Birdsong floats to our ears as soon the snow begins to melt in the spring and until the leaves drop in autumn. The reappearance of migratory and native bird species after a harsh winter marks an exciting new beginning to birding season. Pileated woodpeckers chip away in Adirondack forests and bald eagles soar above the “Queen of American Lakes”. Birding is an easily accessible hobby for anyone and a great introduction to the natural habitat of the Lake George Area, where many species of our feathered friends make their nests.

Birding Supplies Checklist

  • Binoculars or spotting scope
  • Field guide and/or notebook
  • Camera with zoom function
  • Sun protection
  • Insect repellent
  • Hiking boots or waterproof shoes
  • Walking stick or trekking poles

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Mourning Doves, Photo Credit: Kacey O'Brien 

When to Bird

Although birding can be considered a year-round hobby, the amount and variety of bird species you will spot depends on their migration cycles. Much like the crowds of vacationers, birds flock to the Lake George Area when the temperatures are warmer. Spring and fall are the local birders favorite seasons!

Spring: The chirping of birds signals springtime here in the Adirondacks, as songbirds and landbirds migrate back to the region from their wintering grounds. Food sources reappear after the snow melts, so the birds are lively as they forage for food and nest materials, socialize, and mate. Following April showers, hummingbirds seek the nectar from blooming May flowers.

Summer: Summer is molting season. During these months, birds shed their worn feathers for flight-ready replacements. This process makes them less agile, and out of self-preservation, less vocal. We typically track the presence of nearby birds based on song, but for this duration birders should look for molted feathers on the forest floor – and save them for your field journal!

Fall: There are more birds in the air during the fall than any other time of year as songbirds and landbirds make their migratory move south. Keep your eyes trained to the sky to see flocks flying overhead, taking advantage of tail winds. Many species will wait to depart until after they have feasted on what is left over from fall crops.

Winter: Not all species fly south for the winter, and some year-round Lake George Area residents include chickadees, mourning doves, northern cardinals, blue jays, and house sparrows. These birds get their insulation from fat-rich rich foods like seed-filled feeders, and they hunker down through winter squalls in dense thickets.

Time of Day: Birds flit about at all hours of the day, but different species have different activity patterns; you’ll want to plan your birding excursion accordingly.

The early bird gets the worm! Dawn to mid-morning are highly active hours for insectivores that drop from their nests to forage, or songbirds that perch on branches to harmonize. Birds of prey – eagles, falcons, and hawks – take to the sky in the afternoon, while owls and other nocturnal creatures begin to stir in the evenings.

Other Birding Tips:

  • Keep your distance and do not disturb nests – birds may abandon nests, eggs, and hatchlings. Repeated human visits to nests can also leave a scent for predators to follow.
  • Check the local weather forecast – different birds prefer different weather. Songbirds appear on clear, warm mornings as opposed to robins who comb for worms after a rainstorm.
  • Learn about the environment – different birds prefer different habitats. Great blue herons wade in our marshes where they search for small fish to eat, while seed-eaters like nuthatches, finches, and chickadees hop from branch to branch among the pines.
  • Be patient – the more you observe, the more familiar you’ll become with bird patterns and behaviors. Try birding with a group!

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L: Cedar Waxwing, R: White-Breasted Nuthatch; Photo Credit: Kacey O'Brien 

Where to Bird

Picture yourself surrounded by vast lakes, marshes, meadows, and woodlands – that is the boreal forests that make up the Lake George Area in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. There are more than 200 avian species that are attracted to our diverse landscape. Nature preserves, hiking trails, and waters for paddling provide plenty of opportunities to glimpse familiar and rare species alike. The Lake George Area is a haven for both the bird and the birder!

Up Yonda Farm Environmental Education Center: a 72-acre education museum that specializes in teaching children about the environment of the Adirondacks. Hands-on wildlife exhibits featuring birds. The property also includes 3+ miles of trails, a pond, butterfly garden, and more. Holds programs like woodworking with a class on building nest platforms for small birds.

Berry Pond Preserve: a 1,436 acre preserve reaching the towns of Lake George, Warrensburg, and Lake Luzerne. Marked trails are moderate to challenging and offer views of the Lake George Narrows. Home to an active beaver community and great blue heron rookery.

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Great Blue Heron in the Lake George Village, Photo Credit: Kacey O'Brien

Godwin Preserve: a 112 acre preserve managed by the Lake George Land Conservancy in Bolton Landing. Marked trails are short yet moderate and lead to a lookout of High Noppit and Amy’s Park. Lake George Land Conservancy hosts their flora and fauna Discovery Series here, including a Beginner Birding hike to identify raptors and songbirds.

Town of Queensbury Trail Systems: a handful of preserves scattered throughout the Town of Queensbury and managed by the Parks & Recreation Department. Varying trail grades that wind through woods and wetlands and are used for year-round recreation. Includes, but not limited to:

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Male Mallard in Hovey Pond, Photo Credit: Jaynie Ellis 

Northwest Bay, Lake George: Northwest Bay Trail is a 10 mile out-and-back, moderately challenging hike on the Tongue Mountain peninsula leading to Montcalm Point. Northwest Bay Fishing Access is a hand launch for car-top boats only. Both the trail and launch are located on Lake Shore Drive in Bolton Landing. Northwest Bay’s rocky shorelines are alive with great blue herons and common mergansers.  

Gore Mountain: begin with a Scenic Skyride to the summit at 3,500 ft. or start hiking right at the Base Area. 30 minute to 5-hour hikes of varying difficulty that traverse the ski resort and lead to lookouts of the southern Adirondacks and High Peaks. An assortment of birds and other wildlife call this region home, including thrushes, sparrows, deer, and moose.

Rogers Rock: a 3 mile out-and-back, moderately challenging hike near Hague. Peregrine falcons nest in the dramatic cliffside you climb to reach the summit.

Speaker Heck Island & Long Island, Lake George: accessible only by boat, day use and overnight sites for island camping. Bald eagles use the established nests in the mature trees on these islands as homes year after year. Once an endangered species, they have made enough of a resurgence to be removed from the list. A pair of bald eagles (male and female) were recently spotted on Brant Lake also.

Garnet Lake: partially developed lake in Johnsburg with state-owned land for primitive camping and a hand launch for car-top boats only. Paddlers here have heard the call of loons during early morning and late evening outings. Other places to spot these Adirondack icons include Loon Lake and Lake Luzerne, where loons and their chicks can swim out in open waters with little human disturbance.

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L: House Finch, R: American Goldfinch; Photo Credit: Kacey O'Brien 

Click here for more in-depth information on some of the birds listed above from the Lake George Association.

Other helpful resources and organizations for birding include: Southern Adirondack Audubon Society, Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, Lake George Land Conservancy, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.