Early Spring Changes

For many folks, waiting for spring in the Adirondacks is a test of their patience. One day is warm and sunny and the next gray, chilly, and perhaps snowy. After all, spring takes a while to win the seasonal battle for weather supremacy. But that doesn't mean that spring isn't already underway.

Many of the first signs of spring in the bird world take place during the end of winter. It begins with warming days when species like White-breasted Nuthatch and Brown Creeper sing as if willing the snow to melt. As holes appear in area lakes, such as in Tupper Lake Marsh, they are quickly exploited by waterfowl - some of our earliest migrants. Such openings in the ice host species like Ring-necked Duck, American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, and a string of other species. For birders interested in seeing even more waterfowl on the move, a trip to the St. Lawrence Valley north of Malone may be a good idea.

Many of the ducks and other water birds that drop in don't stick around for long, so getting outside as often as possible is the best way to find them. As those ducks are passing through, Song Sparrows show up in the shrubs and hedgerows, and Red-winged Blackbirds reappear in the wetlands. Common Grackles also return, and we soon hear the first Eastern Phoebes of the season.

April Diversity

As April continues, these birds are followed by a long list of sparrows, and the region can offer an exciting diversity which includes Fox, White-throated, Savannah, Vesper, Swamp, Chipping, Dark-eyed Junco, and others. At times the junco numbers at bird feeders can be so high that it appears the ground is moving thanks to their hopping attempts to find food! At the same time, early spring is sometimes marked by lingering winter birds like American Tree Sparrow and Snow Bunting, even as the first American Pipits of the season call from overhead on south winds.

Back in the marshes and wetlands, evening trips often produce the pumping of American Bitterns or the eerie winnowing of Wilson's Snipe. Wood Ducks arrive and soon enough Virginia's Rails do too. Evening trips in the April woods can find Barred or Northern Saw-whet Owls, quacking and tooting in the dark. And raptors begin to return each day as Merlin stake claim to tall pines along the lakeshore, Broad-winged Hawks set up territories in the woods, and Bald Eagles and Osprey return to their gigantic stick nests. Many other raptors also return or pass through on their way north, making the spring an excellent time of year to search for them.

The Build-up to May

Soon the woods are reverberating with the drumming of Ruffed Grouse, as Blue-headed Vireos, Hermit Thrushes, Northern Flickers, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers arrive for the season. Early warblers also show up - species like Yellow-rumped, Pine, and Palm are all harbingers of things to come. As the calendar approaches May the anticipation in the birding world builds, starting with an ever-increasing trickle of warblers, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and a legion of White-crowned Sparrows. Lincoln's Sparrows begin to sing from our bogs and soon the landscape is alive with tanagers, grosbeaks, vireos, thrushes, sparrows, flycatchers, and those warblers - lots of warblers.

After all, 20 species of warblers nest in the Olympic Region, and May sees even more than that during migration. Here is a list to excite your appetite:

  • American Redstart
  • Bay-breasted Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Canada Warbler
  • Cape May Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Mourning Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Northern Parula
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Ovenbird
  • Palm Warbler
  • Pine Warbler
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Wilson's Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

Some of the best habitats to search for warblers in the region are the large boreal complexes like Massawepie and Spring Pond Bog, both of which offer a long list of warblers and everything else. Such locations are also good places to look for resident boreal species like Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, and Gray Jay, adding arriving Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Olive-sided Flycatcher as May progresses.

Before we know it May has transformed into June, when the Great Adirondack Birding Celebration at the Paul Smith's College VIC and the Adirondack Boreal Birding Festival in Hamilton County usher in the new season. And we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to explore and enjoy all that it has to offer.

Plan your birding expedition!

By staying in Tupper Lake, a birder is surrounded by wonderful boreal habitat destinations and also close to the famous St. Lawrence Valley. Every conceivable habitat in New York, except ocean, is an easy drive from Tupper Lake! Grab lunch, and whether you decide to paddle, hike, or drive to your viewing location you're sure to enjoy your Tupper birding experience.

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