Chilly Spring Weather
While it may not have been welcomed by many folks, my skis and I were happy about the chilly weather we had for much of March and April. I was out skiing and enjoying the snow as much as I could. But, when the weather turned warmer and finished off the cross-country skiing season, it ushered in spring birding and I happily set aside my skis for my binoculars.
Arriving Ducks and Songbirds
The truth is my binoculars are never set aside — no matter the season. And even as winter held on for as long as it could, our longer days and gradually warming temps opened up some of the area waterways – such as Lake Flower in Saranac Lake. And so during our chilly spell I was finding lots of Common Mergansers and Hooded Mergansers on Lake Flower as well as Ring-necked Ducks, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, and of course Mallards.
At the same time overwintering birds like Brown Creepers and Purple Finches began singing and American Tree Sparrows – waiting for a shift in the wind to head north - lingered in the Adirondacks. They were joined by Song Sparrows and increasing numbers of Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows. Soon other sparrows began to join them including Field, Savannah, Vesper, and Fox sparrows along Lake Colby. I also spotted a Vesper Sparrow in my yard – it seemed that the birds were coming despite winter’s best efforts to hold on to us.
That is often the case during spring. While birds tend to wait for favorable conditions and winds for migrating, the spring fervor to set up territories and to nest compels birds to move even in less than optimal circumstances, their bodies and minds triggered to migrate by increasing amounts of daylight.
And so wintry spring weather was accompanied by an increasing diversity of songbirds as well as raptors like Merlin, Turkey Vultures, and Ospreys. And when cold weather hit, my feeders were often busy – packed with Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Brown-headed Cowbirds all of which may have been wondering why they came up here to deal with the snow.
Warming Weather – and More Arriving Birds!
And while birds continued to trickle into the Adirondacks and North Country, the weather had clearly been holding others back. After all, once our cold weather finally broke and warmed up, the ducks vacated Lake Flower and continued north. Common Loons arrived to replace them on both Lake Flower and Lake Colby. I began seeing more Turkey Vultures, Merlin, and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers returned to beat their staccato rhythm on the trees, and every morning has been loud with the songs of American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Chipping Sparrows.
Bald Eagles are once again hanging out near their enormous stick nests, and I’ve noted my first Yellow-rumped Warblers, Tree Swallows, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets of the season. Swamp Sparrows sing from local cattail marshes, and Wren and I have spooked up an American Woodcock three times over the past two weeks while we were out walking. The birds knew that it was April and they were trying to will that reality on the landscape.
Not only that, but just the other day I heard a sound that screams "spring" to the air – wood frogs chorusing from wetlands and rain and snow-melt-filled depressions. It is one of the best sounds of the season. Our spring peepers are soon to follow as are our northern leopard frogs – which may already be out in chorus somewhere.
And the birds we’ve seen to date are only just the beginning. The excitement of May is finally upon us - now is when the bird world seemingly descends upon the Adirondacks and North Country. And each recently arrived bird, each song, and each encounter is a prelude to the main event. But it isn’t just each new arrival or first bird of the season which makes this so much fun. It is the anticipation of what is next, what is coming, and what each day might bring, that's what makes every walk and trip outdoors so exciting. And so Wren and I are out searching for birds and enjoying the changes of the season as much as we can be - because you never know what the day will bring.