Birding in the Adirondacks
Hamilton County is one of only two counties entirely contained within the six million acre Adirondack Park. It sits in the heart of the "boreal" zone. This diagonal region of habitat runs from the northeastern to the southwestern Adirondacks. Moose River Plains and the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area are two of the most popular birding destinations in the county. Both locations are designated "Important Bird Areas" (IBAs) by Audubon New York. Ferd's Bog, the trail to Shallow Lake, and Brown's Tract Inlet are also popular locations for lowland boreal birding. The increasingly rare American Three-toed Woodpecker can still be found in these areas. Much of the famous 136-mile long Northville-Placid Trail is found in Hamilton County, with popular boreal birding sections in Long Lake.
Hamilton County contains bogs, marshes, swamps, calm rivers, and forests filled with boreal bird species. The high elevation boreal forest on the upper reaches of Snowy, Pillsbury, Blue, and Wakely Mountains provides breeding habitat for Bicknell's Thrush. This endemic northeastern U.S. species brings birders from all over the U.S., Canada, and beyond to the Adirondack Park.
With vast wilderness areas, Hamilton County is a scenic, remote place. It is the only county in New York State without a traffic light, or traffic for that matter! Wildlife abounds! In addition to all the wonderful birds, mammal species such as Moose also thrill visitors.
Year-Round Birding in Hamilton County
Some of the year-round boreal species that attract birders include: Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Red and White-winged Crossbills, and Evening Grosbeak. In the spring, the county fills with birds! Northern New York is the best location in North America to see nesting warblers with thirty breeding species, including Golden-winged, Cape May, Palm, Blackpoll, Mourning, and Canada Warblers, and Northern Waterthrush. Birders can tally at least 18 warbler species with a walk along Sabattis Circle Road in the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area, or in Moose River Plains. Common Loon, Northern Goshawk, Olive-sided, Yellow-bellied, Alder, and Least Flycatchers, Philadelphia Vireo, and Lincoln's Sparrow are other nesting species that bring birders to the region.
The Adirondack Park is bordered on its western and eastern sides by the scenic St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain Valleys. The St. Lawrence Valley has a variety of habitats including grassland, shrubland, marsh, river, deciduous forest, and mixed forest. Just some of the species that birders look for in the valley during the spring include: Virginia Rail, Black Tern, many flycatcher species, Sedge Wren, Golden-winged, Blue-winged, and Cerulean Warblers, Henslow's and Grasshopper Sparrows, and Bobolink.
In the fall, birders flock to wetland areas of the Adirondacks, and the surrounding St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain Valleys to observe the amazing spectacle of migration. Waterfowl and shorebirds move through the area in addition to many other migratory species.
In the winter, birders visit Northern New York to see not only the wonderful year-round boreal species, but irruptive species from the north such as Barrow's Goldeneye, Rough-legged Hawk, owl species such as Short-eared, Snowy, Great Gray and Northern Hawk Owls, Northern Shrike, Bohemian Waxwing (which come in by the thousands from northwestern Canada), and finches such as Pine Grosbeak, and Common and Hoary Redpolls.
The Popular Annual Adirondack Birding Festival
Hamilton County hosts the annual Adirondack Birding Festival, a three-day event held during the second weekend in June. There are bird walks, driving safaris, canoe trips, a social dinner aboard the W.W. Durant on scenic Raquette Lake, and a keynote speaker. This is a popular event, so register early!