Bird Watching

Spring Birding in the Champlain Valley

Ah Spring. Warming temperatures, longer days, and a lake running the eastern spine of the Adirondacks which remains ice covered. Spring takes a long time coming to the North Country but its power transforms the landscape. And as that lake – Lake Champlain - begins to shrug the tight hold of ice upon its surface, it becomes a migratory flyway for ducks and other waterfowl. At first they will be crammed into the only open water available. But soon as the southerly wind and sun widen the tight lanes, more and more waterfowl arrive to take advantage of them. As snow melts upon the fields and farms of the Champlain Valley, ducks and other aquatic species descend upon the flooded fields to feed. Some species of ducks will remain to nest while others are on their way to the arctic. Their numbers can include:

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

And the ducks are not alone in their enjoyment of opening water. Species like Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Common Loon, and Double-crested Cormorant begin to arrive and pass through the region. Gulls too begin to increase in number through the valley, and both Snow Goose and Canada Goose numbers grow with each passing flock. 

Enraptured by Raptors?

All of this change naturally draws the interest of raptors such as Bald Eagles which may look to catch an unwary duck. Osprey also soon arrive on the scene, searching for fish in the ever-freeing waters, and Peregrine Falcons may also look to catch an unwatchful bird. In fact, the Champlain Valley is a great place to look for migrating raptors in spring. Species such as Rough-legged Hawks which overwintered in the valley begin to shift north and others arrive to breed or, like the ducks, pass through to nest further north. Pretty much any species of raptor found in the northeast can be spotted including:

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

The Sweet Song of Spring

Nocturnal birds of prey such as Barred, Great-horned, and Eastern Screech Owls become more vocal as they set up territories and they can be easier to find as a result. And then the songbirds begin to arrive.

Like other portions of the park, songbirds arrive in the valley in a trickle. It begins with species like Red-winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, and Common Grackles. White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos begin to show up in singing numbers. Soon there are Eastern Phoebes, Chipping Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Blue-headed Vireos. The trickle is becoming a flood.  

As April continues Savannah, White-crowned, and Lincoln’s Sparrows move through the valley with the Savannah Sparrows remaining to nest. Soon the fields of the valley harbor singing Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks, and the hedgerows Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole, Warbling Vireo, Indigo Bunting, and Great-crested Flycatcher. 

Some of these same hedgerows can be quite good for warblers such as Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, and Chestnut-sided Warbler. Uncommon warbler species such as Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warbler can also be found setting up nesting territories in the young woodlands which border area fields.  

Banding and Breeding

To truly experience warblers in the Champlain Valley, it's time for a May trip to Crown Point State Historic Site. There a bird banding station has been run since 1976, banding over 100 species of birds – over 20 of which are warblers! And the warblers are not the only thing birders who visit the banding operation may find. Scarlet Tanagers, Swainson’s Thrushes, Red-eyed Vireos, and pretty much any species which migrates through the area in May can be found there. 

And as the thrushes arrive on territory throughout the region by the end of May, the valley readies itself for summer. Birders who visit may also wish to check out places like Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, and Hamilton County in the center of the park where an incredible diversity of warblers and other songbirds breed. And they can explore some of the great boreal birding sites for species like Black-backed Woodpecker and Gray Jay while they are at it. See the Saranac Lake birding page for more details. 

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.