The Seasonal Battle over the Weather
Winter first begins to assert itself in the Adirondacks and North Country during the latter half of fall. Cold fronts from the north bring with them sleet and snow, only to be followed up by warmer and often sunnier days as the seasonal fight over weather supremacy takes place in the skies above and on the landscape around us. These same cold fronts bring with them ducks and other aquatic species racing south on the wind, and birders across the region can find these birds stopped over on almost any body of water across the region – including Lake Colby and Lake Clear.
Waterfowl, Winter Finches, and other Winter Goodies
As December arrives, the cold usually wins the battle over the weather, freezing our local lakes and sending the ducks and other birds elsewhere. As such, birders in search of ducks, grebes, loons, and other aquatic species should check out either the Champlain Valley or along the St. Lawrence River north of Malone and they can learn more at the websites for either region.
But even as early winter chases away such species, it brings with it the opportunity for other birds. For starters, the late fall is often a time when species like Snow Buntings and American Tree Sparrows are pushed in the Adirondacks – even though they are more easily found throughout winter in the lowlands surrounding the park. And although our woods are much quieter during the winter than during the summer, winter is also a time when other species arrive at local bird feeders and late fall and early winter can be good for the likes of American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, and Purple Finch, with Evening Grosbeak also possible. In some years, Common Redpolls move south out of Canada, and large flocks may hide a Hoary Redpoll in their numbers. Likewise, some years are also good for Pine Grosbeaks, and birders in search of them should check any fruiting tree or shrub in the area.
The same is true of Bohemian Waxwings, which usually arrive in late fall and early winter, eat through the available fruit, and then spend the balance of the winter in the neighboring valleys and lowlands surrounding the Adirondacks. But Bohemians can arrive at any time during the winter – their food source to our north is quite variable from year to year – and they may be mixed with lingering Cedar Waxwings when they come.
Crossbills – both Red and White-winged – are also often around throughout much of the winter and this year’s crop of cones on our conifers promises to make it a good year for both species. After all, both species of crossbills nested locally during the summer and they are still around – possibly nesting again.
Boreal Birds and Snowy Owls
As if it was for our own convenience, crossbills are generally found in coniferous habitats where their preferred cones are most plentiful, which brings them to some of our best boreal habitats. In such places birders can likewise search for species like Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, and Boreal Chickadee. And while some of our boreal habitats are difficult to access once the snow piles too deeply, other locations like Bloomingdale Bog, Bigelow Road, and Oregon Plains Road are all easily reached by finch and boreal-bird-seeking birders.
And while raptors can become scarce during the winter, birders might find a lingering Cooper’s Hawk or Sharp-shinned Hawk at local bird feeders searching for unwary individuals. It is also the time of year when Northern Shrikes can be found along the edges of fields in the region, and this year promises to be another year when Snowy Owls move south from the arctic in search of food. And while most of the owls which arrive will hunt in the fields of the St. Lawrence and Champlain Valleys (where Snowies began to arrive in November), birders should be alert for them in appropriate habitats across the Olympic Region. It all makes winter a great time to explore the Adirondacks and North Country.
Find your nest in Saranac Lake. 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.