- a unique blend of striking scenic beauty, endless outdoor recreational opportunities and celebrated heritage.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.