Cool-weather birding

In search of open water

Winter begins to spread its icy fingers across the Adirondacks and the Olympic Region during the cold fronts of fall, as northerly winds push waterfowl along our lakes and songbirds through our yards and woods. Because of this, a wide diversity of birds can be found in the region during the late fall, but as fall transforms into December our lakes begin to freeze and the ducks like Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, and White-winged Scoter - which had been stopping through places like Lake Colby and Lake Clear – must go elsewhere the find open water. 

That means birders in search of waterfowl must also go elsewhere as the cold locks up our lakes. And so birders might plan a short day trio to to the nearby Lake Champlain Region where the wide, lapping waters hold aquatic species like ducks and gulls throughout the winter. 

The Adirondack Coast is also the best place to watch for wintering field birds such as Snow Bunting, Horned Lark, and American Tree Sparrow, as well as less common species like Lapland Longspur. Fields are also the chosen haunts of raptors including Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks as Bald Eagles hunt along the edge of the ice on Lake Champlain. Species like Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk occasionally linger into winter and they are sometimes found early in winter in the middle of the mountains – mostly visiting bird feeders. After all, every collection of bird feeders maintains a group of hardy wintering birds which may not only attract a persistent Cooper’s Hawk, but may also draw in a Northern Shrike. 

Sought-after species!

And feeders not only maintain a diversity of common birds during winter and offer the chance to see a raptor grocery shopping, they also present a place to await the arrival of some of our most sought-after winter species. After all, northern finches in search of food often grace not only our bird feeders but also our woodlands during the fall, and the excitement for their arrival heightens as we reach winter. For warm-up, American Goldfinches and Purple Finches often wander through during the fall, some perhaps staying into the winter depending on the weather.  

Of more interest to birders are regular Pine Siskins and the potential for Evening Grosbeaks – the latter species already making a short-lived movement through the region a few weeks ago. This year also holds potential to be a good Common Redpoll year and these denizens of the arctic could show up in the coming weeks, potentially hiding Hoary Redpoll in their ranks. More exciting still, there have been growing numbers of reports of Pine Grosbeaks in the northeast and it is a matter of time before this irruptive species is found in the area dining on ornamental fruit trees. The same is true of Bohemian Waxwings - another northern species which is often found in towns and yards eating fruit. And, not to be outdone by birds which routinely come to yards for fruit or seed, both Red and White-winged Crossbills can be found in coniferous forests of the region – chowing down on the seeds hidden within the cones. 

Boreal birds

Searching for crossbills often takes birders into the boreal haunts of the region where they can not only find the almost nomadic crossbills, but also resident boreal species as well. This makes winter a great time to look for Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, and Gray Jay – the trickiest issue is accessing the locations which may be closed by snow in the cold months. As such Bloomingdale Bog and Bigelow Road are great places to check for these species since they remain accessible to birders year-round, and birders can enjoy a splendid winter day by spotting Black-backed Woodpeckers or feeding inquisitive Gray Jays in search of a handout. 

Vacation Migration

Autumn is a great time for us humans to migrate to the Adirondack's coolest place. Find your nest.  Saranac Lake has great places to dine, along with miles of trails and waterways for hiking and fishing — two great ways to get your birding on. So what are you waiting for? Come join us  — you'll be glad you did. 

Madawaska Pond

Location: Paul Smiths, New York
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Saint Regis Mountain Area

One of the recently dubbed Saranac Lake 6ers, St. Regis Mountain is a nice hike with an excellent view of the numerous lakes which compose...
Location: Paul Smiths, New York
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Paul Smith's College VIC | Birding

The roughly 25 kilometers of trails which compose the property of the Paul Smith’s College VIC offer birders a great opportunity to...
Location: Paul Smiths, New York
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St. Regis River – Santa Clara Flow

The St. Regis River not only offers phenomenal paddling, but also excellent birding and one of the best places to explore for birds is...
Location: Santa Clara, New York
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Bloomingdale Bog Trail

Bloomingdale Bog Trail South The Bloomingdale Bog Complex encompasses a wide area with a variety of habitats. The south entrance to the...
Location: Saranac Lake, New York
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Osgood River

The Osgood River takes paddling birders into one of the best boreal habitats in the region. Access to the river comes through Osgood Pond (...
Location: Paul Smiths, New York
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Jackrabbit Trail - Saranac Lake

This long and well-known cross country skiing trail is also a great place to go birding and the Saranac Lake segment begins along McKenzie...
Location: Saranac Lake, New York
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St. Regis River – Santa Clara Flow

The St. Regis River not only offers phenomenal paddling, but also excellent birding and one of the best places to explore for birds is...
Location: Santa Clara, New York
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Jones Pond

If we want to spot birds on the water, Jones Pond is a wonderful choice. Much of the shoreline is public land, with a nice sandy...
Location: Paul Smiths, New York
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Scarface Mountain | Birding

Scarface Mountain in Ray Brook is not only one of the Saranac Lake 6er hikes, but it can also offer nice birding as well. For the first...
Location: Ray Brook, New York
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