Birding in Lake Placid

The Early Signs of Spring

Spring often arrives when nobody is looking. The ground is hidden beneath a deep layer of white, the lengthening days are still chilly, and ice-covered lakes dot the landscape. No, the first sign of spring is not often seen. It is usually heard.

For on our sunny March days species like White-breasted Nuthatch and Brown Creeper begin to sing – announcing to everyone within earshot that spring is coming. Soon the warming days and longer hours of sun begin to pry open the strong grip of ice on our area lakes and, almost as if they knew it was coming, the gaps are filled by migrating waterfowl. These often include species like Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Mallard, and Ring-necked Duck, but less common species in the Adirondacks such as Lesser Scaup and American Wigeon can also be found. But their time in the region is often short as they press north to nest. At the same time of year, wintering birds – like American Tree Sparrows and Snow Buntings also on the move – often call their goodbyes from overhead.

A Growing Diversity

As spring continues, its arrival is further announced by the raucous calls of Red-winged Blackbirds, the trills of Song Sparrows, and the emphatic declaration of Eastern Phoebes. Common Grackles arrive in flocks, often at bird feeders, and the April ground is soon hopping with sparrows of all sorts, including White-throated, Chipping, Savannah, Fox, Vesper, and Dark-eyed Junco.

The forests are also alive with new arrivals – the drumming of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and the songs of Blue-headed Vireos and Hermit Thrushes — while early warblers such as Pine, Yellow-rumped, and Palm move along edge habitats in search of food. Raptors also arrive and pass through on migration and April marks the first Broad-winged Hawks, Merlins, and Osprey of the season, as Bald Eagles begin to call from their huge stick nests. April nights also offer choruses of Barred Owls and tooting Northern Saw-whet Owls, meaning that birders can find raptors at any time of day.

The evenings are also great times to visit local marshes and wetlands for pumping American Bitterns or winnowing Wilson’s Snipe, perhaps lucking into one of the first Virginia Rails of the season. Local fields and lawns in the evening also play host to displaying American Woodcocks.

The Colors of May – and so Many Warblers!

During the day, the drumming display of Ruffed Grouse can be heard through the forests, and with each newly arrived migrant the calendar builds for the excitement that is May. It begins with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, more warblers, and White-crowned Sparrows, which seem to descend upon the region on their way north each spring. But soon it is a feathered fabric of tanagers, grosbeaks, thrushes, vireos, flycatchers, sparrows, cuckoos, and orioles.

But it is often the warblers that attract the most attention. After all, 20 species of warblers nest in the Olympic Region alone and many others pass through during migration. These include:

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Pine Warbler
  • Palm Warbler
  • Ovenbird
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Northern Parula
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Mourning Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Cape May Warbler
  • Canada Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Bay-breasted Warbler
  • American Redstart

Birders searching for such a diversity of warblers will often find themselves in some of our boreal and coniferous habitats of the region. Not only are they great for finding warblers, but these locations are also noted for our resident boreal species — Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, and Boreal Chickadee — and birders can scour the spruces for them as they tune into the many-voiced chorus of spring. These same locations are also good for Olive-sided and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, which often arrive in the latter half of May, just in time for the Great Adirondack Birding Celebration, held each year in June at the Paul Smith’s College VIC.

And so, as the colorful pattern of birds arrives to take up residence for a few months here in the north woods, spring moves straight into summer and one of the best times of year on the birding calendar.

Plan your spring birding trip today by visiting our lodging and dining pages!

Intervale Lowlands Nature Preserve
Location: Intervale Way, Lake Placid, New York
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Jackrabbit Trail
Location: Parkside Dr, Lake Placid, New York
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Silver Lake Bog and Bluffs
Location: Old Hawkeye Road, Wilmington, New York
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Whiteface Mountain No-Hike Birding
Location: Route 86, Wilmington, New York
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South Meadow, brooks
Location: Meadow Lane, Lake Placid, New York
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Wilmington Notch
Location: Route 86, Wilmington, New York
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