Birding Across America by Train May 28—Jun 10, 2018

Posted by Michael O'Brien


Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is a freelance artist, author, and environmental consultant living in Cape May, New Jersey. He has a passionate interest in bird vocalizations and field ide...

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We completed another exciting cross-country adventure this spring and were especially fortunate to have beautiful weather through most of our birding segments, and only minimal delays on the train. Our journey brought us to an incredible array of habitats, some amazing scenery, and an outstanding selection of birds including many local specialties. But just as exciting, we got to see the countryside go by from the charming confines of an Amtrak train, with the ambiance of a bygone era when train travel was the standard for transport.

View from the Helderberg Escarpment

View from the Helderberg Escarpment— Photo: Louise Zemaitis


Our first field session began outside Albany, with a visit to Five Rivers Environmental Education Center. This wonderful mix of deciduous forest, fields, boggy ponds, and streams provided an amazing diversity of birds, including species of a southeastern affinity that we would not likely encounter later on our tour. Among these were Green Heron, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Blue-winged Warbler, Field Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, and Eastern Meadowlark. Quite a haul for our first stop! A scenic overlook atop the nearby Helderberg Escarpment provided wonderful views of the Hudson Valley, as well as a soaring Black Vulture, reaching about the northern limit of its range. 

The scenery quickly changed as we left farm country near Albany and rose up into the extensive mixed forest, cool mountain lakes, and bogs of the Adirondacks. Our “home away from home” for the next few days was the Adirondack League Club, a lovely private facility situated on Little Moose Lake, where the enchanting calls of Common Loons echoed through the air each evening. We spent much of our time within a mile or two of the lodge, where we found the likes of Ruffed Grouse, Broad-winged Hawk, Barred Owl, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Blue-headed Vireo, Hermit Thrush, and Scarlet Tanager. And warblers such as Magnolia, Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, and Canada were showing well on the grounds. Nearby boreal bogs produced some interesting botany and a slightly different set of birds including Olive-sided and Alder flycatchers; Winter Wren; Nashville, Chestnut-sided, and Palm warblers; and Red Crossbill, rounding out our experience in the Adirondacks.

Read Michael’s full report in his Field Report.