Birding

Birding

Birding By BoatOur birding trip had already been successful when the group I was leading turned its attention to the La Chute River for a canoe trip into Ti Marsh. In fact, we had done so well that we were running late and we had difficulty pulling ourselves away from the birds we were enjoying — although that is the usual state of affairs for such adventures. We even debated skipping the paddle altogether to keep birding from the road instead....
First Paddle of the Season!While we are firmly paddling through warm weather now, it wasn't so long ago that we loaded our canoe for the first ride of the year. Here's a little recap of another great day on the Adirondack Coast.Wren and I met up with a friend, and after enjoying some birding on dry land, we set out on Scomotion (Dead) Creek just south of Cumberland Head. The put-in is accessed from a small parking lot for a doctor’s office and...
A Beautiful DayWith the shifting weather patterns of spring comes a changing diversity of birds — seemingly different every day. In an effort to get lucky and find species of note moving into or through the region, I have been outside as often as I can – mostly walking Wren near our home. But when the forecast looked as splendid as it did for a late-April day, it was time for a trip further afield.Species of NoteWhile many locations came to mind...
Birding my way around the lakeWhile our recent late-season storms have made the North Country look like winter again – as it should look at this time of year, in this climate – spring continues to press upon the landscape and the birds know it. With that in mind, Wren and I took the chance to bird our way back from Vermont the other day. Birding has been great in the Lake Champlain Region all winter, but I was curious to see what else was...
Spring WeatherWith spring pushing winter out faster than many of us would like, it is a good time to explore Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area. Wren and I had a chance to do so the other day – she loves to play in the sand at the point during the winter.We started by checking out a few close ducks – Hooded Mergansers and Mallards – along the edge of the marsh along the campground road on our way to the point, watching a male Northern...
Starting with Boreal Birds and then off to the ValleyMy family recently headed to the Adirondacks to join me for a long weekend of birding. After our success in finding Great Gray Owls in Massena, my brother, his son, and I decided we'd head to the Lake Champlain Region.Before we left the Saranac Lake region, we thought we'd start with a search for boreal birds. We began at Bloomingdale Bog north of Saranac Lake where the Gray Jays entertained...
Westport BirdsI was out with some folks on the weekend, and after some initial debate we stuck to our plan to bird the Lake Champlain Region - even with the excitement surrounding the Ross’s Gull in Tupper Lake. As usual, we began our day at Westport, watching a flyby Pileated Woodpecker, looking through the small groups of Bufflehead and Mallards, and spotting two Double-crested Cormorants – quite uncommon in the valley during the winter. But...
A Return TripAfter our success along the Adirondack Coast a couple weeks ago, Wren and I used the recent long weekend to poke around the lake yet again. It was a fantastically sunny – albeit windy - day. As we often do, we started in Westport, which has been quiet the past few weeks. It stayed true to form with a collection of Mallards and American Black Ducks and a flock of Bufflehead at the boat launch. After checking the overlook at...
New adventures on a beautiful dayWith the beginning of the new year, and a beautiful day in the forecast, Wren and I headed to the Adirondack Coast the other day to see what we could find – it had been too long since we had explored there. We started at Westport like we usually do, and Wren led herself around with her nose while I scanned for ducks on North West Bay. The water was pretty quiet, but I did note a few Common Mergansers, Bufflehead...
It’s that time of year againHard as it is to believe, we have once again cycled through the birding year to the time when Christmas Bird Counts fill our calendars. A few local CBCs were held on Sunday, 12/18/16, including Elizabethtown, Plattsburgh, and also the Vermont Islands count which overlaps across the lake to include the area surrounding Point Au Roche. I was planning to help with this latter count, but I was unable to do it on the count...
Early winter birding along the northern Adirondack CoastSo I’ve heard that the ducks, geese, loons, and other aquatic species in the northern Lake Champlain Region complained because their hangouts weren’t profiled in my recent blog post. The responsible party – whom I’m now realizing is me – has been chastised and I’m writing this to make up for my oversight. The truth is, there are many good places in the early winter to look not only for...
Where the odd birds areFinding a diversity of species of waterfowl – or other aquatic species – in the Southern Lake Champlain Regions requires a number of things.1) You must spend time. 2) You must be patient and work through the shifting flocks which have been arriving from the north.3) You must be lucky.Here's where we can help you! Read on to find out how to use your time, diligence, and luck more effectively by going to the right spots....
A great place to exploreI was heading to Plattsburgh the other day so I figured I would give myself a few hours to explore in and around AuSable Marsh and AuSable Point. It is a great place along the northern shores of the Adirondack Coast to poke around for birds, and the weather, although very windy, was pleasant. Wren and I started with a quick scan of the marsh from the short boardwalk. From here I spotted a Northern Harrier - before we...
A warm startIt was warm and approaching mid-day when Wren and I took to the La Chute River in Ticonderoga to paddle into Ti Marsh the other day. That’s out of the ordinary for me, as I don’t usually paddle during the heat of the day, but that’s how plans sometimes go. I let Wren take a quick dip so she was cool and wet before we pushed off.Birding along the La ChuteThe river offered shade on our way out which was a nice plus, and I hugged any...
Birding between the raindropsAfter our successful trip to the Four Brothers Islands the other day I looked at the sky, and at the time, and debated the possibilities. Rain was already starting and it was forecast to get worse throughout the day, but it was currently light and intermittent and I had already made the trip to the valley, so I decided to bird until the rain sent me home. Since I was in Willsboro I headed north and drove along...
An overcast day on the waterThe day was gray and overcast as five birding friends and I set off from Willsboro Marina to visit the Four Brothers Islands in Lake Champlain. I had never been to the islands before, but my friend had set up a trip with a local charter company (which usually takes fishermen) and it seemed like a good opportunity to check the islands out. After all, the Four Brothers are well known in the local birding world for the...
Another spring trip to the Adirondack Coast - or - How I blew off work to go birdingWork to do, but birds to seeA friend of mine called me a few days ago to ask about the ducks that have been congregating near Crown Point for weeks. He was interested in heading there to see them and to take some photos, and as we chatted he began to tempt me for another run to the Adirondack Coast to find them. I really needed to get writing work done –...
A follow-up tripAfter my successful trip last weekend to the Champlain Valley, I wanted to follow-up to see what I could find as the migration continued to push birds along the lake. While the ducks at Crown Point were once again my main target, I wanted to see what else was around. I started my day at the Westport boat launch like usual. I scanned the water and found a string of Common Loons on their way to northern lakes, as well as a few...
An afternoon in the ValleyI took an afternoon this weekend and headed to the Lake Champlain Region with Wren to see what we could find. There have been a variety of birds arriving in the region and a friend of mine found a Tufted Duck (likely the same bird that was at the Champlain Bridge this winter) in Port Henry a few days earlier. I started in Westport like I often do and found the lake scattered with a few ducks, migrating Common Loons...
Spring Break on the Adirondack CoastWhen most folks think of taking a spring break trip, they often picture warm, sunny places with their toes snuggled deep into the sand. I’ve taken my share of spring trips to such places – landing me in the likes of Florida, Mississippi, and Arizona. But I don’t travel to sit on the beach, go shopping, or lay around the pool. I journey to such places to explore and go birding. So when I go to the beach, I’m...
Ducks at the BridgeOver the past few weeks there has been a large congregation of ducks at the Champlain Bridge in Crown Point – best viewed from Chimney Point State Historic Site in Vermont. Then, just before Super Bowl Sunday, a drake Tufted Duck was found in the mix, but my schedule of work and other responsibilities kept me from searching for it until this past weekend. Ugh – I hate having to wait to find a good bird. The waiting became more...
A Chance to ExploreWith long weekends comes more time for Wren and me to get out exploring. So we took advantage of the recent 3-day weekend to not only stretch our cross-country skiing muscles near home but to go birding in the Lake Champlain Region where a growing throng of ducks has settled near the Champlain Bridge. Well, I went birding. Wren was mostly in it for the ride and the chance to nose around through the snow.The day had started...
An unseasonably warm start to winterWinter has had a difficult time making it to the Adirondacks and the entire northeast this year. A strong El Nino, a jet stream which remains far to the north, and perhaps a dose of climate change have mixed together delivering a concoction of warm air for much longer than many of us would like. Our ski centers were screaming for snow through Christmas and my skis and muscles were getting dusty with neglect....
A holiday traditionDuring this time of year of lights, shopping, travels and celebrations, birders add an additional item to their busy calendars: Christmas bird counts. The counts began this past Saturday with counts in Plattsburgh and Ferrisburgh, Vermont (this count includes the Westport area). While my busy schedule precluded me from helping with those, the following day was marked by the Vermont Islands Count, a count which includes the...
Heading North to SouthI had a few stops to make in the Plattsburgh area this weekend, and after I was finished I took advantage of the trip by birding my way south along Lake Champlain. I started at AuSable Marsh Wildlife Management Area and the marsh was quiet, so I walked out to the beach where I could scan the lapping waves. Common loons were scattered here and there across the lake, joined by about the same number of horned grebes....
Planning Around The WeatherI was looking at the weather for a planned guiding trip and saw our recent cold front poised to dump rain and wind upon us. We moved the trip off to coincide with the windy end of the front when it might push some birds of interest our way. It was good that we did. It rained and rained on our original date but when we met at Westport Boat Launch a couple days later it was sunny and blustery with a strong wind out of...
Starting in WestportI was guiding and birding with a friend last week in the Champlain Valley where we worked a section of lakeshore from Westport to Willsboro. We started at the Westport Boat Launch - where I often begin trips that will focus on that region of the lake. The woods were largely quiet, but as I stood there overlooking the water the scolding chatter of Blue Jays and other birds brought a Cooper’s Hawk sitting in a tree to my...
A Chance to ExploreWren and I were exploring the Adirondack Coast and Ticonderoga Area this past week and as part of our adventure we paddled Ticonderoga Marsh. Our trip started off well as a Merlin raced above us as we put-in at the Town of Ticonderoga Recreation Park. We nosed our bow quietly down the La Chute River waving to a few fishermen, who, if we can believe their fish stories, told us they were having good success.Birding as I...
Time for a Trip to ChazyWith August in full swing, it was time for me to take a trip to the Chazy Riverlands to check what shorebirds may be migrating through the area along Lake Champlain. I had a bit of a late start, but I like the afternoon and evening at Chazy anyway. I brought my boat since access to Chazy comes by paddling down along the marshes from the Great Chazy River boat launch, but I ended up deciding to walk into the marshes where...
Another ATBI!This year the Adirondack All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) took place in the Essex and Willsboro area of the Champlain Valley and I again helped with it. ATBIs, or Bioblitzes as they are often called, are conducted by naturalists and citizen scientists to help survey and document the diversity of the natural world around us. They are also events where naturalists from different disciplines can meet and learn from one another....
Time for Another Trip to the ValleyWith spring pressing in on all sides, I had been itching to get to the Champlain Valley again to catch migrant and arriving birds while I could. When I found out that a Pink-footed Goose – a European rarity – had been found not far from the Champlain Bridge in Vermont, I contacted a friend to see if he wanted to go look for it. I had seen a Pink-footed in New Jersey in January and this could have been the same...
Of Melting Snow and Frozen IceThe first changes which come with spring are always exciting. I had to meet someone in Plattsburgh this week and took advantage of the trip and the beautiful spring weather to look for birds in the Champlain Valley. The ground was almost devoid of snow across the valley as the warmer temps (when compared to the center of the park) have melted off most of what was on the ground. They still have a long way to go in de...
Abundance of Recreation and NatureSituated directly on the Adirondack Coast, on Lake Shore Road about half way between the hamlets of Westport and Essex, is an unusual site - a remarkable playground for any outdoor enthusiast. There is a plethora of outdoor experiences and recreational opportunities to be had all in one place, rather a one-stop “shopping mall” for nature lovers. This site has everything: history, water, views, cliffs, forest,...
Searching for Open WaterThis past weekend I took advantage of some warmer weather to head to the Champlain Valley for some birding. I’m leading a birdwatching trip in a week and a half and I wanted to scope things out ahead of time. Chief among my concerns was the lack of water, or more correctly, the dominance of ice on the water’s surface. The Essex-Charlotte Ferry recently shut down temporarily due to the ice conditions and that means there...
A Rare and Exciting FindIt was exciting news, although frustratingly so since I couldn’t do anything about it at the time: my friend had texted me that he had found a white-phase Gyrfalcon on the frozen waters of Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh. However, I was out of town and had become quite sick, I needed to wait to heal up before I could go looking for the bird. Other birders did search over the ensuing days, yet none of them came up with...
One ThingWhen asked to make a recommendation of one thing that was not to be missed when visiting our Lake Champlain Region I had a very difficult time. After all we are rich with unique features: historic forts, quaint villages, world class art and music, 100+ year old attractions, and an abundance of recreational opportunities. And, all of these features are set against a back drop of awe-inspiring scenic beauty - some of the best in the world...
Winter Birding in the ValleyWhile winter offers us fewer species of birds than does the summer, winter birding is no less interesting as a variety of species from the north come into our area to enjoy our relatively balmy temperatures (when compared to the arctic). I guided a few recent birding trips into the Champlain Valley and while each was a success, the composition of the species we found varied from day to day. For instance, there was a...
A Holiday TraditionChristmas Bird Counts (CBCs) have now started across the country and on Sunday I was out with a friend helping count birds in the area surrounding Point Au Roche north of Plattsburgh. This one is actually part of a count of the islands of northern Lake Champlain in Vermont, but the count circle overlaps the state boundary. After a week filled with snowy, windy, and overcast weather, we had lucked out with a good day. Cloudy...
A Great Day to go Birding in the ValleyWhile the late fall in our region has been marked by a string of snowy days and wintry weather – which may portend a good ski season – I was happy to have a sunny (if cold) day on the weekend to head out for some birding in the Champlain Valley. I had been in and out of town and I hadn’t been able to make it to some of my favorite spots in the Valley for a while so I was excited to see what birds were...
Putting in on the LaChute RiverWren and I completed a camping trip this past October with a paddle into Ticonderoga Marsh, a beautiful stretch of cattails and mucky edges formed where the LaChute River flows into Lake Champlain. There are two chief ways to access the marsh. The first is to put in at the boat launch near the Ticonderoga Ferry and head south. The second is to use the small boat launch at the Town of Ticonderoga Recreational Park...
Far from home The phone call caught me by surprise. I was out walking with Wren on a recent Saturday, when my friend called to tell me that a Brown Booby had been discovered at the Crown Point Bridge. The Caribbean species was a long, long way from home and I packed up some birding gear and headed down to Crown Point.There was a small gaggle of birders flocked at Crown Point State Historic Site looking through their scopes when I arrived....
Coot Hill and Big HollowSome time ago Chris Maron, CATS' Executive Director, told me that this spot has a great view--one that's different from the vantage points I'm used to. He was absolutely right. Located in Crown Point, Coot Hill is a new trail on the Champlain Area Trails map. With a name like Coot Hill I had to check out this destination.Getting to Coot HillFrom Port Henry I traveled south on Rte 22 to Edgemont...
Looking for a great hike to fit into a busy vacation?  Last weekend I hiked one of the nicest peaks in the area. Joined by Sophie Gagnon and her companion from Dunham, Quebec I set out to show my visitors as much as I could of the Ticonderoga area. The easiest way to do that is to get up high and see the lay of the land from above.B & B Breakfast I started the morning by picking Sophie and Denis up at Sugar Hill Manor Bed and...
Never the Same TwiceEvery time I enter the grounds of Fort Ticonderoga, I feel like I have stepped onto a sacred place. I am somewhat aware of all the hardships, struggles, and sacrifices made on these 2000 acres when our country was just beginning; although I learn and appreciate more with every visit. Thanks to the Fort Ticonderoga Association, the stories here are preserved, explained in intricate detail and become vividly alive. No matter...
In my youth the mention of history would make me wrinkle my nose. That was during the school years of course, when I related history to a classroom setting with nothing but a boring memorization of strange names and odd dates. On Lake Champlain, I was living in the birthplace of America and enjoying history on a daily basis, but did not connect the dots. Textbooks aside out of the classroom, the historic sites of our Lake Champlain Region were...
            Wren and I visited AuSable Marsh and AuSable Point the other day to look for birds and take a walk.  Even though our goal was to look for waterfowl, our first bird was a Merlin flying fast and low along the road as we were arriving.  The small falcon turned toward the road and came directly over our car!  Merlins tend to make beelines between their destinations and...
            I did a little birding and hiking with Wren in Point AuRoche earlier this week.  We started around Cumberland Head just north of Plattsburgh, checking out the mouth of the Saranac River and the Ferry Terminal.  There was a mixture of open water and ice at the river mouth, but there were very few birds besides a handful of Mallards and a lone American Black Duck. ...
  Searching for Raptors (and other predatory birds) in the Magic Triangle          Earlier this week some friends and I drove over to what some birders call the Magic Triangle located between Westport and Essex. We were looking for raptors and other field birds, and there had been reports of a Snowy Owl in the area and we were hoping to see and possibly photograph it.   ...
            Our invasion of Snowy Owls in the Northeast continues.  Snowies are being found up and down the Atlantic seaboard with large numbers in places like coastal Massachusetts and New Jersey, where I saw four while visiting family over the holidays.  In the past week in our region alone a Snowy Owl was found along Moffit Road in Plattsburgh, at least one and perhaps two...
            Over the holidays I took a trip to the Champlain Valley for some birding. I started at the Westport boat launch where there were a few species of ducks assembled including Bufflehead, Common Mergansers, and Common Goldeneye.  The area around the wastewater treatment plant held it usual flock of gulls as well as a few ducks, but it was fairly quiet.  I did find a small...
            We have reached the time of year when birders everywhere span out across the landscape and conduct Christmas Bird Counts.  This past weekend’s winter storm was cancelling, postponing, and threatening many counts held on Saturday and Sunday and so a friend and I went up to Plattsburgh on Saturday to scout and look for count week birds should the Plattsburgh count (held on...
            This weekend found me in the Champlain Valley birding with some friends, taking advantage of the nice weather.  We found 46 species of birds – not a bad tally for a December day.  We started our day at Westport where the boat launch had a small collection of ducks and large numbers of Canada Geese.  We searched through the geese for something different in their...
            With our current arctic freeze bearing down on us this weekend, my friend and I jumped on the last warm(ish) day in the forecast and headed to the Champlain Valley for some birding.  We didn’t find much of interest at Cumberland Head north of Plattsburgh so we headed north to Point AuRoche to check out the enormous numbers of Snow Geese which have been assembled there....
            I went looking for Snow Geese in the Champlain Valley the other day with one simple goal– find the flocks of Snow Geese that were staging there on their way south and search them for a Ross’s Goose.  I started at Point AuRoche State Park where I went to the beach and let Wren run around the large open field while I scoped through the five or six hundred or so Snow Geese...
            I had to be in Plattsburgh at the beginning of the week and so I took the opportunity and a beautiful day to go birding in the area in the afternoon.  My goal was to check out an immature Sandhill Crane which had been found a few days earlier.  The bird was discovered hanging out along Moffit Road a little north of Plattsburgh, feeding in some recently plowed farm...
            My friend and I spent some time birding in the Champlain Valley on Saturday.  It was chilly and overcast early and we did have to tuck into the car during some cold showers and wind later in the day, but we still had a successful time out.  We started at Westport, and while there weren’t many birds at the boat launch besides a few Bufflehead, we found quite a few gulls...
            While I was out birding a couple weeks ago with friends, we found good numbers of rusty blackbirds.  The first birds we noted were in some state land north of Westport in Webb Royce Swamp.  Rusty’s spend most of their time in such wetlands – both breeding in the north, and during the winter months in the southeast.  The birds we found were migrating on their way...
            The other day, my friends and I were checking out what some birders call the Magic Triangle, just north of Westport.  We poked around along a series of hedgerows and fields, finding good sized flocks of red-winged blackbirds, yellow-rumped warblers and white-throated sparrows, but not much else.  We chatted with a couple deer hunters who were returning empty handed, and...
            This past weekend I went birding in the Champlain Valley with some friends and one of our stops was at Noblewood Park in Willsboro.  Noblewood’s sandy spit may be best known for attracting shorebirds during the late summer, but we were interested in anything that might be stopping through on a fall day, beginning our time with a pileated woodpecker at the parking area....
            My friends and I checked out a few spots in the Champlain Valley this weekend for birds.  We had hoped to find a variety of migrants heading south, and while that didn’t materialize, we did find a few nice birds.  We had a bit of a late start after birding in the Lake Placid area in the morning, but we headed north to the Chazy Riverlands to look for shorebirds. ...
            Last week I checked out Noblewood Park in Willsboro for late summer birds.  Noblewood’s sandy spit attracts a variety of species such as gulls and shorebirds at this time of year, and I wanted to see if anything of note was there.  There had also been a report of an immature little gull at Noblewood and I wanted to see if it was still around.    ...
            Over the past few weeks, local birders have been heading to Chazy Landing to an area where the Great and Little Chazy Rivers empty into Lake Champlain.  The rivers create a small set of mudflats and wet meadows, and since shorebird habitat is difficult to come by in the region, the small area attracts a wide variety of species.  And while the location is on private land...
            I was again birding with friends this past weekend in the Champlain Valley, and one of the places we stopped was at Noblewood Park in Willsboro.  Noblewood has a nice forest of mixed deciduous trees and eastern hemlock and we found a few woodland birds such as tufted titmouse and red-eyed vireo on our walk there.  But we weren’t particularly interested in woodland birds...
            A friend and I went birding in the Champlain Valley this past weekend looking for late summer birds.  All told we found better than 70 species and started our day at the Westport boat launch.  There we found a horned grebe in splendid breeding plumage – its yellow tufts and rufous neck looking great in the sunlight.  We generally only find horned grebes during the...
I vividly remember my canoe excursion down the La Chute River in Ticonderoga although it was many months ago. That day was the kind of hot summer day that compels you to be on, in, or near the water. I had heard from others what a terrific (think "easy") paddle it was for someone with my skill level, practically nil. I knew the trip wasn't very far; a couple of miles from the launch at Bicentennial Park to the mouth of the river where it...
The other week while I was out hiking and birding with friends, we saw a great horned owl fly silently through a clearing and disappear back into the woods. I was screened by trees in the forest, but could see the owl's big head (my friend calls them jughead as a result) and broad wings, leaving no doubt what it was. My friends and I quickly turned around and tried to find it in the trees. We didn't need to do so.As we walked a few paces back in...
This is it--the big week of the year for ephemeral wildflowers.  The show has been building and it's full-on flowers right now. Every color and every size and shape. These flowers show themselves for such a short time you have to take advantage of every chance you get to see them. The forest seems like a deliberately designed garden in places.  I guess that shouldn't seem surprising. Mother Nature does that sort of thing. Each year the...
The timing of bird migration is a tricky thing to predict. Over the past two weeks, I've seen a variety of migrants passing through the area – including some nice species in my yard. But reports of many species are still few and far between, and other species are absent altogether. It is still early for many species after all.At the beginning of this week Kendra and I ventured to Crown Point to check out the bird banding station which will...
Who would think a former landfill site could be a hiking destination? Last Saturday I hiked Cheney Mountain from the lower parking area on the Pelfershire Road, about 1mile from NYS Rte 9N between Westport and Moriah. The leaves still hadn't opened so it was a bumper day for views.Cheney has been described as being the shape of a breadloaf. You climb up one end and hike around on the top. On the way up you get views through the low oaks that...
In the days after the bombings at the Boston Marathon I needed the woods. Walking in the forest relaxes and quiets me. The spring is starting late this year but the hope of finding wildflowers made me lace my boots faster than usual. On Sunday I walked the Woods and Swale Trail, one of the CATS trails that will eventually link Westport to Coon Mountain, Split Rock Wild Forest and Essex. The inconspicuous trailhead is at the corner of the...
The Lake Champlain valley presents one of the best opportunities for North Country birdwatchers to see waterfowl as well as a variety of other species not as common in the mountains. After all the valley offers a north-south corridor to migrating birds – particularly waterfowl – and we took a trip there on the final day in March to see what we could find as spring migration was getting started. Waterfowl migrate earlier than most spring...
A friend and I took a day this past weekend to go down to the Champlain Valley for some birding. We started at the Westport boat launch, where there was a nice group of ducks assembled. As ice has advanced north from the Champlain Bridge in Crown Point, the large group of ducks that was once there has been pushed into the open water further north in the lake. At Westport we found mallards, black ducks, common goldeneye, hooded and common...
I wrote last week about the collection of ducks hanging out in Port Henry and around the Lake Champlain Bridge, and wanted to give an update for those interested in checking them out.I drove down to the lake again this weekend and found everything was still there. The most productive location for both numbers and diversity was just on the Vermont side of the Champlain Bridge. I had thousands of ducks there including common merganser, mallard,...