Winter birding in the Adirondacks is a time to look for hardy species. After all, as December arrives with cold weather, it forces many of our lingering birds south and out of the region. This includes many of the ducks and other species of waterfowl – like Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, and Hooded Merganser which have been migrating through our lakes and ponds during the fall. Once these lake freeze, the birds must move.
A Trip up Whiteface and Winter Finches
Interested birders in search of such species can take a day off from skiing on Whiteface for a trip to the Champlain Valley where a wide diversity of aquatic species can be found overwintering, and birders should check out the Champlain Region website to learn more. Those birders who stay in the Adirondacks during their winter visit will find the woods quiet in comparison to the loud song of spring and summer, but a ski or snowshoe up Whiteface Mountain will reveal scenic vistas and some of those hale and hardy birds which stay through the winter. These may include a Common Raven, Black-capped or Boreal Chickadee, or one of several species of winter finch – such as Red or White-winged Crossbills. After all, winter birding in the Adirondacks is much more about finding specialty birds than it is about a long list of species.
The largest numbers of birds may be found at local bird feeders, and birders might spot Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, or if they’re lucky, Evening Grosbeak. In some years, Common Redpolls move south as well, and large flocks of them often hide a Hoary Redpoll or two. Even less common than the feeder finches, Pine Grosbeaks also occasionally move south from Canada depending on food resources to our north, and they are most often spotted dining on the fruit of ornamental trees and shrubs in town. Bohemian Waxwings enjoy the same fare, pounding down berries and fruit in an effort to have energy to face the cold weather, and they may be joined by lingering Cedar Waxwings or American Robins. And anytime birders find songbirds congregated in numbers, they must be on the lookout for raptors which have stubbornly stuck around during winter – searching for unwary birds at bird feeders.
Raptors, Field Birds, Boreal Species, and Snowy Owls!
Birders checking out local fields may also spot a Northern Shrike perched upon the hedgerows as it hunts for songbirds, and the fields themselves may harbor flocks of Snow Buntings, American Tree Sparrows, or Horned Larks, often detected by their flight calls overhead.
The same is true of both Red and White-winged Crossbills, and birders in search of such winter finches should head to coniferous and boreal habitats across the region where the crossbills can be found dining on the seeds of conifers. This winter is predicted to be good for both species of crossbill, and both species nested in the region this summer. And, even if birders somehow miss the crossbills in their quest, they will be in great habitat for sought-after resident boreal species like Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, and Boreal Chickadee. So a trip to places like Bloomingdale Bog north of Saranac Lake may be a requirement of any birder’s ski trip.
This year that list of required ski trip additions includes a search for Snowy Owls. While in most years a few Snowy Owls can be found – mostly in the fields and farmland of the valleys surrounding the Adirondacks, this year is forecast to bring us many Snowys – and several have been found in recent weeks. It is all evidence that winter birding – although cold – can be fantastic across the region, whether viewed from the top of the mountain or by exploring the valleys below.
Book your stay in the Whiteface Region today!