A Paddle (and Birding!) on Lake Clear Outlet

The End of a Beautiful Day

A splendid summer afternoon was turning to evening as Wren and I pushed off onto the waters of Lake Clear Outlet – one of my favorite local paddles. As I almost always do when I paddle, I skirted the outline of the waterbody, hoping to find birds and other wildlife tucked along the edge of the water. After all, the outlet is outlined in many places with a marshy margin, and I soon found a Great Blue Heron as a result. That was quickly followed by a Merlin which hunted from the tops of the conifers along the water, and by a few Cedar Waxwings which were hawking insects

.I spotted a Merlin not long after we set off.

A Belted Kingfisher also hunted from the trees, sitting low over the water and chattering each time it flew to a new perch – circling the pond as it did. It was not alone in its quest for fish – we all shared the water with a few fishermen in their boats, all of us quietly enjoying the peaceful and slanting shadows of evening.

Duck, Duck, Duck…Coyotes!

Having edged our way around the pond, we began to work our way up the snaking channel which connects the outlet to Lake Clear, spooking a few hidden Wood Ducks to flight along the way. I then noticed a lone Ring-necked Duck ahead of us and later a single Canada Goose, trying to give each a wide berth so as not to disturb them.

Suddenly the quiet was broken by an outpouring of coyote calls as a chorus erupted not far ahead of us and not far into the woods. Wren – who had been dozing – immediately sat upright with ears pricked, listening. With plenty of daylight to help us, I quickened our pace in the hopes that we might see them. But just as quickly as it had started, the coyote song ended, and they remained hidden.

Wren watches the shoreline and scenery for whatever she can find - including coyotes.

Instead we began to spot more ducks ahead of us on the water – first American Black Ducks and later Mallards as they were looking for a safe place to spend the night. No doubt they had heard the coyotes' call as well. The flyover Purple Finches, Northern Flicker, and Red Crossbill were certainly less concerned about the coyotes than the ducks, but they were also looking for a place to spend the night.

A flyover Red Crossbill was a nice find. Image courtesy of

As we approached the bridge for Rt. 30, I spied another Great Blue Heron and as we crossed beneath the bridge and then the railroad bridge, we found a few strings of Mallards – mothers with their nearly-grown young. A few more Mallards and American Black Ducks were perched on logs or rocks – watching us with interest, but hesitant to leave their prime nighttime roost locations. As we slid past them, they seemed to settle back down, happy that we didn’t venture too near.

The First Common Nighthawk of the Season

We reached Lake Clear to enjoy the view of the purple sky over the dark waters before turning around. Evening was falling fast and we had to start heading back to have enough daylight to finish our paddle. Not to mention, I was still holding out a little hope that we might spot those coyotes on our return, and having a little light would help. And so we slipped past the ducks, quietly watching for any movement along the shoreline. And while my hope to see the coyotes proved unrealized, I did spot a beaver out for its nightly ventures as well as the Ring-necked Duck again.

I was happy to spot a Ring-necked Duck both directions as we paddled.

I also spotted the silent, seemingly haphazard flight of a Common Nighthawk overhead, scooping up insects as it went. The latter half of August is marked by their migration and this was the first Common Nighthawk I’ve seen so far this season – many more will follow in the coming weeks. The bird disappeared into the inky sky and we angled back across the black pond toward the take-out. Wren rested in the car while I loaded up the boat, and we headed for home and dinner.

Late summer and fall offer amazing paddling, birding, and outdoor exploration opportunities in the Saranac Lake Region of the Adirondacks. Ready to plan your trip? Get started by checking out our lodging and dining pages.

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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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