The Waters of Spring
Spring in the North Country and in the St. Lawrence Valley is marked by water. Melting snows and spring rains fill ditches, swell streams, and saturate fields, giving one the impression that they are small ponds. These flooded fields often attract ducks and other waterfowl on their way north and early spring fields may hold species like American Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal, and Northern Pintail. For birders looking for even more ducks, a trip to the St. Lawrence River and places like Robert Moses State Park and Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area may be necessary.
At the same time, raptors move through the St. Lawrence Valley and the fields which characterize it. Our wintering Rough-legged Hawks leave for the north. But they are quickly replaced by Osprey over our lakes and Broad-winged Hawks in our woodlots, as American Kestrels keep watch from the powerlines along our fields. Even before this, local songbirds begin to arrive as Song Sparrows return to our hedgerows, and Red-winged Blackbirds make their raucous calls from nearby stands of cattails.
Sparrows, Field Birds, and Marsh Birds
Soon area yards and bird feeders are attracting more sparrows - like Chipping, Fox, and Vesper - and Tree Swallows are zipping over the fields while Eastern Bluebirds sing from nearby. Eastern Meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows, and Killdeer arrive on our fields, and Killdeer may not be the only shorebirds on the move. As spring advances, an assortment of other shorebird species may pass through, often using those same flooded fields which hosted the ducks earlier in the season.
At the same time, local marshes, like those up along the St. Lawrence, welcome back their Wood Ducks, American Bitterns, Wilson's Snipe, and Blue-winged Teal. In the coming weeks these marshes will harbor Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons, Green Herons, Virginia Rails, Sora, and in some places Black Terns.
The Woods of April and May
But even with all this, it is often the woodlands and woodlots which attract the most attention. After all spring migration grows and culminates through April into May when a feathered flood inundates the landscape. The month is often preceded by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Northern Flickers, Blue-headed Vireos, Hermit Thrushes, Palm Warblers, Pine Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets in April, offering us a taste of what is to come.
May begins with a trickle, but threre's an ever-increasing flow of warblers, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and buckets of White-crowned Sparrows. And then it opens the floodgates. May is soon a deluge of Scarlet Tanagers, Black-billed Cuckoos, Bobolinks, Veeries, Barn Swallows, Cliff Swallows, Swainson's Thrushes, Eastern Kingbirds, Wood Thrushes, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Baltimore Orioles, Least Flycatchers, Yellow-throated Vireos, Warbling Vireos, and a list of better than 20 species of warbler. After all, 20 species of warblers breed in the Olympic Region of the Adirondacks alone, and birders along the St. Lawrence Valley can add Blue-winged Warbler and Golden-winged Warbler to that list. In addition, other warbler species like Bay-breasted and Tennessee are regularly found during migration, making it an amazing time to bird the region.
But even as May ends, it doesn't leave us empty-handed. After all, our June woods, marshes, and fields are full of song, and June is one of the best months to explore the North Country. It begins with the Great Adirondack Birding Celebration at the Paul Smiths College VIC - a great way to celebrate the spring and the beginning of summer. It is also a chance to explore some of the boreal habitats of the Adirondacks, such as Bloomingdale Bog and Madawaska, for Black-backed Woodpeckers, Grays Jays, and Boreal Chickadees. It is hard to beat May and June birding in the Adirondacks and the North Country.
And so summer begins where spring left off - with sun, color, and warmth - not to mention a flood of birds.