It Begins During Summer

At times, fall birding may be a bit of a misnomer, since for birds, fall actually begins during the latter half of the summer. This fact is reflected in the migration of shorebirds from the arctic as well as the mixed flocks of songbirds which characterize much of late summer and early fall. While the shorebirds are best observed in places like the Champlain and St. Lawrence Valleys, it is possible to find them along any lake, any stream, marsh, or wet field in the region as they move through. 

Songbirds are Everywhere!

Songbirds on the other hand are seen in numbers everywhere - whether along a lake, a trail, on a mountain peak, or the edge of a road - and so birders can search for them anywhere they explore - from Massawepie Mire to Spring Pond Bog. And their numbers are only matched by their diversity. Late summer flocks often include species like Philadelphia, Red-eyed, and Blue-headed Vireos, Least Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Black-billed Cuckoo, and a legion of warblers. In fact, over 20 species can be found in the area during fall migration, including species like Cape May, Tennessee, Bay-breasted, and Wilson's which do not generally breed in the region.


Pine Warblers are one of the first warbler species to arrive in the region - with many more to follow! Photo credit: Alan Belford

As we move deeper into fall, these flocks move off to the south and the straggling warbler species like Yellow-rumped or Pine may be found in mixed flocks of other species like Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Brown Creeper. Thrushes also continue moving through the area, and birders can begin their search during late summer and continue it straight through the fall, finding the following sequence marking the passage of time: Wood, Veery, Swainson's, Gray-cheeked, Bicknell's, and Hermit - Hermit is the final thrush to remain.

Middle and Late Fall Goodies

Mid-fall is also marked by migrant sparrows like Vesper, Fox, White-crowned, Field, and Savannah, with American Tree Sparrows arriving as we approach winter. They will remain in the area throughout the cold months. The same may also be true of species like Pine Siskin, Bohemian Waxwing, and Snow Bunting, while birds like American Pipits usually only pass through during the mid-fall. Of perhaps more interest are both Red and White-winged Crossbills which grace our coniferous forests in search of cones, and this fall and winter promise to be good for both species. And birders who search for these finches may also find our resident boreal specialties in the process - Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, and Black-backed Woodpecker.

Gray Jay

Northern Shrikes may also arrive to spend much of the winter, but they are not the only winged fall predators. These include pretty much any raptor found in the northeast, and birders can search for Broad-winged Hawks and Ospreys in early September or Golden Eagles and Red-shouldered Hawks in October. A few Rough-legged Hawks - commonly found in the lowlands surrounding the Adirondacks during winter - may also be found, but they are generally rare in the middle of the park.

Waterfowl and other aquatic species likewise are on the move during the second half of the fall, and places like the Tupper Lake Causeway and the southern half of Tupper Lake can be excellent for an assortment of species. This can include anything from all three species of scoter to Red-breasted Merganser, to Bufflehead, to Common Goldeneye to Ring-necked Duck. And ducks aren't the only species to move - that list includes Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Horned Grebe, and Red-throated Loon. It can be fantastic.

Hooded Mergansers

With such an amazing diversity of species moving through the area during the fall, it is no wonder that it is one of the best times to bird the region. The truth is, fall winds can bring almost anything, meaning birders should be prepared for whatever chance may bring. And this makes it one of the most exciting times of year on the calendar. 

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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