Birdwatching

Fantastic year-round birding

The Champlain Valley and Lake Champlain Region offer excellent year-round birding. Each season has different players that make an appearance. That just adds to the excitement -- you never know what you’re going to see!

Seasonal changes

As our landscape shifts throughout the year, so do the bird species we see around the region. Birdwatching is especially exhilarating in spring and fall, when migrants pass through our area in great numbers and many birds return to their breeding grounds. Summer and winter also have their own unique cast.

In winter, while much of the Adirondacks is plunged into colder temperatures and snowier conditions, it tends to stay a little warmer in the Lake Champlain Region. Away from the lake, the many fields that dot the landscape can also be excellent throughout the winter for Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, Northern Shrikes, and Lapland Longspurs, and birders in search of raptors or wintering field species should check out places like the Magic Triangle or the fields south of Westport. And, of course, no winter here would be complete without at least a few Snowy Owls making an appearance.

Spring comes a little sooner here than across most of the Adirondacks, welcoming back early migrants like Eastern Bluebirds, Common Grackles, Song Sparrows, and Red-winged Blackbirds. The arrival of these migrants coincides with the springtime advent of many other species like Caspian Terns on the lake, Eastern Meadowlarks in the fields, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in the woodlands.

As the weather warms, the woods and waters swell with a diversity of bird species. By May, the woods are growing full of birds as migrants of all sorts, shapes, and sizes move along the spine of the lake, many of them passing through Crown Point State Historic Site and the songbird banding station there. The valley’s edge communities harbor nesting Baltimore Orioles and Chestnut-sided Warblers while the fields are the nesting habitat for Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows. Over the open waters, don't forget to watch Osprey sweeping over the lake!

Summer days of nesting birds are short-lived – even in the valley. Soon the birds become quieter, their hormone-driven songs finished with the end of breeding. Instead they begin to feed voraciously in preparation for migration, flocking up in diverse (about twenty-five species of warblers alone can be found!), mixed-species groups. Such flocks make for excellent birding during the latter half of summer, but they are matched by the movement of other species along the lakeshore. After all, some of the first southbound migrants we find are shorebirds, and a wide array of shorebird species can be found along the mudflats and sandbars of the lake in places like Ticonderoga Marsh and Wickham Marsh – anywhere the water level is good for them to forage.

Many birds eventually depart as the temperatures drop and fall moves in. As the fall season advances, birders can sort through a miscellany of sparrows in the valley’s hedgerows, listen for American Pipits overhead, and keep an eye open for rarities. After all, fall is the best time of year to find rarities in the region. Like spring, fall is also marked by migrating raptors of all sorts, starting with migrating Broad-winged Hawks in September and ending with our first Rough-legged Hawks, which will remain with us all winter long. It is then that we also find our first American Tree Sparrows, Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, and Northern Shrikes as the snow falls and autumn transitions to the holidays, winter, and the start of a new birding year.

Waterfowl, waterfowl everywhere

When the lake isn’t frozen, there are ducks aplenty! In spring, fall, and winter, thousands of waterfowl can be present in the Crown Point and Port Henry area at once, and birders can sift through the more common species for specialties like Barrow’s Goldeneye and Tufted Duck. Large rafts of Great Scaup can be mixed with different species of mergansers, Mallards, Northern Pintails, and Redheads. And, of course, there are usually gulls milling about with the waterfowl. Ring-billed Gulls are commonly seen, and Bonaparte's Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls are not strangers, especially during fall migration. And speaking of fall migration, geese can be seen in very impressive numbers. There's always a chance to see a Ross's Goose or Greater White-fronted Goose within large flocks of Canada Geese.

Find your nest

To learn more, read one of our latest birding blogs.

The 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 below to view and print the brochure.

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
  
Bulwagga Bay Park

Paddling

Maintained by the Town of Moriah, this public beach is located within the Bulwagga Bay RV Park and Campground. Open daily through the summer from 9am until 5pm, no fee. Paddle...

Location: 
Bulwagga Bay Road, Port Henry, 12974
  
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
  
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
  
Webb Royce Swamp

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

Location: 
Lake Shore Road, Westport, 12993
  
Coot Hill (Big Hollow) Trail

Hiking

This new trail features a historic cemetery and a large summit expanse, with views from angles not easily reached by any other trail.

How to get there

From Port...

Location: 
6482 Main Street
POB 193, Westport, 12993
  
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
  
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
  
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: 
Dudley
off Route 22, Westport, 12993
  
Putts Creek

Fishing

This stream boasts great rainbow, brook and brown trout.

Beginning at Penfield Pond in the hamlet of Ironville within the Town of Crown Point, Putts Creek empties into Lake...

Location: 
County Route 2, Crown Point, 12928
  
Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area

This is a birders' paradise!

How to get there

Take Exit 35 of the Adirondack Northway (I-87). Turn east onto Bear Swamp Road (Route 442) - turn right if coming from the south or...

Location: 
3346 Lake Shore Road, Plattsburgh, 12901
  
Port Henry's Champ Beach Park

Enjoy scenic swimming, camping, and picnicking on the shore of expansive Lake Champlain. You can even look for Champy, the infamous lake monster!

Swimming

This is a small town...

Location: 
Beach Road, Port Henry, 12974
  
Poke-O-Moonshine Day Use Area

Poke-O Moonshine Mountain offers a huge a variety of activities for anyone looking for a place to spend the day, with an easy hike to the top, gorgeous swaths of rock for climbing, and plenty of...

Location: 
176 NYS Route 9N, Keeseville, 12944
  
Mt Defiance

This historic location and scenic drive offers unmatched views of Fort Ticonderoga as well as Lake Champlain from above.

How to get there

From Rt. 22, turn onto Montcalm St....

Location: 
Mt Defiance Road, Ticonderoga, 12883
  
Essex Ferry Terminal

The Essex Ferry area is a good place to look for wintering waterfowl during the cold months. The ferry terminal can be particularly attractive to waterfowl during cold winters when much of the...

Location: 
Dock St, Essex, 12936
  
Putnam Pond State Campground

Camping

Large, well-forested campsites with lots of privacy. This is a key start-off point for hiking in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness area.

Choose from interior site camping, which...

Location: 
763 Putts Pond Road, Ticonderoga, 12883
  
Pauline Murdock Wildlife Management Area

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

Location: 
Elizabethtown-Wadhams Road, Elizabethtown, 12932
  
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.

How to get there

By car, take State Route 9N/22 to Lake Road,...

Location: 
Wolcott Road, Crown Point, 12928
  
Crown Point Ruins - Birding and Banding

Birding

Like Fort Ticonderoga, Crown Point State Historic Site offers birding...

Location: 
Bridge Road, Crown Point, 12928
  
Chimney Point State Historic Site

Birding

Chimney Point State Historic Site in Vermont sits on the Vermont side of the Champlain Bridge. It offers much the same birding opportunities as the New York side of the bridge,...

Location: 
7305 VT Route 125, Crown Point, 05491
  
Westport Water Treatment Facility

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

Location: 
Marks Road, Westport, 12993
  
Crown Point Boat Launch Area

This location is part of a peninsula with parks along the shore.

Getting there

Located near the Lake Champlain Visitors Center.

Birding

There are many vantage...

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
  
Belfry Mountain

Known as the easiest fire tower in the Adirondacks, Belfry is excellent for any age or skill level. While this entire climb is uphill along an access road to the tower, it is very easy and has...

Location: 
729 County Hwy 7C, Mineville, 12956
  
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
  
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
  
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
  
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
  
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.

...

Location: 
Baldwin Road, Ticonderoga, 12883
  
Noblewood Park

With its sweeping views of Lake Champlain, Vermont's Green Mountains, the Boquet River, and the Adirondack foothills, Noblewood Park is one of the hidden jewels of the Adirondack-Champlain region...

Location: 
Route 22, Willsboro, 12996
  
Wickham Marsh Wildlife Area

This is a great place for hiking, birding, cross- country skiing, and snowshoeing! There is also a wheelchair accessible trail.

How to get there

There are three locations where you...

Location: 
154-166 Soper Rd
Giddings Road Trailhead, Keeseville, 12944
  
Westport Boat Launch

 

Boating

DEC boat launch on Route 22 in the village of Westport. Hard surface ramp with parking for 35 cars and trailers.

Birding

Westport’s position on North...

Location: 
Route 22, Westport, 12993
  
Mill and Murray Ponds

Paddling

How to Get There: From the intersection of County Route 6 and 7 in Mineville, follow County Route 7 toward Elizabethtown. Continue for about 3 miles to a faint dirt access road...

Location: 
County Route 7, Mineville, 12956
  
Whallons Bay

Birding

Whallon Bay 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...

Location: 
Albee Road, Essex, 12936
  
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 are a variety of ducks that may over winter or migrate...

Location: 
Front Street, Au Sable Chasm, 12911
  
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