Adirondack Birding
Spring brings great birding to Saranac Lake.

Spring in the Adirondacks begins with a basic rhythm. Drip, drip, drip, drip. It is the tapping of melting snow and spring rains which sprinkle from the trees and our roofs, filling ditches, and flooding fields. Soon the water in the lakes begins to break apart, creating holes which are quickly employed by waterfowl on their way north. They are some of the first birds to show us that spring is here, even as winter holds onto the landscape as tightly as it can. Local lakes like Lake Flower and Lake Colby often have small contingents of Bufflehead, Ring-necked Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and Common Mergansers as a result, and lucky birders may find something less common in their midst. Even more impressive, the movement of waterfowl in the Champlain Valley numbers well into the thousands, and interested birders should check out that website to learn more. 

A song of summer

As the beat of dripping water is picked up and altered by the whirring wings of ducks and the honks of Canada Geese, it sets the tempo for arriving songbird species like Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Eastern Phoebes, which appear to sing spring into the warming air if the songs of White-breasted Nuthatches and Brown Creepers haven’t already done the trick. They are soon followed by more sparrows – like White-throated, Fox, Chipping, Savannah, Vesper, and Dark-eyed Junco, all of which add to the cadence of the season with their songs. It is a rhythm that picks up speed on the fast wings and loud calls of Merlin, the high pitch whistles of Osprey, and raucous cries of other raptors as they migrate through the region. 

Soon other birds are echoing the pattern of a world coming alive, as Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers drum their staccato rhythm and Blue-head Vireos ask questions from the trees, as American Bittern pump the base from the nearby marsh, and Ruffed Grouse thump their wings to the springtime pulse. Early warblers also sing from the bog mats and forests of the region – Palm, Pine, and Yellow-rumped — all harbingers of the feathered pattern that is to come. 

The haunting winnowing of Wilson’s Snipe fills evening outings as the comical buzz of American Woodcocks matches their awkward appearance and twittering night time flights in search of mates. Owls too are vocal as Barred Owls quack and hoot and Northern Saw-whet Owls toot the cadence of spring along the measure. And then the excitement builds as the beat grows to May.

It is then that the movement crescendos in a wave of color and song, led first by a chorus of White-crowned Sparrows on their way north. Soon it is the zipping sound of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and then it grows into a choir of vireos, tanagers, grosbeaks, sparrows, flycatchers, thrushes, cuckoos, and warblers. Twenty species of warblers breed in the Olympic Region alone and more than that can be found during migration. They include:

  • American Redstart
  • Bay-breasted Warbler
  • Black and White Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Canada Warbler
  • Cape May Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Mourning Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Northern Parula
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Ovenbird
  • Palm Warbler
  • Pine Warbler
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

Avian diversity

Their diversity is a wonder, and their rhythm includes the high-pitched notes of Blackpoll Warbler sung from mountain spruce-fir forests, the loud "teacher, teacher, teacher" of Ovenbirds in deciduous woodlands, and the choppy tempo of Canada Warblers emanating from hidden, wet thickets. It also includes the songs of Nashville, Palm, and Magnolia Warblers, sung from coniferous and bog habitats where birders can find the resident boreal species like Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal, Chickadee, and Gray Jay. All of these birds can be found during the Great Adirondack Birding Celebration held in Paul Smiths in early June.  

The rhythm of spring leads seamlessly into summer and the amazing time of the birding calendar it creates. It is a phenomenon which receives a standing ovation every time. And to think it all started with the dripping sound of melting snow. 

Vacation Migration

Summer 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. 

Upcoming Events

Friday, August 25th, 2017
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Friday, August 25th, 2017
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Join VIC Naturalists for a guided paddle on Barnum Pond via Barnum Brook. This two-hour program starts with a brief walk to our dock and includes at least one hour on the water. This is a perfect...

Friday, August 25th, 2017
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Join a VIC Naturalist for a guided walk along our flat to moderate trails. Topics vary and include wildflowers, tree identification, general ecology, and more!

Registration: ...

Saturday, August 26th, 2017
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Tour the studios and galleries of local artists

June 30 and July 1-2 | July 28-29-30 | Aug. 25-26-27 | Sept. 29-30 and Oct. 1 | Oct. 27-28-29 | Nov. 24...

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