Winter Season a Boon to Byway Birdwatchers

The winter season along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail provides a birdwatchers’ boon. Bare-branch trees offer a clearer view of hawks watching for prey, but ornithologist Gerald Smith, author of the new 195-page Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail field guide, says watch the water along the 518-mile shoreline byway. Smith, who is also president of the Onondaga Audubon Society, says, “Whenever birding along a large body of water, always look at the water – even in winter. During the winter season along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, check the open water at the outlets of major rivers, below dams and at warm water discharges.” The species that frequent the winter season along the series of roads that form one of America’s Byways and a National Recreation Trail include Bald Eagles, mergansers, scaups, goldeneyes, Purple Sandpiper, Tundra Swan, many species of gulls, and even the colorful Harlequin Duck in places. How do you know where to find which species? Follow the new field guide’s month-by-month charts for each of 17 sections of the byway to easily identify the species to look for in all four seasons. For example, Common Goldeneye and Common Merganser like Lake Erie in winter. In February waterfowl, particularly numerous species of gulls, are abundant along the Niagara River. In fact, the Niagara Gorge area is one of New York’s Important Bird Areas. King Eider may join scaups, scoters, and mergansers along the western end of Lake Ontario in February, while birders raise binoculars to see Horned Lark, Common Redpoll, Long-tailed Duck, grassland raptors and Bald Eagles from Sodus Bay east to Cape Vincent. The mix of fliers in the 1000 Islands region and along the St. Lawrence River stretch of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in winter includes eagles, larks, Snow Bunting, Common Goldeneye, Greater Scaup and Iceland Gulls. As you drive, watch for birding theme Great Lakes Seaway Trail “outdoor storyteller” interpretive signs share interesting facts and illustrations by wildlife artist Robert McNamara at significant spots along the byway.

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