Lake Ontario across from the Van Lare Treatment Plant in Irondequoit is a good spot to look for Little Gull.
Sodus Bay and Conesus Lake usually have good numbers of waterfowl as long as there is open water and not too many hunters.
Lake Ontario can also produce a King Eider or Harlequin Duck.
If you find some goldeneye, look closely for a Barrow’s Goldeneye. Conesus Lake is another good spot for waterfowl until it freezes.
Who knows what this month will bring weather-wise? On average 90 species are seen in February.
There usually is open water for waterfowl along Lake Ontario.The Genesee River is usually open somewhat as is the Irondequoit Bay outlet. Long-tailed Duck, goldeneye, Bufflehead and Greater Scaup should be seen at these spots. Slater Creek now freezes but you may find mergansers near there.
Feeders could become the best spots for seeing birds this month. Harsh weather will make a food supply attractive and draw American Goldfinch, redpoll and of course Black-capped Chickadee.
Snow Bunting may still be found along the edges of roads near fields where seeds may have gotten caught.
Mendon Ponds has produced Virginia Rail the past couple of years.
If you really need a bird fix, grab some sunflower seed and walk the Nature Center trails to feed the Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse and nuthatches. The first spring hawk flights may occur near the end of the month. Stay tuned to happenings at Braddock Bay Park.
Who knows what the weather will bring? We’ll see what March is like soon. On average 120 species are seen this month.
Warm fronts will bring the best birding along the lakeshore’s fields and woodlots. The first shorebirds, Pectoral Sandpiper and both Yellowlegs, will show up this month in flooded fields. Killdeer will be seen too.
Spring migration will bring some new arrivals to your yard. Winter Wren, Fox Sparrow and Golden-crowned Kinglet could show up in your brush piles and shrubs.
Phoebes will arrive to catch the very first insects of the year. Red-winged Blackbird are a sure sign of spring.
The first spring hawk flights occur this month at Braddock Bay. Expect to see eagles, Rough-legged Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk among the clouds. Flocks of Canada Goose will fill the skies too and the fields along the lakeshore.
March is the peak month for migrating ducks. Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall and Ruddy Duck should be seen this month.
Spring has arrived. On average 170 species are seen this month.
The hawk migration reaches its peak, songbirds begin to fill the woods, bitterns and herons arrive in the marshes. Yup, migration is in full swing! Some of the best action is along the lake after the passage of a warm front.
In the yard we can find White-crowned and White-throated Sparrow and perhaps some Chipping Sparrow as well. Near the middle of the month look for Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Hermit Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglet will arrive in the woods in places like Island Cottage Woods.
The first warblers (Yellow-rumped, Pine, Palm and Black-throated Green) could show up there too. Sandhill Crane might be seen flying overhead.
The lake will hold Red-breasted Merganser, Bufflehead and other lingering waterfowl. Terns will show up too.
Bitterns, rails and herons will be seen in the marshes of Braddock Bay, Irondequoit Bay and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.
It doesn’t get any better than this. This is what Rochesterians live for!
In fact, more species are reported in May than any other month. On average 68 new species arrive, and 230 are seen overall this month.
The spring migration reaches its peak by the second weekend in May, nearly 30 species of warblers arrive in the woods, Bobolink arrive in the fields, and shorebirds continue to stop at wet spots in the fields.
The sheer volume of migrating songbirds means some are bound to spill over into your yard, especially if you have trees, shrubs and other natural cover. Watch for warblers, vireos, and thrushes – perhaps even a Lincoln’s Sparrow might be spotted picking through last year’s fallen leaves and litter.
The crown jewels of the spring – warblers – arrive in force. With them come vireos, thrushes, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow- and Black-billed Cuckoo, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and, later in the month empidonax flycatchers. Island Cottage Woods and Firehouse/Church Trail are probably the premier spots for their volume of migrating songbirds. But both Durand Eastman and Cobb’s Hill are also excellent.
Vultures, Osprey, Bald Eagle, and Sharp-shinned Hawk continue to fly over in good numbers. Migrating Common Nighthawk will be visible at dusk, especially along the lakeshore. A great vantage point is the hawk watch platform at Braddock Bay, or any other vantage point along the lakeshore.
The lake will hold Black-bellied Plover on the beaches, and Ruddy Turnstone on the piers. May can be a good month for gulls as well. Later in the month, look for Franklin’s and Laughing Gull. Jetties and piers at Charlotte and Irondequoit Bay, and also beaches are great places to look.
Least Bittern and Sora Rail will be seen in the marshes of Braddock Bay and Salmon Creek and Irondequoit Bay.
HANA is great for Rusty Blackbird, warblers, swallows, shorebirds, and bitterns – it’s tough to call! Go there expecting to find something cool and unusual and you usually will!
The possibilities are endless for some great birding this month!
June is the height of nesting season – but spring migrants can still be found early in the month. In some years, you can catch both ends of the shorebird migration; the last northbound birds at the start of the month, the first southbound birds at the end. On average, 169 species are reported.
This is a good month to visit areas that feature unique habitats for nesting species that otherwise wouldn’t be found here. In the woods, Letchworth State Park is a must stop at this time of year. Nesting species include Hooded Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Golden-crowned Kinglet. Acadian Flycatcher, Wild Turkey, and Ruffed Grouse are other specialties. Norway Road, just north of Route 104, is a great spot to observe nesting Blue-winged and Cerulean Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, cuckoos, Veery and other species. Keep to the road, however – the woods and fields are private property. Swallow Hollow at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge is also a great spot to find Cerulean Warbler, and the Onondaga Trail also has Acadian Flycatcher.
In the fields, the Nations Road area south of Avon has been consistently good for Grasshopper Sparrow and Orchard Oriole; Eastern Bluebird nest in the area, too.
On the lake, Franklin’s Gull are occasionally found in the first part of June. By the end of the month, Lesser Yellowlegs and Least and Semi-palmated Sandpiper are usually among the first to arrive. Since mudflats are usually in short supply this time of year for shorebirds, Ontario Beach and the piers at the mouth of the Genesee River are good places to watch. Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, however, has some of the best habitat for early shorebirds. Roadsides around Canadice Lake are hopping with Cliff Swallow, and Hemlock Lake Park has Cliff Swallow, too.
On the ponds, nesting rails and bitterns prove especially elusive this time of year, and are best seen by getting into the marshes by canoe. Look at any of the ponds or borrow pits along the west lakeshore, Braddock Bay, marshes at the south end of Irondequoit Bay, and Montezuma and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuges (nesting Prothonotary Warbler is a specialty at Iroquois).
In the air, migrating Turkey Vulture continue to pass through; early June is also a good time to spot Bald Eagle, usually immatures, moving along the lakeshore. A great vantage point is the hawk watch platform at Braddock Bay – or any vantage point near the west lakeshore. You can also look for Bald Eagle flying over southern ends of places like Irondequoit Bay and Conesus Lake.
Summer is at its peak, but the start of “fall migration” is at hand. Southbound shorebirds are already moving through our area, as other species finish raising their young in the fields, woods, and marshes, and begin dispersing. On average, 154 species are seen.
In the yard, American Goldfinch and Cedar Waxwing do not begin nesting until this time of year. You can still attract Ruby-throated Hummingbird to coral bells, petunias and other plants that bloom through the summer. Keep the bird bath full; mid-to-late summer dry spells can drastically reduce drinking supplies in the wild.
In the woods, take advantage of unique local habitats. Look at Letchworth State Park for warblers, Turkey Vulture, grouse and turkey, and Norway Road for more warblers, vireos and Veery.
The west lakeshore in Parma, Hamlin, and points farther west are great places to continue to search for Grasshopper and Henslow’s Sparrow and Upland Sandpiper in suitable grassy fields.
Migrating shorebirds begin to pass in increasing numbers, pausing on beaches, piers and mudflats before heading south. Semipalmated Plover, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Least, Semipalmated, Western, Pectoral and Stilt Sandpiper are usually spotted in July. Whimbrel and Wilson’s Phalarope are also possible. Caspian Tern will be seen in increasing numbers, peaking in August.
Mudflats are usually still in short supply, so Ontario Beach and the Charlotte and Summerville piers become the best spots in our immediate area. However, Goose Pond and other mudflats at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge usually attract the largest numbers of shorebirds this time of year.
On the ponds, with young birds fledged, herons, bitterns, rails and ducks become more noticeable now on bays, ponds, creeks and marshes. Huge flocks of Bank Swallow gather near ponds and the lakeshore prior to departure; their numbers peak in late July or very early August. Look in any of the lakefront ponds – Braddock and Irondequoit Bays and adjoining marshes. Both Montezuma and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuges are outstanding areas for viewing pond and marsh birds.
Signs of fall migration accelerate. Post-breeding dispersal is also evident, as young birds and their parents desert nesting grounds to feed and gather strength for the journey south. On average, 167 species are seen.
By mid-to late-month the first warblers will be migrating south through our area. Bay-breasted, Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Canada, Northern Waterthrush, Cape May, and Black-throated Blue Warbler are among the first to do so. Many warblers in fall plumage are a mere shadow of their spring splendor or wear an entirely different plumage, which can be confusing. However, with practice, most species can be readily identified. Look in woodlots along the lakeshore. Badgerow Park in Greece consistently attracts small numbers in August, particularly along sunlit wood edges in late afternoon and early evening.
Migrating Black-bellied Plover and American Golden-Plover will appear in freshly plowed fields. Buff-breasted Sandpiper are possible the last weekend of the month in fields and grassy areas. Look on the west lakeshore in Parma, Hamlin, and points farther west; they are traditionally good places this time of year.
On the lake, shorebird migration is in full swing. White-rumped and Baird’s Sandpiper join the array of species. A Whimbrel or two, or even a Willet, are often spotted each August along the lakeshore. Look on Ontario Beach and at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge for shorebirds. If water levels have dropped enough, the mudflats off Empire Boulevard at the south end of Irondequoit Bay, and at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, become shorebird hotspots worth frequent checks.
On the ponds, bitterns, herons, and rails will be more evident now, especially as water levels drop, exposing mudflats where parents and young feed. Watch for southern heron species that may turn up on ponds in post-breeding wandering.
Look at any of the lakefront ponds and borrow pits; Braddock and Irondequoit Bays; Salmon Creek. Montezuma and Iroquois National Wildlife refuges are great places to observe marsh birds this time of year.
In the air, an interesting dispersal of raptors occurs in August. Hundreds, even thousands of Red-tailed Hawk and smaller numbers of Broad-winged Hawk and Northern Harrier fly over on west winds. The hawk watch platform at Braddock Bay is again a good place to look, or any vantage point along the parkway near the lakeshore.
A bit like May in reverse, this is the height of fall migration. The woods fill with songbirds, the ponds with ducks, the lake with waterfowl, and the mudflats with shorebirds – all headed south.
September is the peak time to observe fall warblers and vireos, and most of the thrushes. Blackpoll and Yellow-rumped Warbler are among the last to arrive. This is a particularly good time to look for Gray-cheeked Thrush, which seem more common now than in the spring. By the end of the month, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, creepers, kinglets, Winter Wren and Hermit Thrush will also build in numbers. White-throated, White-crowned, and Lincoln’s Sparrow can be seen along the wood edges. Look in any wooded areas; Island Cottage Woods, Durand Eastman Park and the Braddock Bay area can be particularly good.
In the fields, the first half of the month is the best time to try to find Buff-breasted Sandpiper, which migrate through our area in small numbers in the fall. Short grassy fields are best. American Pipit will also begin moving through the area; look for them in the same plowed fields where you will be looking for Black-bellied and American Golden-Plover. Look on the west lakeshore in Parma, Hamlin, and farther west.
On the lake, shorebirds continue to move through; Dunlin are among the last to arrive on the beaches. Pomarine and Parasitic Jaeger are probable offshore, usually harassing gulls. By the end of the month, Common and Red-throated Loon and White-winged Scoter may be moving offshore; Greater Scaup may also arrive.
Hamlin Beach State Park, with its lakeside bluffs, is the best spot to watch the lake for jaegers and other migrating waterfowl. By now, the water level is low enough to expose mudflats at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, which becomes a prime spot to observe shorebirds. Mudflats at the south and northeast ends of Irondequoit Bay, at the east spit of Braddock Bay, along Salmon Creek, and at Northrup Creek Sanctuary at the south end of Long Pond, can also be excellent shorebird spots. Continue to check the beach at Charlotte, too.
On the ponds, the fall duck migrations begin to pick up, as Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, and Lesser Scaup crowd the area ponds. Nesting Wood Duck, moorhens, Sora and Virginia Rail appear more and more on or near water or mudflats with immature birds in tow. Rusty Blackbird arrive and can often be found feeding on mudflats. Huge flocks of Tree Swallow will gather along marsh edges to alternately perch, and then swoop low over the water in search of insects. Watch for other swallow species mixed in.
Any of the ponds in Greece (Round, Buck, Long and Cranberry Ponds) can produce good views of ducks, moorhens and perhaps a rail or bittern. Braddock Bay, Salmon Creek, the south end of Irondequoit Bay, and Montezuma and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuges are also excellent spots for herons, ducks and other waterfowl.
Montezuma, in particular May’s Point Pool, is a reliable place for numbers of Great Egret.
Watch for spillover from the migration in your own yard. Warblers will work through the trees and bushes; the first White-throated and White-crowned Sparrow will forage in ground litter. Migrating hummingbirds benefit by keeping feeders filled with fresh nectar.
Early September is a good time to start-up your winter feeder, too. You can attract small numbers of migrants. A careful watch should yield some unusual records.
This is the prime time for sparrows, for watching the lake, for picking up the first birds of winter. It is also a good month for wandering rarities.
Durand Eastman Park, with its abundance of cone-bearing trees, orchard and other food supplies, is a prime fall and winter birding spot. Webster Park also has good stands of conifers and a good view of the lake.
Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Winter Wren, and Fox Sparrow replace warblers and vireos as the predominant woodland migrants. However, this can be the best time of the year to find Orange-crowned Warbler. By the end of the month, the first Red and White-winged Crossbill and Evening and Pine Grosbeak may be spotted.
There is no better time than October to see sparrows, which gather in large flocks in open areas, along hedgerows and at wood edgings. White-throated, White-crowned, Song, Lincoln’s, Swamp and Field Sparrow will be most numerous, but other species may be mixed in.
Watch for Orange-crowned Warbler feeding in the tops of goldenrod and other tall weeds. The first Northern Shrike, Short-eared Owl, Rough-legged Hawk, Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur and American Tree Sparrow – traditional winter residents here – usually arrive by month’s end.
Beatty and Hogan points in Greece are outstanding areas to find sparrows; migrating Sharp-tailed Sparrow, a rarity here, have been found at both locations in early to mid October. The west lakeshore in Parma, Hamlin and farther west is good for other newly arriving winter species.
October is also synonymous with waterfowl on the lake. Common and Red-throated Loon, Horned Grebe, Brant, all three scoters, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and mergansers will be migrating through the area or arriving for winter. At least one or two Pomarine or Parasitic Jaeger are almost certain to be spotted this month; rare gulls are possible. The bluffs overlooking the lake at Parking Lot 4 in Hamlin Beach State Park offers fine viewing of a protected cove where waterfowl gather. Other good vantage points are the piers and jetties at Charlotte and Irondequoit Bay outlet, and the spits at Braddock Bay.
On the ponds, when hunters aren’t blasting away, migrating ducks can be observed. Canvasback and Hooded Merganser are among the later arrivals. Eurasian Wigeon, a rarity, could show up as well. Glossy Ibis occasionally turn up this time of year, too; they have been seen in the marshes off Hincher Road. Look in any of the lakeshore ponds and borrow pits, Braddock and Irondequoit Bays, and Montezuma and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuges.
October signals the end of the major southbound migration, most observations are waterfowl on Lake Ontario. This is a time to sharpen your skill in identifying ducks in flight on the lakeshore. Hamlin Beach is one of the best locations.
In the yard, watch for migrating Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglet working through trees and bushes. Winter Wren might also poke around in your brush piles. Arriving winter species, such as Evening Grosbeak, may be seen at feeders.
Will it be a finch winter? A Snowy Owl winter? November usually provides the clues. The first wintry weather arrives, and with it the birds of the season. Ducks, swans, late shorebirds and other migrants continue to move through the area.
If it is a finch winter, Red and White-winged Crossbill, Pine and Evening Grosbeak, Pine Siskin, and redpolls will begin to appear. Check cone-bearing conifers and the catkins of birch and alder – favorite food sources for winter finches.
Look over wandering flocks of Cedar Waxwing for the occasional Bohemian Waxwing, which has a rusty undertail. Watch for late songbird migrants and lingering half-hardy species. Warblers, Blue-headed Vireo, thrushes, sapsuckers, Carolina Wren, and Fox Sparrow are all possible.
Durand Eastman Park and Hamlin Beach State Park often have good cone crops that attract finches; the orchard at Durand Eastman draws waxwings.
In the fields, Northern Shrike will be more numerous now, along with Short-eared Owl and Rough-legged Hawk. Wintering kestrels will arrive to bolster the number of resident birds. Hawk-watching in general becomes much easier now with the foliage gone. Drive along the west lakeshore, and you will find raptors perched along treelines.
If it’s a Snowy Owl winter, they’ll be showing up in open fields, at the airport, along the lakeshore and on piers.
Flocks of Snow Bunting, with occasional Lapland Longspur mixed in, will join Horned Lark in the fields, and along roadsides. Parking lot #4 in Hamlin Beach State Park is a good place to find Snow Bunting. In addition, drive along North Hamlin, Chase, Moscow, Church and other roads near the west lakeshore in Parma and Hamlin.
On the lakeshore, this is the time to see migrating Purple Sandpiper. A few usually show up each November into December on piers and rock jetties, especially after east or north winds. November is also a prime time for gulls. Bonaparte’s Gull will continue to congregate and move along the lakeshore. The first Little Gull may arrive; Sabine’s, Franklin’s, and Black-legged Kittiwake are possible. So are tardy Common and Forster’s Tern.
Jaeger – both Pomarine and Parasitic – are likely during the first part of the month. Watch for birds harassing gulls. That’s a jaeger trademark. Migrating Common and Red-throated Loon and Horned Grebe will still be visible from shore; Eared Grebe are rare but possible. Flocks of Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Black, White-winged, and Surf Scoter, and Common and Red-breasted Merganser will also be migrating or settling in for the winter. Keep an eye out for King Eider and Harlequin Duck, which are rarities here.
Look at jetties and piers at the Irondequoit Bay Outlet, Charlotte, the east spit of Braddock Bay, and at Hamlin Beach State Park. The bluffs at Parking Lot #4 at Hamlin Beach provide an excellent observation point for passing jaegers, gulls, and waterfowl. The Niagara River becomes a key staging area for thousands of gulls, including rarities, and is definitely worth a visit.
On the ponds, ducks will still be moving through in good numbers. American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Mallard and American Black Duck will be most numerous.
Watch also for Hooded Merganser, Northern Pintail, and Ruddy Duck. Dunlin, Pectoral Sandpiper, and White-rumped Sandpiper are the most likely shorebirds. Look in Irondequoit Bay, Braddock Bay, and any of the lakeshore ponds in Greece for ducks and waterfowl in general; mudflats at the south end of Irondequoit Bay (off the north side of Empire Boulevard), in the Salmon Creek area, at the east spit of Braddock Bay, and at Northrup Creek Sanctuary for shorebirds. Be sure to take a trip to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Tundra Swan, Snow Goose, and a wide array of ducks and other waterfowl are sure to be seen.
In the yard, it’s time to stock the feeders once again for winter. Remember, the greater variety of feed, the greater variety of visitors. Black oil sunflower seed is the best all-purpose bird seed, but cracked corn, suet, peanuts and thistle seed will expand the number of species. Have a supply of water. That can be as important as food when creeks and ponds freeze over. A heating element will keep the water from freezing. It is also helpful to have plenty of bushes and trees in your yard to provide shelter and cover.
In the woods, half the fun of winter birding is searching for lingering half-hardy species – birds that we usually expect to move south for the winter. A few will stay in the area. Check out any area with open water and food, such as berry-laden bushes and trees, or in areas of weeds and tall grasses. Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Carolina Wren, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler are just some of the possibilities. Even if it’s not a “finch winter”, at least a few Red- or White-winged Crossbill and Pine or Evening Grosbeak can be found. Keep checking flocks of Cedar Waxwing for Bohemian Waxwing. Both Durand Eastman and Mendon Ponds parks have a variety of habitat.
In the fields, watch for many of the same winter visitors – Northern Shrike, Short-eared Owl, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, Snow Bunting, and Lapland Longspur – that began arriving earlier in the fall. A trip to Nations Road south of Avon, and to the fields around Retsof salt mines west of Geneseo will be particularly productive now. Chandler Road near the Retsof salt mine is a favorite wintering spot for Short-eared Owl; Nations Road is renowned for the owls, Rough-legged Hawk and Red-headed Woodpecker.
On the lake, Little Gull should be here by now. Watch for the sooty black underwings as they join flocks of Bonaparte’s Gull along the lake and adjacent ponds.
Glaucous and Iceland Gull may also be found in congregations of Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed Gull. Bufflehead, Long-tailed Duck, scaup, Red-breasted Merganser, White-winged Scoter, and Common Goldeneye will be easy to spot on the lake, but also keep watch for such rare visitors as King Eider and Harlequin Duck. Common and Red-throated Loon and Horned Grebe can still be found. And look closely at goldeneyes; Barrow’s Goldeneye have been found here from time to time.
Purple Sandpiper is possible through the end of the month on the same rock jetties where you looked for them last month.
There are numerous Snowy Owl in the area. Charlotte and Braddock Bay are good for them.
The usual lake vantage points at Irondequoit Bay, Charlotte, Braddock Bay, and Hamlin Beach can be productive. The lake off Van Lare Treatment Plant near Durand Eastman Park is one of the best spots to find Little Gull; they also are found from time to time along any of the lakeshore ponds and bays where there is open water. It is also a good time of year to take an extended trip to Sodus Bay or Conesus Lake.
On the ponds, open water is the crucial factor. Several species of ducks will stay right through the winter if open spots remain. So will Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, and American Coot.
Gulls will congregate at the edge of the ice, and feed on the water’s surface. Watch for Little Gull. Late Pectoral and White-rumped Sandpiper, Snipe, and Dunlin are possible on mudflats. Irondequoit Bay and Braddock Bay, which usually have at least some open water, are good for winter birding. Round, Buck, Long, and Cranberry Ponds in Greece can also be good.
In the yard, as snow cover begins to accumulate, natural food supplies are harder to find. That makes your feeder all the more attractive this time of year. Do not be distraught if a Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk also shows up to prey on your favorite songbirds. Take advantage of this opportunity to watch raptors fulfilling their natural role. Save your Christmas tree, and those discarded by neighbors, and pile them up in a corner of the yard. They can provide much-needed cover and shelter.