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Three Great Birding Sites within Three Minutes of Town
Apr
26
2019

Exploring places close to town

One of the best things about living in the Adirondacks is that we have so many great places to explore without traveling far. We all benefit from locations right at our doorstep which let us steal away at the end of the day or first thing in the morning, which is particularly useful if our time is limited. Whether you live here or you are vacationing in the area, here are a few places to investigate around Saranac Lake which don’t require much traveling.

Bald Eagles nest at Lake Colby, and they can be found overhead throughout the area.

Bloomingdale Bog – south end

Bloomingdale Bog receives a lot of deserved attention as a great place to find boreal birds like Boreal Chickadees and Canada Jays. The northern access to the bog – and the easily walkable railroad bed that cuts through it – is off of Route 55, which runs between Bloomingdale and Route 86. There, birders can walk a short distance south to find a set of bird feeders and its contingent of Canada Jays, while listening to Nashville, Magnolia, and Palm Warblers during the summer months.

Palm Warblers sing throughout Bloomingdale Bog. Image courtesy of www.masterimages.org.

However, I think the southern access to the bog does not get the birding love it merits. It begins a short distance (about 1.4 miles) north of Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake at a small marsh and beaver pond. The marsh hides Wood Ducks, Swamp Sparrows, American Bitterns, and sometimes less common species like Green Herons, while birds like Solitary Sandpipers can be found on the mudflats during migration in spring and late summer.American Bitterns can be found lurking in the marsh, or heard pumping during the spring.

The brushy habitat along the adjacent powerline cut harbors Veeries, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, and Mourning Warblers, before the trail enters a mixed coniferous-deciduous forest. These woods contain a long list of birds, from Pileated Woodpeckers to Winter Wrens, and the shaded walk is pleasant if it is a warm and sunny day. The mixed forest also harbors an assortment of warblers – such as American Redstart, Ovenbird, Black-throated Blue, and Northern Parula, and if you haven’t done so already, you will certainly find Nashville and Magnolia Warblers when you reach the more coniferous and boreal stretches of habitat about a mile north of the parking lot.

Wren explores along the south end of Bloomingdale Bog during the summer.

From there, the path continues out into the open bog, complete with Palm and Lincoln’s Sparrows, as well as the potential for boreal species like Canada Jay and Black-backed Woodpecker. If you are feeling particularly energetic, you can walk the entire trail (nearly 4 miles each way) to the northern access on Route 55 before turning to retrace your steps.

Lake Colby

Sitting directly across Route 86 from Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, Lake Colby draws a lot of people during the summer for boating, fishing, and swimming. It warrants such attention, but it is equally good for birding. The best spot to explore for birds is along the backside of the lake where a railroad bed (the ties and rails are still present, so watch your footing in spots) runs through a mixed forest, separating the lake from Little Colby Pond, creating a causeway with water on both sides.

Birders can access the railroad bed off John Munn Road (turning at the Saranac Lake Civic Center), parking either at the base of the gravel road on the left which leads to a little league baseball field (from the field, walk down a small trail through the woods to the lake), or by parking on the right side of John Munn Road directly along the tracks before the road dead ends.

A Great Blue Heron stands on the railroad bed which runs along Lake Colby.

Either way, Colby offers a long list of species during the spring and summer, including Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Purple Finch, and Ovenbird. The small patches of marsh along the lake hide American Bitterns as well as singing Swamp Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds. The lake itself is the home for breeding Common Loons, while Bald Eagles make their nest in a row of white pines to the north of the railroad tracks – best seen when you first reach the lake. The lapping waters of the lake are also an excellent spot during fall migration for ducks and other aquatic species.Common Loons nest along the backside of Lake Colby.

The bog mat on the far side of the causeway is the nesting home of White-throated Sparrows, Lincoln’s Sparrows, and Palm Warblers, while American Redstarts, Northern Parulas, and a series of other warblers can be heard singing from the nearby trees. Evening walks may be rewarded by hooting Barred Owls, and birders can follow the railroad tracks for as long as they want before turning around, but be sure to watch your step.

The Jackrabbit Trail

An excellent cross-country skiing trail during the winter months, the Jackrabbit Trail is equally good for birding – cutting through a slice of the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness area. There are many access points to the trail, but the quickest from Saranac Lake is from the small earthen parking lot along McKenzie Pond Road as you head east from town.Canada Warblers are one of the warbler species which can be found along the Jackrabbit Trail. Image courtesy of www.masterimages.com.

From there the trail winds through a mixed forest and up and down a series of rolling hills, eventually reaching the outlet from McKenzie Pond nearly a mile into the hike. The pond itself is a little more than a mile farther along the route, marking an easy turn around point, or adventurous birders can follow the trail all the way to Lake Placid (with a long climb beyond McKenzie Pond) if they have a car parked on the far end.Barred Owls can be found throughout the area, including along the Jackrabbit Trail.

However you choose to arrange your logistics, the Jackrabbit offers Broad-winged and Sharp-shinned Hawks, Pileated and Hairy Woodpeckers, Barred Owls, Scarlet Tanagers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, and another long list of warblers (are you sensing a theme here?), among others. This trail affords you a chance to explore the wilderness along a relatively easy hiking trail, in beautiful scenery, and still be close to town.

Before we know it, spring and summer will be here and the birding will be great. Plan your getaway now by checking out our lodging and dining pages. 

This week in ADK news:

Up and coming in Tupper

Summer heat in Placid

Spring beauty

Race to the ADKs

Farm-tastic cheese

Giddy up!

History comes alive

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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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The Saranac Village at Will Rogers Senior Outing Club’s May event will be on Tuesday, May 28th featuring a tour and walk through the town of Westport with Adirondack Architectural Heritage...

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