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A Four Season Guide To Birding At Indian Creek Nature Center

Guest blogger Ben Dixon works for the Associated Colleges/St. Lawrence University and is on the board of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce among other volunteer activities. He's an avid outdoorsman and photographer.  

From the perspectives of species diversity and abundance, Indian Creek Nature Center is the best birding hotspot in Saint Lawrence County.

An amazing variety of habitats are packed into this 320-acre reserve: open lake, marsh-swamp complex, deciduous forest of varying succession stages, pockets of coniferous forests, scattered clearings and inland ponds. Surrounding the nature center is the 14-square mile Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area, approximately half of which is wetlands.

The site is in an important location between the Adirondack Mountains, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway. As a result, the nature center plays a critical role in providing breeding grounds to a huge diversity of species and as a stopping point for migrants.

The flat 7.9 miles of trails at Indian Creek Nature Center are delightful. More information (directions, trail map, etc.) can be seen on their website: https://www.indiancreeknaturecenter.us/

Great Blue Heron - Photo by Ben Dixon

Rare Birds To See

Two species of particular interest, and which the WMA manages for, are the New York State
Endangered Black Tern and the Golden-winged Warbler, a species of Special Concern. They
can be most easily found as follows:

  • Black Tern (Endangered), Middle Lake Marsh viewable from the lowland trail, May-August.
  • Golden-winged Warbler (Special Concern), first ¼-mile of the Observation Tower Trail, May-August.

Other noteworthy birds to see, and the most likely place to see them:


Species By Season and Indian Creek Location

Spring, Summer, and Fall - Species that breed at this site:

  • Trumpeter Swans; Middle Lake Marsh from the Lowland Trail; Mar-Oct
  • Several duck species, esp. Ring-necked Duck; Observation Tower, Observation Deck, and Middle Lake Marsh from the Lowland Trail; March-Nov
  • Pied-billed Grebe; Lower Lake from the Observation Tower; Mar-Nov
  • Black Tern; Middle Lake Marsh from the Lowland Trail; May-Aug
  • Common Tern; Lower Lake from the Observation Tower; April-Aug
  • Common Loon, Lower Lake from the Observation Tower; April-Oct
  • Northern Harrier, Middle Lake Marsh from the Lowland Trail; April-Nov
  • Osprey, Lower Lake from the Observation Tower; April-Sept
  • American Bittern, Middle Lake Marsh from the Lowland Trail; April-Sept
  • Least Bittern, Middle Lake Marsh from the Lowland Trail; May-Aug
  • Great Blue Heron, Middle Lake Marsh from the Lowland Trail; April-Nov
  • Golden-winged Warbler and 22 other warbler species; all wooded trails; May-Sept

Spring and Fall: Migrants that can be seen during Migration:

  • Tundra Swan; Middle Lake Marsh from the Lowland Trail; early April
  • Numerous warbler species including Cape May, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Tennessee and Orange-crowned; all trails; May and September
  • Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, boardwalk trail, May
  • Philadelphia Vireo, observation tower trail, September
  • Fox Sparrow, observation tower trail, April and October
  • Rusty Blackbird, any trails, April and September through November

Winter:

  • Snow Bunting; Observation Tower; January and February
  • Northern Shrike; all trails; Nov, Jan, Feb
  • American Tree Sparrow; Observation Tower Trail; October through April
  • Bohemian Waxwing; parking area; January
  • Pine Grosbeak; Observation Tower Trail; February
  • Common Redpoll; all trails; Nov thru April

Year-Round:

  • Bald Eagle; Middle Lake Marsh from the Lowland Trail
  • Barred and Great-Horned Owl; Lowland Trail woods and Middle Lake Marsh
  • Ruffed Grouse; All wooded trails
  • Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Goldfinch, and Northern Cardinal; all wooded trails

Enjoy the wildlife of St. Lawrence County.

Have your own photos and comments to share? Upload them to our STLC Trails page.

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