As spring begins to grow in strength across the region and the warm sun softens the frozen world, it faces strongholds of resistance against its sway. Even as meltwater swells the local lakes and the ice opens up invitingly for migrating waterfowl in the Adirondacks, not all of the North Country is so easily converted. The mountains – like Whiteface — stand there, obstinate, cold, stubborn, and white. They maintain a staunch refusal to submit to the sun, and can offer up a snowstorm, even in late May.
But the areas beneath these towering citadels show signs of spring early in the process. Not only do the lakes open for waterfowl like Bufflehead and Ring-necked Ducks, but the yards and bird feeders in the region are quickly colonized by species like Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, and Song Sparrow – some of the earliest arrivals to mark the new season. Soon they are followed by Eastern Phoebes, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Blue-headed Vireos, and a list of sparrows like Vesper, White-throated, Fox, Savannah, Chipping, and a ringing chorus of Dark-eyed Juncos.
Lowland marshes offer American Bitterns, and later in the season species like Virginia Rail, but the mountains remain cold and isolated from the festivities below. Soon raptors spread their shadows across the landscape below and Osprey return to their enormous stick nests, Merlin chatter from the tall white pines, and Broad-winged Hawks add their high-pitched cries to the air. The list of arriving species grows with Northern Flicker, Winter Wren, and a few early warblers like Palm, Pine, and Yellow-rumped. But still the mountains may stand there with a chilled, detached expression.
Songs up high
Yet with each new arrival and each warm day the signs and song of spring creep further and further up slope. Soon the songs of Brown Creepers and the drumming of Ruffed Grouse begin to penetrate the staunch exterior of the peaks, even as the croaking of nesting Common Ravens is heard on the chilly wind. As April turns to May the hills and mountains begin to acquiesce to the onslaught of warm song, even though they push back with snow one day or a cold wind the next.
After all, May is a time of life in the North Country and even the tallest peaks cannot hold out forever in opposition to it. Soon the woods and field edges are full of the songs of Scarlet Tanagers, Least Flycatchers, Hermit Thrushes, Black-billed Cuckoos, Great Crested Flycatchers, mewing Gray Catbirds, chattering Barn Swallows, and a long list of warblers. Soon birders are finding deciduous forest breeders like Blackburnian Warbler and Ovenbird, edge species like Chestnut-sided and Yellow Warblers, and coniferous habitat lovers like Nashville and Magnolia — in habitats where they can also search for resident boreal birds like Black-backed Woodpeckers, Gray Jays, and Boreal Chickadees. These same habitats are also home to breeding Olive-sided and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers.
With so much going on below, birders soon set their eyes upon the mountains, and the mountain, as Whiteface sits lonely and aloof from those around it. As birders head up slope, the habitat changes and they reach the preferred habitat of yet another warbler — Blackpoll Warbler — in the montane spruce-fir forest. There it is joined by a comparatively small list of hardy souls which take on the often unsettled — even in spring and summer — weather. These include Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Boreal Chickadee, Winter Wren, Swainson's Thrush, and most famous of all, Bicknell's Thrush. They have chosen such strongholds to call their home, and soon their song is warming the stubborn mountains from spring into summer.
Hike, Bike, Ride, or Drive
View birds from all elevations by hiking a High Peak. The Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway offers a unique opportunity to drive or ride (car, motorcycle or bicycle) to the top of an Adirondack High Peak, and stop along the way for fantastic views and great birding at all altitudes!
Book your stay in the Whiteface Region today!