migration time in Malone
Late Summer and Early Fall Birding
Fall migration in the North Country begins during the second half of summer. It is then that shorebirds begin to move out of the arctic, and the flooded fields and waterways of the St. Lawrence Valley can become stopover sites for the likes of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Least, Solitary, Spotted, and Pectoral Sandpipers, as well as many less common species. Many of the best sites for shorebirds sit along wetlands and waterbodies, and the accompanying marshes can be a great place to look in late summer and early fall for Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Green Heron, Great Egret, Virginia Rail, Sora, and both American and Least Bitterns.
An Amazing Diversity of Songbirds
The edge habitats which surround such wetlands are also often great for a medley of migrant songbirds - the mix of which changes daily. Birders can check out any forest, any road, any shrubby, edge habitat and find an assortment which may include species like Baltimore Oriole, Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Northern Flicker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Philadelphia, Warbling, Blue-headed, and Red-eyed Vireos, and a litany of warblers. In fact, about 25 species of warblers can be found during fall migration in the North Country, and any trail, any field edge, any forest, and any yard can harbor them as they pass through. This colorful pageant includes everything from Nashville Warbler to Black-throated Blue Warbler to Cape May Warbler to Blackburnian Warbler to Bay-breasted Warbler, but by mid-September many of the warblers have passed through the region.
Those that are left are usually mixed in with other fall species like Brown Creeper, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and a variety of woodpeckers. And a trip in search of warblers may also bring birders to some of the boreal habitats of the Adirondacks where they can find Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, and Black-backed Woodpecker. Soon enough the warbler diversity gives way to an impressive assortment of sparrows, and birders can check out the fields and field edges for the likes of Song, Swamp, Savannah, White-throated, White-crowned, Chipping, Fox, Vesper, Field, and Dark-eyed Junco. The fields of mid-fall may also be alluring to American Pipits, Horned Larks, and Snow Buntings, while Pine Siskins call on the winds racing overhead.
Raptors on the Move
Many of these songbirds should keep a wary eye open for hunting Northern Shrikes - recently arrived from the north. And shrikes aren't the only predatory bird passing through the area. The raptor migration during the fall is popular with birders all over the continent, and folks can find a suite of predatory birds searching for food on their way south. As such a trip to the St. Lawrence Valley during fall may yield the likes of Merlin, American Kestrel, Cooper's, Sharp-shinned, Red-tailed, and Red-shouldered Hawks, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, and Golden Eagle, while species like Rough-legged Hawk arrive in late fall to remain all winter. In fact, birders can find any species found in the northeast winging their way south with cold fronts in their tail feathers.
And hawks aren't the only raptors on the move. Northern Saw-whet Owls migrate through the region during the fall, and Short-eared Owls arrive for a spell to hunt in the fields of the region before pushing further south with the onset of winter. Other species like Great Horned, Barred, and Eastern Screech Owls remain year-round.
Ducks, Grebes, Loons, and... Snow Geese
As fall continues to advance, the St. Lawrence River becomes an incredible magnet for waterfowl and aquatic species of all sorts as thousands of them pack into wildlife management areas, pools, and marshes. Almost any species found in the northeast can be found in these flocks including Ring-necked Duck, both species of scaup, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Red-throated Loon, and Common Loon. As a result, places like Robert Moses State Park and Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area can offer an amazing diversity of birds.
But even with all of that, the most impressive congregation of water birds may be at the Malone Memorial Recreation Park. While there are usually a few ducks present on the pond, it is the honking throng of geese which blow the minds of onlookers. Thousands of Snow Geese pack the pond - feeding on neighboring fields - and birders can come enjoy both the spectacle and attempt to find a Ross's Goose in their midst. Not to be completely outdone, thousands of Canada Geese can also be found there, and they may hide either a Cackling or Greater White-fronted Goose in their close ranks. The raucous extravaganza lasts until the geese begin to move further south. Their departure marks the beginning of winter and the birding possibilities it brings.