Bird Watching

Autumn Migration in the Champlain Valley

Fall migration in the Champlain Valley begins during the end of summer. Shorebirds head south from the arctic to escape the oncoming cold, and they stop over on the mud flats, sandbars, and flooded fields of the lakeshore. These shorebirds can include species like American Golden Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Dunlin, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover, and Wilson’s Snipe. Less common species like Baird’s Sandpiper and White-rumped Sandpiper can also be found.

The shorebird migration overlaps with the songbird migration which features a rainbow of species moving south along the lakeshore. Species like Scarlet Tanagers, Black-billed Cuckoos, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Philadelphia Vireos, and Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked Thrushes can all be found as they pass through. The diversity can be mind-boggling. But it is often the warblers which capture the attention of birders. Any warbler species found in the northeast can be found moving through the region – from Tennessee Warblers to Cape May Warblers to Magnolia Warblers. 

The warblers are followed later in the season by a variety of sparrows as Savannah, White-crowned, and Fox sparrows all pass through, as well as less common species. Later in the fall is also marked by migrating Rusty Blackbirds and Bohemian Waxwings, the latter of which will stick around all winter. And all of these songbirds will sit under the watchful eyes of Northern Shrikes which move south to spend the winter along the many fields and hedgerows which compose the valley.

But shrikes aren’t the only predatory birds to grace the valley during the fall. The fields surrounding the lake offer great raptor hunting areas and many species pass through on their way south. Other species, like Rough-legged Hawks will spend the entire winter in the valley. Birders can search for:

 

  • American Kestrel
  • Merlin
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Northern Goshawk
  • Golden Eagle
  • Cooper ’s Hawk
  • Bald Eagle
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • Osprey
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Rough-legged Hawk 

Waterfowl Species in Abundance!

Waterfowl species migrate through in large numbers each autumn, and ducks of a wide variety of species head south with the lake as their highway. Birders should spend time in the valley and look for:

 

  • Northern Pintail
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Redhead
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Surf Scoter
  • White-winged Scoter
  • Wood Duck
  • Greater Scaup
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Mallard
  • Bufflehead
  • Canvasback
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Common Merganser
  • Gadwall
  • Black Scoter
  • Barrow’s Goldeneye
  • American Wigeon
  • American Black Duck 

Geese, Geese, and more Geese!

Other migrating species along the lake include Red-necked Grebes, Horned Grebes, and Common and Red-throated Loons. But it is the goose spectacle which usually steals the show. Large numbers of Canada Geese move south along the lake and uncommon species like Greater White-fronted Geese, Cackling Geese, and Barnacle Geese have been found in their midst. Even more impressive are the tens of thousands of Snow Geese which move through the valley – with large numbers grouping up in the northern valley near Plattsburgh and Point AuRoche. Careful searching through the white mass of these flocks can yield Ross’s Geese, and birders should plan to spend some time sifting through the honking throng. As the weather gets cold many species of waterfowl will remain in the valley for the winter. After all, as fall migration marks the end of summer, it only marks the beginning of a great time to go birding in the Champlain Region.

Year-round Birding in Lake Champlain

Birders should also note that larger contiguous habitats for warblers and other forest birds such as Scarlet Tanager and Swainson’s Thrush are an easy drive into the park. There birders can visit locations near Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, or in Hamilton County and it is recommended that they check out the birding websites for those locations. In addition, if a visit up into the Adirondacks is in order, birders can hunt through coniferous habitats for breeding warbler species such as Palm, Magnolia, and Nashville Warblers. And they can also search for resident boreal bird species like Black-backed Woodpecker while they are at it. 

Find your nest

Lake Champlain has an array for even the pickest of birds, 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 can be done while your 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.


Listing Results:

Page 1 – Displaying 1 – 15 of 30

Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area

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 ...
Location: Plattsburgh, NY
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Chimney Point State Historic Site

Chimney Point State Historic Site
Chimney Point State Historic Site in Vermont sits on the Vermont side of the Champlain Bridge. It offers much the same birding ...
Location: Crown Point, VT
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Cook Mountain Preserve

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 ...
Location: Ticonderoga, NY
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Coon Mountain Preserve

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 ...
Location: Westport, NY
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Crown Point Boat Launch Area

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, ...
Location: Crown Point, NY
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Crown Point Ruins - Birding and Banding

Crown Point Ruins - Birding and Banding
Like Fort Ticonderoga, Crown Point State Historic Site offers birding along Lake Champlain against a historic backdrop that is worth the ...
Location: Crown Point, NY
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Cumberland Head

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 ...
Location: Plattsburgh, NY
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Essex Ferry Terminal

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 ...
Location: Essex, NY
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Fort Ticonderoga birding

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. ...
Location: Ticonderoga, NY
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Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area

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 ...
Location: Elizabethtown, NY
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Lake Champlain Bridge

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. ...
Location: Crown Point, NY
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Magic Triangle

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 ...
Location: Essex, NY
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Mouth of the Saranac River

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 ...
Location: Plattsburgh, NY
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Noblewood Park birding

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 ...
Location: Willsboro, NY
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Pauline Murdock Wildlife Management Area

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 ...
Location: Elizabethtown, NY
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The Great Blue Heron

with a head-to-tail length of 36-55 inches and wingspan of 66- 79 inches, it's no wonder this bird is the largest North American species.

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