Part 1 is herePart 2 is herePart 3 is here.

After leaving the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center Will and I made a beeline down Route 86 to Saranac Lake. Our plan was to head through there and Lake Placid before heading for Elizabethtown where hopefully-not-too-old-information had placed Bohemian Waxwings and Pine Grosbeaks. But, as we pulled into Saranac Lake, we managed to get signals on our smart phones and Will read in an email that Pine Grosbeaks had been spotted that very morning in Saranac Lake. New plan! Drive around the small town of Saranac Lake until we found the grosbeaks!

It didn’t take too long before Will found them though they did not come down from the tops of some bare deciduous trees where they were feeding on buds. Even better, we found them on the county line between Franklin County and Essex County and all we had to do was wait five minutes and they crossed the line giving us the bird as a county tick in two counties. Nice! But what makes Pine Grosbeaks particularly nice is their often confiding nature and this flock was anything but confiding. They stayed high in the trees and refused to cooperate. We moved on but had a plan to find more grosbeaks later in the day.

This is a horrible picture of a Pine Grosbeak. It makes me retch just looking at it.

On our way to Elizabethtown Will spotted a large raptor, definitely an eagle, flying high along a ridge top. We pulled over with visions of Golden Eagle because of location, time of year, and behavior, but the bird ended up being a Bald Eagle. That was nice but not what we were hoping for.

This is a disgusting picture of a Bald Eagle. I might have my citizenship revoked just for sharing it.

On we went to Elizabethtown where we quickly realized that the ravenous hordes of birds had already cleaned out the supply of food and were no longer present. New plan! Head to the Magic Triangle north of Westport and see what we could come up with there. Not much, it turned out, as a single Common Redpoll coming to a feeder and a single Black Scoter on Lake Champlain were the only real highlights. Back to the Northway we went for a straight shot to the south to the town of Queensbury where a much more confiding flock of Pine Grosbeaks had been going back and forth between a church and a school complex. An hour later we were there and oh my were these birds wonderful. If only it hadn’t gotten so dark and drizzly the pictures would have been sublime.

Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator (click the top shot to embiggen it)

We spent about an hour with them before making moves to Fort Edward for what we hoped would be the Short-eared Owl show. The wind and rain picked up and though we stayed until dark the owls did not show. I drove Will back to Albany through a heavy rain, dropped him off, and managed to stay awake long enough to get back to Queens.

Two days, nearly 800 miles, a state bird, six year birds, amazing looks at some awesome species, and great memories. That is an Epic Birding Weekend.

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 and Desmond Shearwater. 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.