Birding in Lake Placid
Ducks on Icing Lakes
Winter in the Adirondacks is defined by cold temperatures and blankets of white powder covering the slopes and trails of the region. It is also a time for birding, as late fall cold fronts push a variety of waterfowl species like Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, and Hooded and Common Mergansers south, stopping through the lakes across the region, including Mirror Lake right in the middle of Lake Placid.
As January arrives, it often brings with it more consistently cold weather, freezing our lakes and forcing the birds – and the birders who wish to see them – elsewhere for open water. It is recommended that birders interested in wintering ducks and other aquatic species head to the Lake Champlain Region in search of them, checking out that website to learn more.
Winter Songbirds and Winter Finches
Even as the lakes freeze and waterfowl depart the area, other species are pushed into the region by the same cold fronts. Birders can find flocks of Snow Buntings, American Tree Sparrows, and Horned Larks, which may hide a Lapland Longspur. These birds are usually easier to find in the Champlain Valley once winter begins in earnest, but other species, like Purple Finch, American Goldfinch, and Pine Siskin (Evening Grosbeak is also possible) may arrive at local bird feeders, sometimes in numbers. There they join species like Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, and perhaps a lingering White-throated Sparrow, all keeping an eye open for a persistent Cooper’s Hawk waiting to catch them unaware.
Shrikes, Snowy Owls, Grosbeaks, and Waxwings
Birders may find other predatory species as well during winter, most notably Northern Shrikes, which may be spotted along the hedgerows and field edges of the region, in places such as River Road, John Brown Farm State Historic Site, and Heaven Hill Farm. Birders should also be on the lookout for Snowy Owls this winter. They are predicted to move south out of the arctic in numbers this year, and several of them have already been noted in the Champlain Valley as winter begins.
Other winter visitors to the region include Common Redpolls, which move south out of Canada roughly every other year, and birders can search for less common Hoary Redpolls in the large flocks. Pine Grosbeaks also occasionally make an appearance. They're usually found in fruiting trees, shrubs, and other ornamentals. Much more consistent in the region than Pine Grosbeaks, Bohemian Waxwings are usually found plowing through fruit during winter in the region, often arriving in early winter, although they can arrive at any time depending upon the availability of food to our north.
Crossbills and Resident Boreal Birds
Other winter specialties include both Red- and White-winged Crossbills, and this winter promises to be a good one for both species. After all, the cone crops in our conifer forests have been spectacular this year, and both species nested locally this summer. And when birders are checking out coniferous forests and boreal habitats in their quest for crossbills, they can also hunt for Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Gray Jay. Some of the best locations to bird for such species during winter are sites like Bloomingdale Bog and Bigelow Road north of Saranac Lake, or birders can check out Averyville Road in Lake Placid, particularly the canoe access (canoeing in winter is up to them) along the Chubb River – a good place to check for crossbills.
It all means that there are plenty of good birds around all year, even in the cold and snow. So lace up your boots, grab your mittens and a mug of hot cocoa, and head outside!