Spring in the Adirondacks is something to savor - the warm days and bright colors don't last as long as many of us want. The same can be said of spring migration - it is one of those times of year which birders wish they could lengthen. After all, it seems that just when migration is upon us it is over and summer begins. With so many birds pushing north to establish a territory and breed, they don't have time to linger.
Prime-time birding in the Adirondacks
The height of spring is not all there is to the season. It begins much earlier in the year, and there are signs of spring in the bird world in late winter, as some of our local resident species like White-breasted Nuthatch and Brown Creeper begin to sing on sunny winter mornings. Migration is already underway as our snow is melting and late winter and early spring are often characterized by waterfowl moving through the region on their way north, exploiting any hole they find in the ice. This makes Tupper Lake Marsh and the causeway south of town a great place to check out as the waterfowl movement picks up speed. In fact, an array of waterfowl move through the North Country in early spring, and birders should stop by open lakes to see what they can find. And, because of Tupper Lake's location, birders can also check out the Champlain Valley or St. Lawrence Valley in search of even larger waterfowl numbers.
While waterfowl are using any available water they can find, the skies above offer an array of raptors riding north on southern winds even as arriving song birds like Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Eastern Phoebe, and Song Sparrow declare to all that spring is coming. It is also a time of year when lingering winter birds like Snow Buntings, Bohemian Waxwings, and American Tree Sparrows leave the area and a walk in late winter and early spring can often find an assortment of winter birds and spring arrivals. Soon more sparrows begin to arrive - many of which can be found at bird feeders. These include Fox, Vesper, Savannah, White-throated, Chipping, and loads of Dark-eyed Juncos. Juncos seem to be everywhere for a few weeks in April, singing their ringing songs and hopping up and down on the ground in unison in an almost hypnotic rhythm. The air is also filled with the rhythm of drumming Ruffed Grouse and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and birders welcome back the strident chatter of Merlin in the white pines and the loud whistles of Osprey as they return to their huge stick nests.
Spring evenings feature the fluty songs of Hermit Thrush, the hoots of Barred Owls, and the toots of Northern Saw-whet Owls, while the buzz and twittering flight of displaying American Woodcocks is captivating. Winnowing Wilson's Snipe and pumping American Bittern advertise for mates in local marshes amidst a cacophony of amphibians, and a day trip to Tupper Lake Marsh may reveal the bugling return of Sandhill Cranes. The cranes have become more prevalent in the North Country in recent years and they were confirmed breeding at Tupper Lake Marsh in 2016 - an exciting Adirondack first.
The return of some Adirondack favorites
Soon early warblers like Pine, Palm, and Yellow-rumped are passing through and setting up territory, and Blue-headed Vireos can be heard singing on most morning walks. They are all precursors for what is to come as the days lengthen. As the calendar reaches May, it does so with a chorus of White-crowned Sparrows as the first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds - having crossed the Gulf of Mexico on tiny wings - arrive at area feeders. More and more warblers seemingly arrive with each day, and then May becomes a colored-feather pattern composed of tanagers, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, grosbeaks, cuckoos, and yes, more warblers. In fact, over 20 species of warblers can be found in the area during spring migration, and if they haven't done so already, birders should head to Massawepie Mire and Spring Pond Bog for a splendid sampling of the diversity around them.
Such boreal habitats are also great to explore because resident specialty birds like Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, and Boreal Chickadee can be found there - as well as the state-endangered Spruce Grouse. And these aren't the only boreal species birders can find. Lincoln's Sparrows sing from bog mats and as May advances Yellow-bellied and Olive-sided Flycatchers call from balsam thickets and snags. Before any of us are ready, the migration is over and spring has transformed smoothly into summer. Birders shouldn't wait if they want to experience spring migration. But even after the excitement of migration builds to a crescendo, it does not fade quickly. After all, it leads us into the summer - which begins with a medley of birds in our forests, bogs, marshes, and mountains. It is a truly magical time in the Adirondacks and not to be missed.
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.