Adirondack Birding & Boreal Birds

Adirondack Birding

Hamilton County: In the heart of the boreal zone

No matter the season, Hamilton County is a birding paradise. Spring, summer, fall, and winter - you'll be sure to find a species to check off your life list. Don't forget to check out our annual birding festival and numerous birding outings held throughout the year.

 

The heart of the boreal zone

The Adirondacks is a birdwatching haven. And perhaps there is no better place to see the unique boreal species that call this place than in Hamilton County. 

 

What does “boreal” mean? Well, by definition it means “of the north.” For birders that means a chance to see many species that typically only inhabit northern climates and are more likely to be found in places like Canada. Some boreal species of birds found here can include: Lincoln’s Sparrow, Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, Canada Jay, Common Loon, and the elusive Spruce Grouse. These birds are at the southern extent for their breeding range in Hamilton County and are symbols of the Adirondack landscape. You’ll find these birds and many others in the bogs and boreal forests here.

Seasons of change

As our landscape shifts throughout the year, so do the bird species we see around the region. Birdwatching is especially exhilarating in spring and fall, when migrants pass through our area in great numbers and many birds return to their breeding grounds. Summer and winter also have their own unique cast.

 

While the diversity of birds is at its lowest point during the winter, it does not mean birding is not good. Birders will delight in hearing the chatter of Black-capped Chickadees and the robotic calls of Red-breasted Nuthatches. Resident boreal species are understated, though still present. This means birders in search of Boreal Chickadees and Black-backed Woodpeckers in some of our coniferous forests, such as those around Sabattis Bog, must pay attention to their nasal chatter and soft tapping. These sounds can be echoed by the quiet calls of inquisitive Canada Jays which may suddenly burst out loudly, boisterously breaking the silence. Such strident music can also be heard in the changing trills of singing White-winged Crossbills or the sharp notes of Red Crossbills, present in some years in response to food availability. The music of winter can be heard in our towns too, in the incessant activity and twitter of a flock of Common Redpolls, or the sweet tunes of Pine Grosbeaks and the trills of Bohemian Waxwings, here to dine on fruit.

The wintering birds soon pick up the cadence in their tunes as spring approaches. Ice on our lakes begins to recede and the tune is taken up by the whirring wings of migrating ducks, which seem to drop in almost immediately once open water appears as if they knew it was coming. Many of them will not linger for long, meaning we birders must be outside as often as we can be in order to find them. 

 

The melody of April then becomes the ringing songs of Dark-eyed Juncos and the whistles of White-throated Sparrows. They are joined by a harmony of others – including Fox, Vesper, Chipping, Savannah, and Lincoln’s Sparrows, even as lingering American Tree Sparrows offer their last twinkling notes of the winter before heading north. The cadence is then taken up by the staccato drumming of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, the fluty songs of Hermit Thrushes, and the low pulsing throb of American Bitterns calling from area marshes. 

 

Some of the first warblers to arrive in the spring are Yellow-rumped and Palm warblers. Their colorful plumage lights up bogs, like Ferd's Bog, and surrounding forests. Soon, flycatchers will add their songs to the mix, along with other warblers, sparrows, and even Scarlet Tanagers. As we advance into July, we notice an escalation of sound and activity begins with the chips of recently fledged young birds, and before we know it August has gathered small ensembles of mix-species flocks – diverse collections of birds which infuse life in the forest as they feed incessantly in preparation for their long journey south. Such flocks are an exciting miscellany of birds, and birders can sift through them as if trying to find a hidden prize. It makes August one of the best times of year to bird the Adirondacks and the Sacandaga Pathway in Speculator is a great place to stop. For those looking for adventure and a chance to see a "lifer," head to Blue Mountain, where Bicknell's Thrush are known to breed. Getting to their habitat requires a demanding hike up a mountain, but it may come with a sweet reward, and a great view! 

 

As autumn enters the region, many species that spend their summer up north begin to migrate back south again and pass through Hamilton County. Common Loons, the iconic symbols of our lakes and seen regularly in the William C. Whitney Wilderness, change into winter plumage and make their way to the coast. Pine Siskins and Red Crossbills and other “winter finches” show up more frequently as the snow begins to fall and we start the birding year over again.

Leave No Trace and Love Your ADK

The magic of the Adirondacks is the result of previous generations taking a long view and protecting the mountains, lakes, and rivers within the Blue Line. That tradition continues today as we support and encourage everyone to practice Leave No Trace ethics, which help protect the lands and waters of the Adirondacks.

Leave No Trace Seven Principles

This slow moving, "perfect Adirondack...
Rock Dam Road
Indian Lake
12842
  
For the better part of the last century, Blue...
Route 30
Blue Mountain Lake
12812
  
The trail is flat and easy and only 0.75 mile...
Parkhurst Road
Inlet
13360
  
This wonderful hike has it all: beautiful...
Big Moose Road
Inlet
13360
  
This multi-use trail connects Inlet and...
Moose River Plains Road
Inlet
13360
  
This place really has it all: hiking, bird...
South Shore Road
Inlet
13360
  
Wakely Mountain’s 70-foot tower is one of the...
Cedar River Road
Indian Lake
12842
  
This trail is a nice, tight single track on...
Seventh Lake Road
Inlet
13360
  
Paddling For this adventure you will have a...
Route 421
Piercefield
12973
  
Hiking This is an easy Adirondack trail...
901C Sabattis Rd
Long Lake
12847
  
Fishing Located on the south side of Route 28...
Green Bridge Rd
43.694550
Wells
12190
  
There is a small cascading waterfall formed...
Route 8
Arietta
‎12139
  
Moss Lake is a beautiful place for a picnic,...
327 Big Moose Rd
Inlet
13360
  
Take a mellow walk to this attractive wetland...
Route 8
Lake Pleasant
12108
  
The Pathway is a 1-1/2 mile long boardwalk...
State Route 30
Speculator
12164
  
Cedar River Flow is tucked in the mountains...
Cedar River Road
Inlet
13360
  
The Old Dam Nature Trail loop, located near...
Limekiln Lake Road
Inlet
13360
  
Be sure to paddle the bays and narrows of the...
Higby Road
Inlet
13360
  
Hiking With many good parking spots around...
Hunt Club Road
Inlet
13360
  
This is a two-mile, flat-water paddle to an...
Sagamore Road
Raquette Lake
13436
  
Along the Perkins Clearing Road, listen for...
Lake Pleasant
12108
  
Beaver Brook Bog is a birding area located...
Uncas Road
Raquette Lake
13436
  
Hiking It's an easy half-mile climb to Rocky...
Route 28
Eagle Bay
13331
  
Hiking This trail opens into some wide, flat...
Moose River Plains Wild Forest
Inlet
13360
  
Located off of Uncas Road, this is a short...
Browns Tract Road
Inlet
13360
  
Catlin Bay is a simple 1.1 mile hike along...
Tarbell Hill Road
Long Lake
12847
  
Enjoy extensive hiking and biking trails, or...
Route 28
Inlet
13360
  
Hiking This is a great place for the whole...
Otter Brook Road
Inlet
13360
  
Hiking and Nature Walk This short and easy...
State Route 8/30
Indian Lake
12842
  
Hiking Trout Brook is not named as such on...
North Point Road
Long Lake
12847
  
While not part of the Hamilton County Fire...
Rondaxe Road
Inlet
13360
  
Hiking This trail has easy, rolling terrain...
Moose River Plains Wild Forest
Inlet
13360
  
The Miami River, accessed from the south end...
Route 30
Speculator
12164
  
Hiking An 8.1-mile trip into Big West Lake...
Cedar River Road
Indian Lake
12842
  
The road has gentle hills and quickly...
Route 421
Long Lake
12847
  
Hiking From the trailhead, hike along an old...
Route 28
Inlet
13360
  
This path might be primarily used as a canoe...
Route 28
43.8087341
Inlet
13360
  
The old railroad track starts across the road...
Uncas Road
Inlet
13360
  
Look for a small open bog mat with scattered...
Circle Road
Long Lake
12847
  
Hiking Sargent Ponds are located in the...
North Point Road
Raquette Lake
13436
  
Paddling Cedar River Flow is an excellent,...
Cedar River Road
Inlet
13360
  
Lake Lila is located in the William C....
Lake Lila Access Road
Long Lake
12847
  
Hiking This is a very easy trail to follow...
Hunt Club Road
Inlet
13360
  
Once on the inlet you will be paddling...
Village Center
Raquette Lake
13436
  
The Seventh Lake Mountain Community Connector...
Moose River Plains Wild Forest
Inlet
13360
  
Hiking Puffer Pond is located about smack dab...
State Route 4
Indian Lake
12842
  
Don't be afraid of the name. This short hike...
Route 28
Raquette Lake
13436
  
The only way to explore Round Lake is by...
Sabattis Circle Road
Long Lake
12847
  
Windfall Pond is a beautiful destination for...
Big Moose Road
Eagle Bay
13331
  
The trail to Sis and Bubb lakes is very...
Inlet
13360
  
This relatively easy 1.3-mile walk (round...
Indian Lake
12842
  
Hiking These trails are mostly easy and flat...
Rondaxe Road
Inlet
13360
  
Route 10 is a good place to bird and a...
Arietta
‎12139
  
This 10-mile (1-way) road trip will bisect a...
Sabattis
12847
  
This trail starts on North Rondaxe Road as a...
North Rondaxe Road
Inlet
13360
  
Philadelphia Vireos have been seen feeding...
Wells
12190
  
The trail starts out following the course of...
  
This is an easy ride that passes Upper and...
Uncas Road
Inlet
13360
  
Birding Boreal species that have been sighted...
Raquette Lake
13436
  
Located in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest...
Moose River Plains Wild Forest
Inlet
13360
  
On the Flow, paddlers should see Common Loon...
Indian Lake
12842
  
The trail to Lower Sargent Pond is marked...
North Lake Road
Long Lake
12847
  
Lows Lake is one of the prettiest lakes in...
Long Lake
12847
  
This is a flat water paddle following the...
Speculator
12164
  
The Moose River Plains Wild Forest is part of...
Moose River Plains Wild Forest
Inlet
13360
  
Hiking This relatively easy walk passes...
Route 30
Wells
12190
  
This “pull off and fish by the roadside” pond...
South Shore Road
Inlet
13360
  
A rich variety of northern birds can be found...
Indian Lake
12842
  
This trail starts with a scenic drive through...
Piseco
12139
  
Note: This hike requires a good trail map,...
Otter Brook Road
Inlet
13360
  
Known as the Great Eight Lakes, this trail is...
Big Moose Road
Inlet
13360
  
Enter through the Brown Tract Pond campground...
Inlet
13360
  
These two ponds are located on a foot trail...
Rondaxe Road
Inlet
13360
  
This dirt road is lightly-traveled and can be...
Arietta
‎12139
  

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