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Great Fall Birding!
Nov
12
2016

A Shifting Mix of Ducks

As always this time of year, the birds Wren and I see on our walks change daily, and it is always enjoyable to see what we will find. That means I have to get out as much as I can and Wren is good about not allowing me to forget to do so. Lake Colby is always a happening place this time of year, and once again it has not disappointed us this year. Ducks use the backside of the lake as a stopover on their way south and Bufflehead have been leading the way there during the beginning of this year’s waterfowl migration.

But Bufflehead are not the only waterfowl species I’ve found there. I’ve seen Ring-necked Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers, Mallards, and Common Goldeneye there all within the past week, as well as other aquatic birds like Common Loons and a Horned Grebe. With the migration of such aquatic species underway, Wren and I also head to Lake Clear Beach as often as time allows. It is a good arrangement because Wren plays in the sand on the beach while I scope the open water. In the past few days I’ve found ducks like Ring-necked Ducks and a lone Long-tailed Duck – a bird not often found in the middle of the Adirondacks. More exciting than these, however, were the Red-necked Grebe and the Red-throated Loon – the latter being the first I’ve seen at Lake Clear. It stayed at least two days, but I haven’t seen it since. It shows how quickly things can change and the importance of checking out these places regularly.

Red-throated Loon

Songbirds on the Move

The same is true of songbirds migrating through the area this time of year. Some birds have been consistent - Fox Sparrows have been gracing my yard for over three weeks now – and they are often in good numbers. My daily counts rose from 1 to 3 to 4 to 5 to 6 to 7 to 9, and then culminated at 11 two days ago! Not only that, but they’ve been singing too – I love hearing them! They’ve also been singing along Lake Colby – and I’ve found one or two at the bird feeders at Hulbert’s Supply Company on many of my walks. In fact, Colby has been just as good recently for sparrows as it has been for ducks, and I’ve found Song, Swamp, White-throated, American Tree, and Chipping to go with the Fox Sparrows all in the company of a large flock of Dark-eyed Juncos.

Fox Sparrow - Larry

And as the sparrows move through the area so do other species. Pine Siskins have increased of late and they and American Goldfinches are regulars on all of our walks. Wren and I have also found a few Rusty Blackbirds – a species of growing conservation concern – and I was happy when I found them along Lake Colby the other day. They are most regularly found in wetlands and I also noted one near Saranac Lake High School a week ago as well – the same day I found 2 Wilson’s Snipe, a late shorebird still on the move. I’ve also recently found a few Snow Buntings along the railroad tracks along Colby – on their way out of the arctic.Snow Bunting - Larry

Northern Visitors

Of even more interest to birders from outside the North Country, this past week has seen an influx of two sought-after northern species. First Evening Grosbeaks began to be seen by observers scattered across the region – mostly at bird feeders. One was seen at Lake Colby by a friend of mine and two days later we found 5 of them. Not to be outdone by the grosbeaks, I found 4 Bohemian Waxwings along Colby that same week – after finding some near Tupper Lake. And just three days ago a small group of Bohemians turned up in my neighborhood. Adding to this excitement of upcoming winter birding, I spotted a Northern Shrike hunting over the bog mat on Lake Colby two days ago. It sat on the top of the low spruces and firs, twitching its tail as it hunted for unsuspecting songbirds. It all bodes well for an exciting end of fall and beginning of the winter.Evening Grosbeak - Larry

But the shrike was a lucky, fleeting find – in fact it flew off and I didn’t see it on my return trip back along the railroad bed. And the day after our recent cold front, my Fox Sparrow numbers dropped from eleven to three. It accentuates the point that these birds are often only here briefly and our window to appreciate them is limited. With no time to waste Wren and I are out as much as we can be – enjoying the fun of the fall migration while we have it at our doorstep.

Fall and winter are great for birding and other outdoor activities in the Adirondacks' Saranac Lake Region. Check out our  lodging and dining pages and plan your own birding adventure!

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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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