Birding in Lake Placid
Autumn comes to roost
Some folks may become disappointed about the arrival of fall. After all, summer in the Adirondacks can be far too short. And yet fall is an amazing time to enjoy the region. Wildflowers bloom everywhere. Leaves change. And birds migrate south on north winds. It is a time of color. A time of warm days and cool nights. And it is a time of transformation.
Birds begin this transformation earlier than many other things in the natural world. Many of them molt from their spring nuptials late in the summer as they begin to disperse and flock up in preparation of the migration which lies ahead. And then they begin to move.
Our forests and hedgerows bustle with life as waves of birds crash upon our shores as they disperse and move south. These include many of our well-known breeders such as Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and vireos such as Red-eyed, Philadelphia, Warbling, and Blue-headed. The list expands with Black-billed Cuckoo, Swainson’s Thrush, Bicknell’s Thrush, Veery, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, and Eastern Kingbird.
And then there are the warblers. Over 20 species of warblers can be found moving through the region in late summer and early fall stitching together a colorful quilt of pattern and design. These include our local breeders such as Magnolia Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Black-throated Green Warbler, as well as species which breed more commonly to our north such as Cape May Warbler (which also does breed locally in spots), Bay-breasted Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, and Wilson’s Warbler. It all means that even as the birds are leaving, they give us an amazing show on their way out.
And they don’t leave us empty handed. As we reach further into September many of our breeders have left the region but our fall flocks often still contain surprise lingering birds. Soon enough sparrows begin to arrive in numbers – adding to our breeders and a day in the field can find species like Song, Swamp, Savannah, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned, White-throated, Fox, Vesper, Field, Chipping, and others.
Migrants and raptors
American Tree Sparrows arrive to spend the winter and birders may also find migrants like Rusty Blackbird in area wetlands, and Snow Bunting and Horned Lark in local fields around the same time of year. At the same time raptors are moving overhead – harassing songbirds and adding excitement to every birding trip. Raptors are most likely found in numbers along the Champlain Valley and birders should check out that website to learn more. Birders should also explore the local boreal birding sites for Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Gray Jay – all three of which are resident species and fall is a great time to search for them.
Waterfowl and later fall
And as fall advances, waterfowl and other aquatic species pour out of the north, stopping over on the lakes which dot our landscape. Some places to check out include Lake Clear and Lake Colby in Saranac Lake as well as Mirror Lake in Lake Placid. These have hosted a variety of species including Red-necked and Pied-billed Grebes, Black, Surf, and White-winged Scoters, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, both species of Scaup, Ring-necked Ducks, and any other species which frequents the region. Common Loon numbers can be tremendous! And once again, birders should check out the website for the Lake Champlain Region to learn more about waterfowl which move south along the spine of the lake.
For as the cold freezes our lakes in the center of the park, there is still open water there as the waterfowl usher in the winter. And they do not hold exclusive rights to this privilege. For even as they arrive in greater and greater numbers Northern Shrikes, Bohemian Waxwings, and a collection of northern finches including Pine Siskins and the potential for Red and White-winged Crossbills enter the scene, setting us up for an exciting winter ahead. After all, the coming of cold doesn’t end our birding year – it simply begins it again with new possibilities.