Birding Along the Northern Champlain Valley

Beginning in Vermont

On my return trip from a visit to Vermont the other day, I used the drive to do some birding along the route – there really isn’t any other way to travel. My birding success began in Vermont not far from the Rouses Point Bridge, where I found a Pine Grosbeak in St. Albans, as well as Rough-legged and Red-tailed hawks, and Bald Eagles in Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge. I stopped on the bridge to survey the open water, finding Common Mergansers, Common Goldeneye, Mallards, and a few common gulls.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Open Water on Lake Champlain

There was open water in Rouses Point itself and Canada Geese were already starting to tuck in along the shore. I glanced through them to see if there were any odd geese with them, but found none. But given that the geese are already on the move, birders should be checking out their usual haunts — I’m sure uncommon or rare species will turn up in the coming weeks. The water was largely ice covered south of the bridge, but there were lanes of open water off shore.

Common Merganser - Larry
Common Merganser - Larry

Wren and I stopped to check out the Stony Point jetty (I’ve found Snowy Owls on it in March in the past), and we took a short walk while we were at it since Stony Point Road borders Kings Bay Wildlife Management Area. The jetty was empty, but the open channels of water held a nice collection of Common Mergansers and we could hear the low growling calls of the amorous males. They sounded super cool coming across the ice to our ears, and I stood listening for a while. Then we continued moving south, and finding the marsh at Kings Bay frozen (which I expected), we drove south to find more open water, spotting a Rough-legged Hawk hunting over the Chazy Riverlands as we went.

Rough-legged Hawk - Larry
Rough-legged Hawk - Larry

Flocks of Ducks

The ice didn’t open up again until near Trombley Bay, and I stopped a few places along Lake Shore Road to search through the strings of ducks the open water had attracted. The water and ice edge were also a draw to Bald Eagles, which I spotted throughout our time birding around the lake. As I reached Trombley Bay I also saw a Merlin zipping across the open water, on its way in a hurry. Merlin always seem to mean business when they move and it didn’t slow down or stop, disappearing from view quickly.

Merlin
Merlin

Although ducks were scattered here and there along the lake, the best place to look for them was at Monty Bay, where I first made a short stop at Gilbert Brook Marina. There were a few Common Goldeneye, Hooded Mergansers, and Mallards near the marina, but the better place to check was a short distance south from Monty Bay Marina. A large group of ducks sat in clusters near the marshy edge of the bay and I scoped through them, finding Greater and Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Mallard, American Black Duck, and Common Merganser. A few Bald Eagles sat picking over a carcass on the far shore while American Crows sat in the trees above, waiting their turn to eat.

I looked through the goldeneye for a Barrow’s and found a hybrid Common-Barrow’s male but no true Barrow’s. The duck was pretty in the afternoon light even if it wasn’t a pure species. The entire time I scoped the ducks there was also a large flock of Red-winged Blackbirds — as well as some Common Grackles — calling from the trees across the street. It is a sign that spring is on the way.

Scaup
Scaup

From Monty Bay we drove to Point Au Roche State Park, where Wren and I walked for a spell, checking out Treadwell Bay but not adding any more duck species to our list. The walk was a great cap on our day and we enjoyed the walk, even without many birds.

Winter birding has been great this year in the Champlain Valley and the spring migration is already underway. Plan your trip by checking out our lodging, dining, and outdoor recreation pages!

 

 

Forward out of Darkness
Spring Into Gardening