Exciting Beginnings of Spring Migration!

Ringing Telephones in My Yard

I’ve been waking each morning of late to the jingling song of Dark-eyed Juncos which have been filling my yard and gorging on bird seed. I kept a few juncos around through much of the winter, but as spring has pushed in from the south they have followed in numbers. Then a new song was added to their ringing telephone chorus early last week. A Fox Sparrow – a migrant passing through the area – had joined the juncos. I stood at my back window and looked through the feeding flock and soon discovered a second Fox Sparrow. The next day there were 4, and there were at least 4 for a week straight. There are 3 or 4 in the yard again today.

Other Local Arrivals

The first day I heard the Fox Sparrow singing I also had my first Eastern Phoebe and Brown-headed Cowbirds in the neighborhood of the spring. There were also good numbers of Common Redpolls – on their way back to the arctic and evidently coming in from some place further south. To my surprise there was a Hoary Redpoll in their company – usually a bird found during the winter. Redpoll numbers dropped throughout the week with only a couple lingering to week’s end. They were replaced by growing numbers of Pine Siskins which have been chattering and buzzing everywhere of late. The siskins will likewise continue moving north as well, although some may stay in the region during the summer.

The same day the first Fox Sparrow arrived in my yard I found another Eastern Phoebe while walking the railroad tracks along Lake Colby – a follow-up to hearing my first Winter Wren of the year there a few days earlier. I also found a Palm Warbler chipping and flitting around the bog mat – my first warbler of any species in the area this year.Fox Sparrow - Larry

Lots of Birds at Intervale Lowlands

That same day I hiked with Wren at Intervale Lowlands Preserve in Lake Placid where among other things I saw an Osprey gliding overhead. I had seen an Osprey at Intervale the previous day as well as a few Rusty Blackbirds and a pair of Green-winged Teal. The blackbirds and teal of the previous day appeared to have moved on but I did find a large flock of sparrows – composed mostly of Dark-eyed Juncos – in the fields along River Road. I looked through the feeding flock and picked out several Song Sparrows, 3 Savannah Sparrows, an American Tree Sparrow still lingering from the winter, and a Vesper Sparrow – a species which is becoming increasingly difficult to find.

I returned to Intervale the following day and the sparrows appeared to have left. But I found a few pairs of Wood Ducks along the AuSable River and a male Northern Harrier hunting over the fields. It is this changing composition of the kaleidoscope of bird life which makes spring migration so exciting. Each day yields a different species, a different mix of birds, and a new opportunity to find something out of the ordinary. This same excitement brings with it a pressure to get out as much as possible and to not miss out on a species which may only pass through the region briefly.Palm Warbler - Larry

And so I was out again at Intervale yesterday evening, finding a string of male Wood Ducks in flight, and kicking up both a Wilson’s Snipe and an American Woodcock as I walked. The American Kestrels have been back on their nesting territory for the past week or so, and I also found a Merlin racing above the trees. An early Marsh Wren along the AuSable River topped off my list.

This morning found Wren and I first at Lake Colby, where we heard a singing Palm Warbler, and then at Intervale once again. This visit to Intervale was highlighted by a male Northern Harrier and a Broad-winged Hawk – yet another newly arrived species. It was a splendid spring morning to be out. And even with cooler weather and the potential for some light, wet snow by week’s end, the Adirondack spring has arrived. And it is bringing the birds. I’ll be out every chance I get.

If you are interested in planning a birding trip to the Adirondacks or the Tri-Lake Region, check out our birding, lodging, and dining pages. It is a great time to plan a visit!

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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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