The Great Adirondack Birding Celebration

Birds of All Kinds Flock Here

This past weekend I helped lead trips for the Great Adirondack Birding Celebration (the GABC) held at the Paul Smith’s College VIC (Visitor Interpretive Center). In its 12th year, the event brought together birders from across the northeast and even other parts of the country as they explored the region on a variety of field trips. I led the trips into Madawaska, a large complex of boreal and deciduous habitats that sits north and west of Paul Smith’s.

Great birding right along the roadside

We entered the area via Blue Mountain Road which runs north through the area’s varied habitats and we stopped here and there to look for birds. After all, many of the best places to bird in Madawaska are right along Blue Mountain Road. One such place is the bridge which crosses the St. Regis River. There we saw distant Wood Ducks in flight, singing Alder Flycatchers, Eastern Phoebe, Cedar Waxwings, and Yellow-rumped Warbler. After a bit of a hunt we located a singing Chestnut-sided Warbler, and everyone enjoyed nice views of it.

We continued down the road and stopped at a splendid stretch of boreal habitat where two Northern Waterthrushes were singing. We were soon looking at Black-and-White Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and listening to Nashville Warblers. After another search we saw a Canada Warbler which moved from its brushy and often difficult-to-see-into home to sing on open dead branches. Several folks walked up the road to try to spot one of the Northern Waterthrushes and to listen to a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, while others of us hunted near the cars for Yellow-bellied Flycatchers which proved too elusive for us to find.Magnolia Warbler - Larry

Listening for birds, a quick, "Three Beers" sounded

As we looked through the maze of gray twisted trunks and lush green foliage, a loud “Quick, Three Beers!” sounded from above us! An Olive-sided Flycatcher had flown in and was sitting on the top of a nearby snag singing! The bird threw its head back as it sang and showed us its olive sides which give it the appearance of wearing a green vest. I waved and called to the folks down the road a few of them hustled back quickly enough to get a brief look at the flycatcher before it flew out of view. It did at least keep calling in the distance and everyone heard it clearly.

Shortly after everyone returned, one of the Northern Waterthrushes (we realized there were really three singing males) hopped up into a dead tree in view and we were all happy to finally see one – they can be tricky to spot thanks to their thick habitat. Before we moved on, we heard the nasal calls of a Boreal Chickadee and soon the bird perched on the top of a low balsam fir and showed off its warm sides and brown cap.

Taking to the birding trail into the pond

With all this action to delay us, it took us a while to reach Indian Rock parking area. There we loaded our small backpacks and began the walk into Madawaska Pond along a series of flat, two-track roads. It was warm by this time, but thankfully our retinue of black flies was not particularly large. The deer flies proved to be more bothersome at the pond once we arrived there.Gray Jay

Birds are singing on this hike

Because it was warm, the trails themselves were a bit quiet, but we had lots of singing Nashville, Magnolia, and Canada Warblers as well as many Yellow-bellied Flycatchers and after some effort we were able to get a look at the latter. The pond itself was even more productive with Great-blue Heron, Ring-necked Duck, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Common Loon, Palm Warbler, and Common Yellowthroat. As we were turning to leave, someone heard a Black-backed Woodpecker and we started scanning across the bog mat for it. I made several Barred Owl calls in an effort to coax the woodpecker to come in to investigate and I did at least succeed in agitating it into calling more frequently. It eventually began popping in and out along the edge of the trees and several folks got quick looks at it.

We retraced our steps to the cars and began to wind our way back out along Blue Mountain Road. Along the way a Gray Jay appeared along the road edge and several of us were able to see it well. We also stopped again at the bridge across the St. Regis River where an Eastern Kingbird was perched, a nice species to cap off our morning. We moved on – it was lunch time and there were catered sandwiches and potato salad from Lakeview Deli beckoning us.

72 Species in 2 days at Madawaska

I was back in Madawaska the following day guiding again for the GABC and we had a similar mix of species. And, although we didn’t find a Black-backed Woodpecker on that day, we had a great looks at Mourning, Chestnut-sided, and Blackburnian Warblers as well as American Redstart and Northern Waterthrush. We had found 17 species of warbler on the first day and 18 on the second after picking up a Yellow Warbler. After all, Madawaska is a great place to look for warblers and all told we tallied 72 species. Read more about birding in this area on the Saranac Lake birding page. 

Spring Paddling on Lake Colby
Roughing it in style: a tour of White Pine Great Camp

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About The Author

Alan Belford has spent much of his life outdoors exploring and learning about wildlife – particularly birds. Alan is often out hiking, paddling, running, or cross country skiing – with his Labrador retriever Wren at this side. A certified teacher and former cross country, baseball, and ultimate frisbee coach, he loves teaching others and has taught multiple natural history (specializing in ornithology) courses for both college students and the general public. He is a licensed guide in New York State, he has traveled widely both domestically and internationally, and he is also a published travel writer and photographer – focusing on outdoor and nature writing.

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