Where to Go Birding in the Catskills
The Northern Catskills are a birding hotspot for both native and migrating species throughout the region. Watch broad-winged hawks effortlessly soar thermals over the Hunter-West Kill Wilderness, or tick off that endangered Bicknell's Thrush from your life list on top of Hunter Mountain. You need not be a hiker, however, to enjoy birding in Greene County as the lakes, rivers and marsh areas attract over 270 bird species. Whether you are looking for a relaxing birding weekend away or you are looking to grow your life list or year list, a birding trip to the Catskills is well worth your time.
Spring migration is one of the best times to go birding in the Catskills. As plumage becomes more vivid, birds can easily be spotted amongst the trees that have not fully achieved leaf-out. Spot displaying males strutting their stuff trying to attract a mate. Or keep your eye out for first-of-the-season arrivals eager to find the perfect nesting location.
Adventurers will love a climb up Hunter Mountain to look for higher elevation birds such as Blackpoll Warblers and Bicknell's Thrush. If you are lucky, you may even spot a Great Horned Owl perched solemnly in a treetop. Some of the top eBird hotspots in the region are located at lower elevations for a more relaxed day of birding. Coxsackie Creek Grasslands Preserve offers the opportunity to scan the tree tops for colorful Scarlet Tanagers and Baltimore Orioles. Marshy locations such as RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary can offer glimpses of variety of Flycatchers, Common Yellowthroats, Swamp Sparrows, and the elusive American Bittern. Around dusk, tune your ear to the split voice melodies of the Wood and Hermit Thrush. These ethereal singers will provide a pleasant backdrop to the evening.
4-Mile Point Preserve is a beacon for Cedar Waxwings, Black-capped Chickadees, and Kinglets who will greet you in the parking lot. Head to the edge of the water where viewing for roosting eagles and osprey is prime in the summer months. Diving ducks, such as Mergansers and Goldeneyes feed by diving for fish, so spend some time on the river. With 190+ species being spotted in this popular eBird hotspot, it is well worth the stop.
If you are willing to work for some lifers, check out The Catskill Creek Trail. This hike will take you clear to East Durham where rare warblers like Kentucky, Cerulean and Yellow-throated in addition to Arcadian Flycatchers are ready for discovery.
Bird by car along Cauterskill Road. These flats are home to Rough-legged Hawks, American Kestral, Snow buntings, Horned Larks, Peregrine falcons and song birds. Hungry raptors will scavenge hoping to find a snowshoe hare, meadow vole, or the remains of a larger kill. Circling Ravens indicate dinner is near.
For a more adventurous day of birding, glide on your cross country skis at George V. Vanderbilt Park as you view a diversity of birds who overwinter, like social Black-capped Chickadees, Gray Jays, Ravens, Barred Owls, and Great Horned Owls. A combination of a quiet pond, mixed forest, and open fields Vanderbilt Park is little patch of solitude offering an assortment of habitats and wildlife. Tracks and prints of small and large mammals such as gray fox, moose, beaver and coyote are easy to spot in on the snowy terrain.
As the leaves begin to turn and the chill returns to the air, birds begin their long migration flight. Autumn is the perfect time to see a wide variety of species that may be passing through the area. Check out bodies of water such as Catskills Point for rafts of ducks and waterfowl such as Scaups and Red-necked Grebes. Make sure to scan the flocks of Gulls in the area for Caspian Terns and the occasional peep. Fall is also the perfect time to spot soaring raptors. Keep your eyes turned to the sky for Broad-winged and Red-tailed Hawks, Osprey, and if you are really lucky you might even spot a Golden Eagle.