One of My Favorite Times of Year
While our recent warm weather and the general southerly flow of air had seemed to slow the arrival of migrants through the region, the last few days have really picked up the pace. It has added a great deal of excitement to my daily walks with Wren, and these mixed flocks of migrants and dispersing birds make the late summer one of my favorite times of year to go birding in the area as a result.
One of the best things about these flocks is that you can find birds almost anywhere. The cloudy - and at times, misty - conditions of late have been ideal to keep the birds active throughout the day, and I’ve been constantly distracted by them. A few days ago my morning walk with Wren at Lake Colby was marked by a Black-and-White Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroats, four Cape May Warblers, a Nashville, Magnolia, and two Bay-breasted Warblers. And this was on top of all the woodpeckers, Red-eyed Vireos, nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, and American Goldfinches - which seem to outnumber everything else (or at least make more noise than anything else).
It’s Active in My Yard!
The noise of the goldfinches is constant in my yard as the young birds, now fledged, follow their parents, begging for food and chattering nonstop. Their activity may well draw the attention of the migrant species for which I’m looking, but it is the Black-capped Chickadees which I tune into the most. The incessant twittering of chickadees often leads mixed flocks of birds through the woods on feeding forays, and I keep my bird feeders well stocked with the hope that if chickadees come, they will draw in other species too.
Whether or not that’s the reason for it, I have lots of success in finding migrating birds in my yard this time of year. The same day I had the flock of migrants at Lake Colby I had several species of warbler in the yard, including Blackburnian and Mourning. The following day I was doing some gardening and yard work but kept pausing to view the trees as waves of birds were coming through. The trees seemed to be full of Red-eyed Vireos which pounded down the berries on the dogwood – stripping it almost bare – the berries will be completely gone soon! They were joined by a Blue-headed Vireo and Scarlet Tanager, as well as large numbers of Chipping Sparrows and Purple Finches. I finally ditched the yard work for my camera and spent time trying to photograph them as I counted 8 species of warblers including Black-throated Green, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, and two Tennessee Warblers. I was so distracted by all of the activity that it took a while before I was willing to get back to work!
An Incredible Diversity of Species
This morning was much the same, but with a different mix of birds that included Black-throated Blue Warbler, Ovenbird, Bay-breasted Warbler, and likely those same two Tennessee Warblers. The flock also had a Scarlet Tanager and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. My walk with Wren at Lake Colby was equally productive as we found another 7 species of warbler including 4 Cape Mays – perhaps the same birds we had seen two days prior.
And perhaps that is the joy of this sort of birding. There are so many warblers and other migrants moving this way and that, that you never know what you will find in any given flock. As it is, in the past two days alone I’ve found 16 species of warblers between my yard and Lake Colby. And there are many others out there – it’s just a matter of getting out and finding the flocks moving through the trees.
As I mentioned above, almost anywhere is a good place to search in this endeavor. Brushy edge habitat along trails, lakes, streams, and in neighborhoods is great for finding migrating flocks, and the best thing birders can do is to just get out and spend time in the woods looking for them. Some great local places to search for them include Lake Colby, the Bloomingdale Bog Trail, the power lines trail in Gabriels, the Paul Smith’s College VIC, and Intervale Lowlands in Lake Placid. Almost any place in the area can be good right now!
The flocks will last until the first major fronts of fall push them south. With warm weather forecast for the next week and beyond, we still have time to enjoy them, but these migrant flocks are here for a limited time only. So I’ll be out enjoying them as much as I can in the coming weeks.
Now is not only a great time to come bird in the region, but also a good time to plan a birding or outdoor recreation trip for the fall. Check out our dining and lodging pages to help you plot your course on your next trip.