Winter sings in Malone
Here a goose, there a goose
There may be no better way of knowing that it is winter than watching the Snow Geese head south from the region - pushed out by the cold and snow. And so as late fall transitions into winter, birders can scan flocks of thousands of Snow Geese in the fields around Malone for Ross's Geese before the white mass of birds heads south for the winter. Birders may also find flocks of Canada Geese which may hold a Greater White-fronted or Cackling Goose.
But as the geese leave the fields to the cold wind of winter, they do not leave the fields entirely unattended. Raptors - which may have been likewise pressed south by fall cold fronts - may stick around for much or all of the winter - hunting in fields for unwary rodents and birds. These include Red-tailed Hawk and Rough-legged Hawk, but may also include species like Northern Harrier or Cooper's Hawk which may linger into the early winter. Northern Shrikes likewise hunt from hedgerows along the fields where songbirds like Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, American Tree Sparrows, and Lapland Longspurs can be found.
Birders who drive through miles of farm fields in search of such quarry should keep an open eye for Snowy Owls too - and the North Country can play host to northern owls of a few species which may move south in some winters. And if they still want to look for field birds and raptors, birders should check out the Lake Champlain Region where they can search through more splendid habitat. In addition, the Adirondack Coast offers a great diversity of waterfowl, and birders should plan a short day-trip while they're in the area!
But in their quest for ducks and raptors, birders should not ignore the chance for boreal birds either. Finding such species involves trips south into the bogs and boreal forests of the Adirondacks. And, while many such spruce-fir habitats are inaccessible during winter, places like Bloomingdale Bog and Bigelow Road are easy to reach and sit north of Saranac Lake, making them a relatively short drive. In such locations, birders can look for species like Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, and Gray Jay - the latter often searching for a handout.
Fill the feeders
Anyone heading to such habitats should also keep their ears open for the flight calls of both Red and White-winged Crossbills which may be heard overhead as the birds travel far and wide for cones on which to dine. And crossbills are not the only finches which we can find in the region. These include species like American Goldfinch and Purple Finch which may get pushed south during the fall, Pine Siskin which may linger for all or part of the winter, and Common Redpoll - a species which does not come south every winter and one which may move into our region this year. And whenever Common Redpolls move south in numbers, they may bring with them Hoary Redpolls in their ranks.
Finally, Evening Grosbeaks may also be found at feeders or overhead throughout the region - and a small movement of grosbeaks occurred earlier this fall. Not to be outdone, Pine Grosbeaks are also being reported in scattered places in the northeast and they will likely be noted in the fruit trees of towns and yards in the area. There they may be joined by Bohemian Waxwings as the two species pound calories in order to make it through the long winter. Feel free to pound some calories too as you keep yourself warm!