This past weekend was a blur of activity that has left me exhausted. But was it ever worth it! One of the best activities of the weekend was loading up the rented caravan with Daisy’s family on Saturday and driving upstate to visit my family.

As is somewhat of a tradition in my family we met at North Lake State Park in southern Greene County, a gem of a park that not only showcases the beauty of the Catskill Mountains but also offers amazing views out over the Hudson Valley to the east (views that helped inspire the Hudson River School of landscape painters).

We folks journeying from New York City arrived first and, once we were set up, I took Audrey, our three-year-old niece, for a nature walk. She was momentarily amused by the Red Admirals and the American Lady feeding on dandelions but was really more interested in the stick she found with which she could hit things.

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta above and American Lady Vanessa virginiensis below

My favorite part of the nature walk, however, was a Blackburnian Warbler that came down to eye-level to forage in a birch tree. Audrey was not properly impressed. Then again, three-year-olds are not the greatest at using binoculars.

Once my folks arrived I wanted to make sure that both my mom and dad got good looks at one of the many Blackburnian Warblers singing in the hemlocks ringing our picnic site. It took awhile but eventually the pair closest to us cooperated, and my dad was lucky enough to see both a male and a female while my mom “only” got great looks at a singing male.

Of course, while the birds and butterflies were great, we were really there to enjoy spending time with family and to eat, and we did both of those, perhaps, in the case of the latter, to excess. To make up to some degree for the eating and as a fun group activity, we walked up to the amazing overlook where the Catskill Mountain House once stood. While there, we did the requisite amount of oohing and aahing at the view and took far more than the minimum required number of photographs of the landscape (and I might have been scanning the skies for raptors on the move, scoring both Turkey and Black Vultures to go with the Red-tailed and Broad-winged Hawks).

After the walk we packed up and headed down to my folks’ house for more of the eating and the socializing. Good times. One creature in particular was very happy to see us go…

Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe on nest

It was a great day and all of us had a grand old time. I highly recommend a trip to North Lake State Park any time of year, but May, when the crowds of summer have not yet started swarming, is undoubtedly the best time to see birds.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.