Great Lakes Seaway Trail, NY and PA â€“ From now into early June, the Great Lakes Seaway Trail byway, with 518 miles of open water, feeder streams, backbays, and diverse shoreline habitat, becomes a fabulous flyway for spring bird migration.
Ornithologist Gerald Smith says, â€œSpring migration in the Great Lakes Seaway Trail region is exciting because of the intensity with which the birds head north to their nesting grounds.â€
Smith should know. A professional birdwatcher, Smith has spent a lifetime studying the birds and their migration, nesting and breeding habits along the shoreline route that encompasses the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania.
â€œThere is always something in the air over the Great Lakes Seaway Trail whether it be warblers in the spring or raptors in the depths of winter to warm the cockles of a birderâ€™s heart,â€ Smith says.
This spring Smith suggests one â€œlook up for diurnal migrants and check even unlikely sites for extraordinary rarities that have appeared in unexpected places on the byway.â€
The best time to view the greatest number of birds and different species is dawn to mid-morning.
Smith is author of the new, fully-illustrated Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail field guide published by Seaway Trail, Inc., the nonprofit organization, based in Sackets Harbor, NY, that promotes travel and tourism along the route that is one of Americaâ€™s Byways.
Here are some tips from the guidebook for spring birdwatching on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail byway-flyway:
Â· Duck Run Ravine at the 540-acre Erie Bluffs State Park is one of the few places the Cerulean Warbler may still nest along the Seaway Trail Pennsylvania shoreline â€“ look closely in late May through early June, but quietly so not to disturb the nesters. The park is 12 miles west of Erie, PA, near Lake City.
Â· Tifft Nature Preserve in the Buffalo metropolitan area is one of the largest remaining marshes in Erie County, NY. The area is popular with land bird migrants and wetland breeding birds and is a fine example of the benefits of reclaiming former landfill areas.
Â· The far western end of Lake Ontario has several New York State Parks (Four Mile Creek, Wilson-Tuscarora, Golden Hill, and Lakeside Beach) that fill with melodic warblers by the end of April. The colorful Neotropical long-distance fliers are seen here in May.
Â· From mid-April to early June, sites near Lake Ontario can be abundant with migrant songbirds. Many species of warblers, vireos, thrushes and flycatchers feed here in preparation for a nocturnal crossing of Lake Ontario. Keep a sharp out in such areas as Sodus Bay and the Lake Shore Wildlife Management Area.
Â· A perennially favorite Great Lakes Seaway Trail byway birdwatching spot along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario is Derby Hill, east of Oswego, NY. Smith calls Derby Hill â€œone of the finest areas for observing spring migration in all of North America.â€ He says Derby Hill can match such Great Lakes birding hot spots as Point Pelee and Whitefish Point and, on spring days when the wind is out of the south-southeast, gives Cape May, New Jersey and Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania a run for the birding tourism dollars.
Â· May and June are marvelous months for birding from Henderson Bay to Chaumont Bay along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. Watch for rare and declining grassland breeding species such as Henslowâ€™s Sparrow and Upland Sandpiper. Farther east, along the St. Lawrence River, the grasslands at Hammond and Lisbon provide habitat for Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlark, Savannah Sparrow, Horned Lark and Sedge Wren.
As you travel the byway-flyway also watch for a series of 18 birding-theme Great Lakes Seaway Trail â€œoutdoor storytellerâ€ interpretive signs that offer fascinating facts about the birds and the byway habitat that attracts them. Find the locations of the signs online at http://www.seawaytrail.com/interpretivepanels.html.
A Great Lakes Seaway Trail birding itinerary and fact sheet are posted online at http://www.seawaytrail.com/birding.html. The Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail field guide and an audio tour CD are available for sale at www.seawaytrailstore.com or call 315-646-1000. #