A Beautiful Time of Year
Fall in the Central Adirondacks is something to savor. There are warm days and cool nights. Frost on the ground, and a kaleidoscope of changing leaves and colors and shapes. Much fewer bugs than earlier in the summer make for great hiking and outdoor adventure. And birds everywhere are on the move.
Shorebirds and Songbirds
For birds, fall begins during the second half of summer as shorebirds migrate south from the arctic and stop through on the edge of any lake, wetland, or stream in the region. And so birders may chance upon species like Least or Solitary Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, or Killdeer.
(photo of Greater Yellowlegs courtesy Tringa Photography)
Of more interest to most folks, late summer and early fall flocks of songbirds are amazing with a diverse suite of species in search of food as they move through the trees and shrubs. Such flocks may hold Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Philadelphia Vireos, Blue-headed Vireos, Red-eyed Vireos, Eastern Kingbirds, Least Flycatchers, Olive-sided Flycatchers, and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers – any species which moves through our region.
And, since many of these birds migrate at night, the silence and peace of the Central Adirondacks can present a great backdrop to listen for nocturnal calls as the birds pass unseen overhead. While some of the birds can be tricky to identify in this way, the thrushes are often relatively easy, and birders can listen and look (during the day) for Wood, Veery, Swainson's, Gray-cheeked, Bicknell's, and Hermit Thrushes.
Warblers, Sparrows, Finches, and Others
The nighttime air can also be filled with the zips and sips of warbler calls and an assortment of warblers can be found foraging during the day on their way south. In fact, better than 20 species of warblers pass through the Central Adirondacks on an annual basis, and the list includes everything from common breeders like Black-throated Blue, Magnolia, and Nashville, to birds which generally breed north of the region – like Wilson's, Cape May, Bay-breasted, and Tennessee.
These flocks often seem to materialize out of the air, shake the leaves of the hedgerows and shrubs to life, and then pass on and disappear – as if vanishing into the fall mist on cool mornings. And, just as the flocks slip away, so does the opportunity to see them, and as we advance through September, we find that most of the birds have gone south of us.
The remaining warblers – like Yellow-rumped and Pine – are often mixed in with species like White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets. And other birds soon begin to replace the warblers as they leave. American Pipits arrive and are often noted by their calls notes overhead, and a slew of sparrows begins to call in the hedgerows. In fact, mid-fall sparrows can be great with species like Vesper, Savannah, White-crowned, Field, and Fox joining our more common breeders.
Fall can also be excellent for our resident boreal species like Gray Jay, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Boreal Chickadee – fresh from their recent molt. Finches too join the flight calls overhead with Pine Siskin and both Red and White-winged Crossbills possible depending on the cone crop on our conifers. This year's crop has been exceptional, and so we've had crossbills in the area for much of the summer - there is a good chance we'll keep crossbills straight through the winter.
Wintering Birds, Raptors, and Waterfowl
Other wintering birds also arrive during the fall, and mid-late fall is often noted by arriving Snow Buntings, Bohemian Waxwings, and Northern Shrikes. And the shrikes are not the only predators on the move, either. That list includes any raptor found in the northeast as species like Broad-winged Hawk moves out in September while October can find numbers of Sharp-shinned Hawks or uncommon species like Golden Eagle.
And while the forests and edge habitats offer excellent birding for songbirds or raptors during the fall, birders can't skip over the lakes which characterize so much of the region. Waterfowl and other aquatic species move in numbers during the fall throughout the Adirondacks and North Country, and birders can find anything from Red-necked Grebe to Bufflehead to Common and Red-throated Loons, to all three species of scoter. Any lake is a good place to check including places like Little Tupper Lake in the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area and Lake Abanakee near Indian Lake.
Eventually, as it always does, winter begins to enforce its will upon the landscape and the lakes begin to freeze, pushing the water birds south of the region or to larger bodies of water such as Lake Champlain. And so winter picks up where fall leaves us off – at Christmas Bird Counts, snowy scenery, and another season waiting to be explored.
Plan Your Birding Expedition in Hamilton County!
For a true Adirondack experience, join us in the heart of the mountains for exciting year-round birding! If you visit, there are comfortable lodging and restaurant options found in this vast wilderness.