While the region braces itself for another cold Adirondack winter, the birds are likewise preparing themselves. Most of them migrate south to more southerly climes, and some of these can be found during the late fall and early winter. These include species like Snow Buntings and American Tree Sparrows which may remain in the region all winter long. But many of our birds head out of the area and a trip up Whiteface Mountain in winter on cross-country skis or snowshoes will offer amazing views of the winter landscape, but a short list of birds.
Weathering the cold
This list will almost certainly include Common Raven, but it may also contain species like Boreal Chickadee and White-winged Crossbill – stalwart souls which stick around through the winter, and species which show that winter birding is less about finding high numbers of species and more about encountering particular birds of interest. With that in mind, folks questing for a species like Boreal Chickadee should also check out lowland coniferous forests like those in Bloomingdale Bog and Bigelow Road north of Saranac Lake – one of the most accessible boreal habitats in the Adirondacks. There they can find Black-backed Woodpecker and Gray Jays and they may also encounter not only White-winged Crossbills but also Red Crossbills – nomadically wandering across the frozen landscape in search of cones, the seeds of which they eat.
And crossbills are not the only finches of interest. In some years American Goldfinches and Purple Finches stick around at area bird feeders. Pine Siskins – regular across the area during the fall – may also stay around through the cold. Common Redpolls are less commonplace, but this year may be a good year for them – and birders should make sure to look for Hoary Redpolls in the hoped-for flocks. There has already been a small movement of Evening Grosbeaks in the region and perhaps more will follow as winter advances. Most exciting yet are the Pine Grosbeaks which have been getting found across the northeast in recent weeks and this year may be a good year to look for them in the Adirondacks. It seems likely that they get spotted in the mountains soon.
On the town
Pine Grosbeaks are most commonly found eating fruit trees in towns and yards and so birders should check any such fruit trees as they search. These trees are also the preferred food of Bohemian Waxwings which regularly move south into the region – a few of which have been sighted wandering through the landscape lately.
In the valley
Once these birds pass through the region and eat the available food, they often follow the path taken by other migrants and drop in elevation into the Lake Champlain Region for the remainder of the winter. This means that a birding trip from the High Peaks down along the spine of the neighboring Adiorndack Coast is a must for anyone birding the region. There they can find wintering sparrows and finches under the watchful eyes of predators like Northern Shrike and lingering Merlin. The valley is also the place to look for waterfowl and other aquatic species – many of which passed through the Adirondacks during the fall until the cold froze our lakes solid. Birders should consider a short ride over to the Lake Champlain Region during their winter vacation – it's a great way to relax and recoup when your legs need a short break before you hit the slopes again!
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!