Birding in the Saranac Lake Area
The Changes of Early Spring

Early Raptors, Marsh Birds, and Songbirds

It often starts with the late winter and early spring songs of White-breasted Nuthatches and Brown Creepers, trading their winter silence on warming, sunny days. The icy armor on the surface of some of our lakes begins to show holes, and lakes like Lake Flower and Lake Colby in Saranac Lake provide brief stopovers for migrating waterfowl including Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Bufflehead, and Ring-necked Duck. 

And while spring cold fronts send a chill across the Olympic Region, each successive warm front from the south brings with it new arrivals as birds like Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Song Sparrows return to our region. They are followed by Eastern Phoebes, even as Purple Finches and Dark-eyed Juncos – species which may have lingered for part of the winter – begin to sing. 

At the same time, many species of raptors are passing through the region, or setting up their territories and nests for the season. Merlin return to nest in many of our tall pines, Bald Eagles call from their enormous nests, and Osprey begin to fish the cold waters of our opening lakes. April evenings are also often marked by the quacks and hoots of Barred Owls and the toots of Northern Saw-whet Owls. Night walks may also offer winnowing Wilson’s Snipe or pumping American Bitterns from area wetlands or the absurd-looking courtship ritual of American Woodcocks on some of our local fields.

The Diversity of Spring

For as we reach May much of the bird universe in the northern hemisphere is racing north to breed. And so May begins with our first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and a cacophony of White-crowned Sparrows, which often seem to be everywhere for about a week on their way to the arctic. And then it builds with the likes of Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-billed Cuckoo, Alder Flycatcher, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Least Flycatcher, and about a gazillion warblers.

In fact, 20 species of warblers nest in the Olympic Region each year, and others can be found during the migration, making the spring an amazing time to look for them. These include Ovenbirds, American Redstarts, and Black-throated Green Warblers singing in our deciduous forests, Canada Warblers in thick wet or coniferous thickets, Blackpoll Warblers singing from the tops of our mountains, and Palm, Magnolia, and Nashville Warblers offering songs from our coniferous and boreal habitats – like those in Bloomingdale Bog and Madawaska.

These same boreal habitats give us birders a chance to look for our resident boreal species – like Gray Jay, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Boreal Chickadee – which are joined by recently returned Lincoln’s Sparrows and Yellow-bellied and Olive-sided Flycatchers, and everything seems to have arrived in place and on cue for the Great Adirondack Birding Celebration, held the first weekend of June each year at the Paul Smith’s College VIC. And so spring slides into summer and one of the best birding months of the year in the Adirondacks. After all, spring in the Adirondacks is a time to enjoy and to savor and not one to be missed – mud season and all.

In June check out the Great Adirondack Birding Celebration at the Paul Smith's College Visitor Interpretive Center, a few miles from downtown Saranac Lake. Join local birding experts and naturalists in exploring boreal birds such as Boreal Chickadees, Grey Jays, Bicknells Thrush, and Black Backed Woodpeckers.


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