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Nature, birding opportunities abound in the Finger Lakes, Western NY. See a few favorites.

Clearly, springlike weather got ahead of the calendar this year. However, the weather outlook for the second half of March indicates a slowdown.

Generally, regardless of the weather, the birds pretty much stick with the calendar when it comes to spring migration. Their “calendar” is based on their built-in biologic clock together with daylight changes. Sure, the lack of snow and the presence of several three-day warmups probably did affect some of our early bird migration activity which primarily involved the return of robins, bluebirds, red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, song sparrows, and killdeer. These birds are always our early harbingers of spring.

As for waterfowl, birds of prey, and the vast majority of songbirds, their primary migration action is still ahead of us — but just around the corner! April will usher in so much activity which leads into an overwhelmingly busy and beautiful early May. If you like birds and gardening, you have much to look forward to in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, there is still plenty we can do to prepare for these two upcoming wonderful months of spring. That could include cleaning up your flower beds, raking your lawns, trimming shrubs (and blueberry bushes in my case) fertilizing some of your plantings, protecting your erupting tulips from hungry deer, dividing perennials, getting bluebird nest boxes cleaned out, and the list goes on.

There’s more — like getting inside work done so you have time for more gardening and hiking and birding when spring gets into high gear!

This is also a good time to do some planning on places to explore and things to do in the world of nature enjoyment and birding. It is really amazing how these opportunities for nature exploration and hiking and birding have exploded. All of these things go together. Add in photography of birds, landscapes, nature, flowers, and sunrise and sunsets.

A robin is shown at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy, Wednesday, March 13, 2024.
A robin is shown at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy, Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

I can’t imagine taking a hike without my binoculars, just like many wouldn’t leave their camera behind. I’ve got a nice new camera and I need to remember to keep it with me as I keep encountering “would-be” awesome shots of nature.

A few mornings ago, I was at our Silver Lake property on the east side of the lake where we have a great location for watching waterfowl. The sun had risen but was still behind me and it shined so nicely on a large, diversified flock of ducks just offshore. Included among 300-plus various ducks, were eight long-tailed ducks, nine red-breasted mergansers, nine horned grebes, and one pintail.

What an opportunity to take great photos — but not if my camera wasn’t with me! Next time! In any event, I was in my glory. Waterfowl migration is ramping up!

Online resources, nature centers offer birding activities

In case you aren’t aware of them, there are numerous online things to check out, as you prepare for great nature experiences ahead. One that may be good to do with your children is to check out NY State DEC’s “2024 I Bird NY Challenge.” Go online to read up on its 350-plus Birding Trail locations and take the challenge to see and identify a very reasonable number of birds. Read their “Words of a Feather” newsletter.

Nature centers all seem to offer their own fun birding challenges as well. Check out Beaver Meadow Nature Center in North Java, Genesee County Park in East Bethany, Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, and several more. Buffalo Ornithological Society and Rochester Birding Association both offer free field trips and seminars on birding.

Check out the Braddock Bay Hawk Watch platform which often has bird experts present to help you identify and learn more about hundreds of migrating birds of prey that seem to be most numerous along the Lake Ontario shore — especially on days with desirable wind currents generally from the south.

Don’t forget all of the birding accessories provided by Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology including eBird, Merlin Bird ID on your phone, and online bird cams which give live coverage of nesting birds of prey around the country. The resources are endless in this ever-increasing boom of outdoor nature and bird exploration and education!

More: Important bluebird basics: When sightings increase in New York, how to maximize nest boxes

When all else fails, remember that you can reach out to me anytime for information and join me for short birding sessions here at our home on New Compehner Farm or at other local birding hotspots. There is so much you can learn in a short time. Get a small group together and contact me for a fun birding session. It might just get you off to a great start to increasing your birding expertise to the next level!

Yes, the resources are out there and it’s never been easier to see nature on your own or with a little guided help. We need to encourage our youngsters to enjoy and appreciate the wonderful world of nature. Clip my bi-weekly column and share it with friends. I appreciate all of the positive feedback that I am getting!

Please feel free to call or text (585-813-2676) me about anything birds or nature and I will try to help you or direct you to the right place. Need bluebird nest box advice? Spring and early summer come and go quickly so don’t let them get away from you! Looking forward to seeing you “out there!”

— Hanz Kunze writes a biweekly column appearing in The Spectator.

This article originally appeared on The Evening Tribune: Nature, birding opportunities abound in the Finger Lakes, Western NY