A few years ago, my wife, Katie, and I were carrying a canoe down to a tiny lake (appropriately named “Lower Duck Hole”) in a remote part of the Adirondacks. The lake connects to “Upper Duck Hole” through a narrow passage, and eventually, to Newcomb Lake—the site of Great Camp Santanoni—and our ultimate destination. As we gently slipped the canoe into the water, I mentioned to Katie how cool it would be to see a loon. I had never seen one in person, but I knew they were one of the more beloved birds in the Adirondacks. No sooner had the words left my lips than Katie spotted one far off in the middle of the lake. We set off to get a closer look and spent the rest of the afternoon paddling around these remote waters, watching loons dive and fly and call and display. Before that day, I had never thought much about birds, but from that moment on, we were both hooked.
Since that fateful day, our hobby (or perhaps “obsession” is a better word) has taken us to some truly special locations; places that we definitely would not have explored if it were not to see birds. But you don’t need to visit some far flung location, trek deep into the woods or climb an impossible peak to enjoy birds. In fact, one of my favorite things about birding is how accessible it is. I often find myself birdwatching through my kitchen window as I’m doing dishes or listening for bird songs while I’m walking the dog. Birds are just about everywhere and you might be surprised at the sheer variety that can be seen in and around Glens Falls.
The Southern Adirondack Audubon Society counts 294 different species in our area and you don’t have to travel far to see them. For the past few winters, there’s been a Peregrine Falcon (the fastest animal on earth!) taking up residence on the Travelers Building downtown. You’ll often see him sitting on the handle of the umbrella looking for a pigeon to pick off. A few weeks ago, someone snapped a photo of a Barred Owl on the fire escape behind Raul’s Mexican Grill. And I’m always hearing about different hawks (Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, Red-tailed) spotted in local backyards, harassing the bird feeder crowd, no doubt. Beyond these incidental sightings, there are plenty of great birding spots just a stone’s throw from downtown.
Betar Byway | First Street, South Glens Falls
Just across the bridge in South Glens Falls, the Betar Byway offers exceptional birding all year round. Park in the lot near the gazebo and follow the path down towards the river. From spring to autumn you can catch migrating species, including a great number of different warblers in the dense brush and canopy along the tree-lined path. In colder months, you’re likely to see a great variety of ducks and other waterfowl on the river, including the furtive Wood Duck, skirting along the reeds and rushes of sheltered inlets. You very well may see other interesting species fishing the river, including Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, and Common Goldeneye. Even the hot summer months can produce exciting birds like American Redstart, Scarlet Tanager and a number of different woodpeckers. If you’re lucky, you might catch a Bald Eagle or Osprey soaring high above the river. The path connects to the Beach Bikeway, making for an out-and-back that stretches about 2 miles one way. But you don’t have to walk the whole way to do some serious birding, and there are several benches and overlooks along the way if you’re interested in a shorter, more leisurely trip.
Hovey Pond Park | 25 Lafeyette Street, Queensbury
Hovey Pond is like an oasis in the heart of Queensbury’s commercial district. Tucked between Lafayette Street and Glenwood Avenue, this compact park is a great spot to see a surprisingly large variety of birds. From the parking lot, walk down the path towards the pond and look towards the stand of trees to your right. This little wooded area is usually bustling with an interesting mixture of birds, from backyard varieties to less common migratory species like vireos and warblers. Follow the path to the right, past the gazebo, to find a boardwalk that meanders through the wetlands of Halfway Brook with viewing platforms at either end. In the spring, you’ll find nesting Red-winged Blackbirds in these tall grasses. Take a quick lap around the pond and you’re sure to see Mallards, but other interesting species like Wood Duck and American Black Duck have also been spotted here. Search the water’s edge and you might even see a Green Heron blending into the grass. With such a diverse range of habitat in a relatively small footprint, it’s the perfect spot if you only have a short time or don’t want to travel too far.
Hudson Pointe Nature Preserve | Hudson Pointe Boulevard, Queensbury
This 83-acre preserve has several different loop trails of varying distances with scenic views of the Hudson River. If you’re not afraid of some steep terrain, I’d take the orange trail, which connects to the green trail, for a full loop around the peninsula (be sure to bring good footwear, as some sections can be quite muddy at times). From the parking lot, the trail starts off on a high bluff above the river, where many birds common to wooded areas can be seen, like woodpeckers and warblers (a Black-billed Cuckoo was even spotted recently!) As you make your way down to the water’s edge, there are many openings to scan the water and look for waterfowl. In early spring, you’ll find many different ducks and gulls, including Long-tailed Duck, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, and Ring-billed, Herring and Bonaparte’s Gulls, to name a few. As you make your way around the point, you’ll enter a marshy area overlooking Big Bay, the outlet of Clendon Brook. There are wooden planks and boardwalks for the especially swampy areas, and eventually an observation bridge. This is a great spot to see Great Blue Heron slowly wading through the waters. After the bridge, the trail re-enters the woods and loops back up the hill towards the parking lot. Even if you don’t see a single bird (which is probably impossible), this walk is still worth the effort due to the great views along the way.
So the next time you’re looking to stretch your legs, why not dig out that pair of binoculars from the back of the closet? I guarantee you’ll have a renewed appreciation for the abundance of nature that’s right in your backyard. Happy birding!
Will is a Partner at Sidekick Creative, whose expertise lies in branding, illustration, and creative direction. In his spare time, Will can be found spending time with his wife, Katie, doing the crossword and (of course) birding.