Sandra Scott Travels: This One’s For The Birds

Beaver Marsh Trail
Beaver Marsh Trail

Last week I asked: Where can you learn more about birds?

At Cornell’s Ornithology Lab

Walking and bird watching
Walking and bird watching

The leaves are falling and there is snow in the air but there will still be a couple of warm, sunny days perfect for a jaunt in the woods.

Recently, John and I were at Cornell’s Ornithology Lab where we watched a video in the theater detailing the patience and endurance of photographers trying to get an image of a bird-of-paradise in New Guinea.

I was not endowed with that dedication and patience.

They also have a lab where one can listen to and learn bird sounds.

On the massive wall they have a world map mural that shows one bird for each of 243 bird families.

Birds of the world map mural
Birds of the world map mural

Amazing diversity.

Admission is free and so are the frequent guided bird walks and other presentations.

We enjoyed a short walk through Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary.

One doesn’t have to go to Ithaca to see and learn about birds.

Derby Hill Bird Observatory is nearby and well-known as the place to see thousands of raptors from March to the end of May, mainly broad winged hawks.

Derby Hill - a popular birding spot
Derby Hill – a popular birding spot

It is on a low hill on the shore of Lake Ontario in the town of Mexico and in the fall Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers can be seen along with geese, ducks, gulls, and terns.

Don’t forget Beaver Lake Nature Center.

Besides the nature center there are more than nine miles of trails of varying lengths.

I like their canoe trips but you will have to wait until spring for that bird watching adventure.

Beaver Marsh Trail
Beaver Marsh Trail

My favorite trail is the .6-mile bog trail much of which is on an elevated boardwalk.

I like looking for the insect-eating pitcher plant and, of course, birds.

There is a 3-mile lake loop that takes in several habitats.

Lesser known but just as interesting is Camp Zerbe.

Camp Zerbe has three rare “kettlehole” lakes, created at the end of the last ice age by immense chunks of melting glacier.

Plenty of trails to pick from
Plenty of trails to pick from

Not only can one see a variety of birds, especially waterfowl and game birds, but there is a variety of other wildlife including deer, rabbits, squirrels, beaver, mink, porcupines, and other mammals.

If you have never see a beaver dam here is your chance.

Nearby there is a parking area on County Route 183 giving easy access to the beaver dam trail.

It is short, easy walk.

Walk quietly if you go and you may be luckily enough to see the beavers.

Camp Zerbe bird songs
Camp Zerbe bird songs

They carry the mud to build the dam on their tummy.

Along the way we could see stumps where the beavers had chewed down the trees needed to build their new home.

It was easy to be impressed with their work and understand the phrase, “busy as a beaver.”

There are several easy outdoor hikes before winter sets in.

Mexico Point Park has two short trails: one is Roop’s Look, named for the founder of the park, Grace Roop; the other goes to Spy Island, a Revolutionary War historic site.

If you haven’t been to Rice Creek Biological Station near the college in Oswego in a the last five years you will have missed their new field station with a rebuilt pavilion and new observatory structure with a 12.5” telescope with an H-alpha filter for solar viewing.

open water birds
Open water birds

All nature centers offer special programs.

On my to-do list is a visit to the Clark Reservation south of Syracuse; where, according to the brochure, there is fun and learning for the whole family.

Travel Trivia Tease™: What is there to do during the winter?

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!


  1. There’s a rather amusing typo in this story.. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is located in Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary (NOT Spa Sucker Woods)! Any way you could tweak that a bit? Thanks!
    Pat Leonard
    Cornell Lab of Ornithology

  2. This is a wonderful article introducing people to where to bird watch. I would like to clarify that the Beaver Marsh Trail on State Route 183 is part of the Amboy 4-H Environmental Education Center owned and operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County. The beaver dam is part of this Amboy facility and the photo is at the trailhead leading to a beaver dam.

  3. Not to be too picky, but the plant mentioned in the section on the Bog Trail at Beaver Lake is a pitcher (not picture) plant. It got its name because its curled up leaves hold water in which insects drown and dissolve, providing valuable nutrients for the plant. It is one of several insect-eating plant species found in CNY bogs.

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