and a chorus of White-crowned Sparrows.

May!

The numbers of songbirds continue to grow with the arrival of Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Black-billed Cuckoos, Wood Thrushes, Veeries, Swainson’s Thrushes, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Alder Flycatchers, Red-eyed Vireos, Philadelphia Vireos, Olive-sided Flycatchers, and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers. And everywhere and from every habitat sing the warblers. About 20 species of warblers breed in the Adirondacks with more species passing through in the spring, and birders can search for the likes of American Redstarts, Black-throated Green Warblers, Canada Warblers, Ovenbirds, Nashville Warblers, Northern Parulas, Blackburnian Warblers, and everything else in between. And no birders should forget to take the time to search through some of our local boreal habitats for resident species like Gray Jay, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Boreal Chickadee.

With so much to look at and search for, spring easily leads us into summer without us hardly noticing. And so June begins with loads of birds and loads of bird song and the Adirondack Boreal Birding Festival in Hamilton County. It marks the beginning of another birding season which is not to be missed.

Plan your birding trip today and check out our lodging and dining options to round out your adventure!