Birdwatching

The Summer Life

Summer is a time for boating on the lake, swimming in the water, and relaxing as the sun drifts slowly across the sky. For the birds, however, it is a hectic, fast-paced time of year when they set up territories and raise their young, bookended by migration on either end. But that means there is lots for birders to see and enjoy in a short period of time. 

While the lake itself is generally quiet during the first half of summer – although places like the Four Brothers Islands are loaded with breeding birds – the habitats which line the valley are full of life. These include the marshes which dot the lake’s edge – including Ticonderoga Marsh, the Chazy Riverlands, Webb Royce Swamp, and Wickham Marsh. Some of these places are best explored by paddling – meaning birders get the chance to boat and bird at the same time. The marshes contain some of the greatest diversity in the region, and trips there can find:

  • Wood Ducks 
  • Blue-winged Teal 
  • Gadwall, American Bitterns 
  • Least Bitterns 
  • Green Herons 
  • Great Egrets 
  • Caspian Terns 
  • Osprey 
  • Bald Eagles 
  • Virginia Rails 
  • Common Gallinules 
  • Pied-billed Grebes 
  • Swamp Sparrows  
  • Marsh Wrens

Essex-Char Ferry, credit Alan Belford

Away from the water, birders can also explore the many fields which compose the valley – and they can find these species:

  • Bobolink 
  • Eastern Meadowlark 
  • Eastern Bluebird 
  • Savannah Sparrow 
  • Wild Turkey 
  • American Kestrel 
  • Tree and Barn Swallows 

The fields often break-up patches of woodlands, where birders can search for another suite of species. This list consists of birds like Great Crested Flycatcher, Brown Creeper, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Black-billed Cuckoo, and Pileated Woodpecker. 

The meeting of fields and forests often produce young woods and edge habitats which are some of the most diverse in the valley. These habitats may produce species like Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole, Willow Flycatcher, Indigo Bunting, Warbling Vireo, and Eastern Towhee. They are also home to warblers such as Common Yellowthroat, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Yellow Warbler, and in some places regionally uncommon species like Golden-winged Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, and Prairie Warbler can be found. Another uncommon warbler – Louisiana Waterthrush – can be found along some of the streams and rivers in the valley, and their riparian home is also welcoming to species like Yellow-throated Vireo and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, both regionally uncommon as well. 

Folks interested in a long list of warbler species should take a day trip to the interior Adirondacks where 20 species of warblers nest in the Olympic Region alone. And some of the best coniferous habitats in the center of the park are also some of the best places to find popular boreal breeders – like Olive-sided Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Gray Jay, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Boreal Chickadee. 

 Glaucous Gull, credit Larry Master

Witnessing the Amazing Late Summer Migration!

Not only that, but the edge habitats which compose so much of the Champlain Valley are also great for other species of warblers during late summer and early fall. That’s when mixed flocks of birds – many of them warblers - move through the region feeding furiously as they prepare to migrate south. These flocks might also include warblers like Tennessee, Bay-breasted, Wilson’s, and Cape May– all breeders to our north. 

Late summer is also the time of year when shorebirds migrate south along Lake Champlain, stopping over to refuel in places like Chazy, Crown Point, or Noblewood Park. These often include common species like Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Killdeer, Semipalmated Plover, and Semipalmated Sandpiper, but may include many regionally uncommon species on the move. This list includes the likes of Baird’s, Pectoral, White-rumped, and Stilt Sandpipers, Red-necked Phalarope, American Golden Plover, and any species of shorebird which passes through the region. Not only that, but late summer flocks of Bonaparte’s Gulls often contain Little Gulls – and Lake Champlain is an excellent place to search for this often hard to find species. And as late summer days become late summer evenings, birders can watch Common Nighthawks cruise past overhead feeding on insects while choruses of Barred Owls call from the nearby woods. 

And so while early summer is great for finding breeding birds, the late summer is excellent for migrants and a diversity of birds passing through the North Country and along the spine of Lake Champlain. It means that summer is an amazing time to discover the birds of the valley. But birders must plan their trip before it is too late. Because the long summer days don’t last forever, nor does the diversity of summer. It is a time of year to bite into and enjoy, before September advances us into fall and all the birding excitement of that time of year. 

Bohemian Waxwing, credit Alan Belford

Find your nest

Birding in the Lake Champlain Region is amazing! 

Read all the latest birding blogs from our experts.

Browse our lodging selection to find the stay that's right for you. Birding is just one of the many things to do in the region, and many activities can be done while you're birding! 

Lake Champlain Birding Trail Brochure

This aptly named Lake Champlain Birding Trail brochure will provide you with details of what species can be found in the region and includes a handy map guide. Click on the image to view and print the brochure.

Coot Hill (Big Hollow) Trail

Coot Hill has gained fame with birders in recent years as a good place to watch hawks during migration – including Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Osprey, Broad-winged Hawks, and anything else...

Location: 
6482 Main Street
POB 193, Westport, 12993
Westport Water Treatment Facility

The water treatment facility in Westport off Marks Road is a good place to check Lake Champlain in fall and winter. It is there that Hotsington Brook exits into the lake and a small sandy spit is...

Location: 
Marks Road, Westport, 12993
Cook Mountain Preserve

The Cook Mountain Preserve covers 200 acres with a wide variety of terrain. The summit of the mountain offers views of Lake George, the Champlain Valley, and Vermont's Green Mountains. The...

Location: 
Baldwin Road, Ticonderoga, 12883
Port Douglas Boat Launch Area

A beautifully situated spot with views of both the sheltered Corlaer Bay and the open water of Lake Champlain. Nearby Schuyler Island (aka Schuylers Island and Whitney Island) has a rocky shore...

Location: 
Port Douglas Road, Keeseville, 12944
Crown Point Ruins - Birding and Banding

Like Fort Ticonderoga, Crown Point State Historic Site offers birding along Lake Champlain against a...

Location: 
Bridge Road, Crown Point, 12928
Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area

Hurricane Mountain outside the Village of Keene is a popular hike along the three trails that take hikers to the summit. It can also be good for birding, and a variety of breeding birds call the...

Location: 
Hurricane Road, Elizabethtown, 12932
Poke-O-Moonshine Campground Area

The rugged cliffs of Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain are favorite nesting places of the local peregine...

Location: 
NYS Route 9N, Keeseville, 12944
Westport Area Fields

The fields and woodlots south of Westport support a variety of breeding birds including warblers, field birds, and year round red-tailed hawks. It is easiest to cover the area by driving Dudley,...

Location: 
and Stevenson Roads, ,
Port Kent Ferry Terminal

The Port Kent Ferry Terminal offers another good place to check out Lake Champlain and is most productive during the cold months. There a variety of ducks may over winter or migrate through, and...

Location: 
Front Street, Au Sable Chasm, 12911
Noblewood Park birding

A town park of the Town of Willsboro, Noblewood Park is one of the best birding sites in the Champlain Valley. The wooded trails host a variety of breeding songbirds during the summer and the area...

Location: 
Route 22, Willsboro, 12996
Cumberland Head

Cumberland Head sits just north of Plattsburgh and the area is a good place to check for wintering and migrating water birds. Any water access is worth checking, but two prominent places are the...

Location: 
152 Cumberland Head Road, Plattsburgh, 12901
Port Henry Boat Launch Area

The Port Henry Boat Launch offers the best views of Bulwagga Bay to the south, where large mixed species of flocks of ducks often spend the winter. Look for common goldeneye, common and hooded...

Location: 
Powerhouse Park
Dock Lane, Port Henry, 12974
Putts Creek Wildlife Management Area

This 113 acres wildlife area features a stream and a marsh, and is more readily accessible via boat than on foot. Look for two yellow-painted iron pipes (seen on PDF map) to find the 30 foot right...

Location: 
Wolcott Road, Crown Point, 12928
Pauline Murdock Wildlife Management Area

This wildlife area is 68.5 acres of boreal northern forest, with areas of river and flood plains. It consists of seven different ecological habitats: red maple?hardwood swamp, hemlock-hardwood...

Location: 
Elizabethtown-Wadhams Road, Elizabethtown, 12932
Magic Triangle

The Magic Triangle, composed of Clark, Cross, and Lakeshore Roads (which form a triangle) south of Essex is a collection of woodlots and fields which attract birds throughout the year. Baltimore...

Location: 
Clark, Essex, 12936
Whallons Bay

Whallon Bay, which is most easily viewed from Albee Road south of Essex is a good place to look for ducks in the winter when mixed species flocks will feed in the bay. The flocks often include...

Location: 
Albee Road, Essex, 12936
Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area

In winter, AuSable Point Campground is closed to camping, but open to walking and birding. It can be a great place to find mixed flocks of wintering ducks. These include common species such as...

Location: 
3346 Lake Shore Road, Plattsburgh, 12901
Essex Ferry Terminal

The Essex Ferry area is a good place to look for wintering waterfowl during the cold months. Begg’s Point Park, just south of the ferry terminal offers another view of the area. The ferry terminal...

Location: 
Dock St, Essex, 12936
Westport Boat Launch

Westport’s position on North West Bay is optimal for finding wintering and migrating waterfowl and other species along the lake. Look for many duck species including common and Barrow’s goldeneye...

Location: 
Route 22, Westport, 12993
Chimney Point State Historic Site

Chimney Point State Historic Site in Vermont sits on the Vermont side of the Champlain Bridge. It...

Location: 
7305 VT Route 125, Crown Point, 05491
Crown Point Boat Launch Area

Part of an area with many vantage points to view common merganser, bufflehead, common goldeneye, hooded merganser, mallard, black duck, and greater and lesser scaup. Also look for wintering...

Location: 
Bridge Road, Crown Point, 12928
Wilcox Dock

The City of Plattsburgh offers a few good places to check out Lake Champlain. Wilcox Docks and boat launch area gives birders good views of Cumberland Bay and the surrounding lake where they can...

Location: 
Wilcox Dock, Plattsburgh, 12901
Webb Royce Swamp

Located within the Magic Triangle, Webb Royce Swamp has historically been a great birding location with...

Location: 
Lake Shore Road, Westport, 12993
Ticonderoga Boat Launch Area

This shoreline location is well-situated to observe sweeping shorelines on both sides of Lake Champlain. In spring and fall, the lake becomes a migratory highway which funnels traffic between the...

Location: 
Route 74, Ticonderoga, 12883
Mouth of the Saranac River

The mouth of the Saranac River in Plattsburgh can be a good place to look for ducks in winter. A small city park provides access to the area, where there is always some open water, even in winter...

Location: 
Champlain Park, Plattsburgh, 12901
Fort Ticonderoga birding

While a visit to Fort Ticonderoga is usually aimed at understanding American history, the fort’s grounds can be excellent for birding. Scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and Baltimore...

Location: 
100 Fort Ti Rd, Ticonderoga, 12883
Putnam Pond Campground

This campground is in an especially lush environment for water birds. Putnam Pond flows into North Pond, is surrounded by Rock and Clear ponds to the west, and Haymeadow Pond and Cranberry Marsh...

Location: 
763 Putts Pond Road, Ticonderoga, 12883
Coon Mountain Preserve

Coon Mountain has a craggy interior with rocky outcrops, steep cliffs, and talus slopes. In shade there are abundant hemlocks, while the sunnier spots support oak and pine forests. Look for the...

Location: 
Halds Road, Westport, 12993
Willsboro Bay Boat Launch Area

While the surrounding woodlots support a variety of breeding birds, like many sites along Lake Champlain, Willsboro Bay is very productive in the fall and spring. In fall, the bay can support...

Location: 
Farrell Road, Willsboro, 12996
Lake Champlain Bridge

The Crown Point Bridge area between New York State and Vermont can be a great place to look for wintering and migrating waterfowl. Access comes from the nearby state campground and...

Location: 
Bridge Road, Crown Point, 12928
Wickham Marsh

Wickham Marsh comprises over 860 acres of forest and marshland. In winter, birders can park in the parking area and walk up the berm to the railroad tracks to scan the lake for ducks.

The...

Location: 
Route 373, Keeseville, 12944
Mt Defiance

A hike or drive (note this is a toll road owned by Fort Ticonderoga. Access is included with daily admission) up Mt. Defiance in Ticonderoga is worth the trip for the commanding view of Lake...

Location: 
Mt Defiance Road, Ticonderoga, 12883
Bulwagga Bay Park

Another location to view Bulwagga Bay from Port Henry, what many locals call Sandy Beach is reached along Bulwagga Drive and adjoins the Bulwagga Bay Campground and RV Park. In spring and...

Location: 
Bulwagga Bay Rd, Port Henry, 12974
Ticonderoga Marsh

Ticonderoga Marsh (often called Ti Marsh) sits tucked in along Lake Champlain where the La Chute River dumps into the lake. The marsh is best accessed by launching a canoe below the falls on the...

Location: 
LaChute River Delta, Ticonderoga, 12883