October is a month of change in the Albany area, the month starts off fairly mild, with the valley’s still rather green, but the higher elevation and areas north of Saratoga are rapidly approaching full color and are usually at or just past peak around Columbus Day. In the Hudson and Mohawk valley’s, peak color is later, closer to Halloween.
The weather as I mentioned starts off mild, but we often have our first ‘cold’ outbreak of the season (this year, much of the higher elevations around Albany have already had their growing seasons end in mid September). Very often the first snows of the year fall in the Adirondacks and even a few flakes are often seen, even in valley locations, especially around Halloween.
Bird wise, fall migration is winding down. Early in the month, there are still quite a few Warblers around, but the numbers and varieties become less and less. Yellow-Rumped Warblers become ubiquitous, but even they vacate the region for the most part by the end of the month. Other insect eating birds, such as Flycatchers, Swallows and Tanagers are by and large gone. Those with more varied diets, such as Thrushes and Eastern Phoebe tend to remain strong through out the month.
By early October the ‘snow’ birds arrive in full force in all elevations. Dark-eyed Juncos become common, along with White-throated and White-Crowned Sparrows. Purple Finches and Pine Siskins tend to appear at feeders and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker becomes common, even in city and suburban areas.
Waterfowl also start to build. Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal begin to diminish, while diving ducks start to arrive. Bufflehead, both Scaup, Common Loon, Mergansers (mainly Common and Hooded), Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Duck become common on nearly any larger body of water. Bald Eagle numbers also begin to climb and the odd Golden Eagle is found as well. Canada Geese numbers remain large, but a few Snow Geese can also be found. Small numbers of Brant are often found mixed in with the Canada Geese. Other waterfowl such as American Coot also become common.
This time of year I recommend birding areas with a lot of mixed habitat. Fiver Rivers in New Scotland, is one of my favorite fall birding destinations. It’s mix of hedges, fields, ponds and woods, allows for one-stop shop when it comes to finding the greatest variety of birds. In the higher elevations, the woods become steadily quiet, although Black-Capped Chickadee and Golden-Crowned Kinglets can often be found. Other good areas include the Coxsackie Grasslands in Greene County, Powell Sanctuary in Columbia County, Five Rivers in Albany County, Tomohannock Reservoir in Rensselaer County, Stanton Pond in Albany County, Ft. Edward in Washington County, Stillwater (along the Hudson) in Saratoga County, Lake George in Warren County, Rensselaer Tech Park in Rensselaer County and Collins Lake in Schenectady County. If birding by car, Schoharie, Fulton, Montgomery Counties are tough to beat, the mostly open rural landscape is good for many song birds and especially raptors. I tend to avoid areas such as Patridge Run WMA in Albany County, because the bird variety is somewhat limited and hunting is a big competition. However, good birds can still be found it just takes a ton of patience. I encourage anyone who is interested in Partridge Run to check out The Blue Collar Birder.
By the end of October only the most hardy (foolish?) neo-tropical migrants are left. American Tree Sparrow and Rough-Legged Hawk begin to arrive. In winter finch invasion years, the first birds are often sighted before the end of the month. October is generally the last month we see many of our breeding species, birds we won’t see again until next May.
No matter where you bird, please report your sightings in the Albany area to the Bird Line of Eastern New York at (518) 439-8080 and of course Ebird.