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New York: Birding with a Camera® (BwC)

Tour Overview:

Known for its big cities and epicenters of art and culture, New York state has many secrets to share with any naturalist willing to look a little closer. Outside of the concrete jungles, New York is home to several extensive ecoregions and over 400 bird species. Join us on this exciting tour as we travel from the iconic Niagara Falls of western New York to the humbling and awe-inspiring Adirondack Mountains. This easy tour will focus on observing and photographing some of the most range restricted birds in the state. The tour starts with a few days exploring the avian diversity of the deciduous forests along Lake Ontario to the grasslands of Central New York. However, the core focus is on the most famous and elusive species of New York’s boreal forests. Trekking through bogs and up into the state’s highest peaks, we will seek birds like Bicknell’s Thrush, Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, and Canada Jays, along with many other much wanted species.

Tour Details:


23 - 29 June

$3990; Single Supplement: $720

Length: 7 Days

Starting City: Buffalo, New York

Ending City: Burlington, Vermont

Pace: Easy to Moderate

Physical Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Focus: Birding, Photography

Group size: 7 + 1 leader

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Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buffalo, New York

After participants arrive in Buffalo Niagara International Airport, the tour starts with an introductory dinner in the evening. There are no group birding activities planned on this day, but any early arrivals will have the chance to wander the shore of Lake Erie by themselves.


Day 2: Niagra Falls to Syracuse via Rochester

After an early breakfast, we dive straight-in by exploring the nearby spectacular Niagara Falls. Situated at the southern end of the Niagara Gorge, this group of three waterfalls is considered the second largest waterfalls in the world by volume, only Victoria Falls in Africa is larger. We will begin on Goat Island, for some early morning birding seeking some classic eastern birds. Some easy walking may present the chance to photograph Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Double-crested Cormorant, Chimney Swift, as well as a variety of sparrows, herons, and woodpeckers. Once the birding activity dies down, we may have a little free time to see more of the falls or do a little shopping.


An optional activity (cost not included) is an excursion on the world-famous ‘Maid of the Mist’, an open-deck boat that approaches close to the falls to experience intimate views and their phenomenal power. For those who to join this, they do this without the guide, who will remain on land and bird nearby with the rest of the group.


We then drive along the Lake Ontario shoreline to another fantastic birding location near Rochester. After lunch, we head out to the Braddock Bay area, with its multitude of hiking trails. Our trail choices will depend on recent bird news. These locations boast a bird list of over 200 species, and will offer us opportunities to photograph plentiful waterfowl, songbirds, shorebirds, and raptors. After most of the afternoon there, we will venture on to Syracuse, where we will overnight.


Day 3: Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge to Lake Placid

An early start brings us to one of the most important conservation areas in the state. Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge became an iconic conservation symbol as the first New York location to support the reintroduction of the Bald Eagle. While Bald Eagles are not seen on every trip, it is not uncommon to see them perched in the open overlooking the vast systems of ponds and grasslands in the refuge. These wetlands also offer great opportunities to see and photograph Trumpeter Swan, Caspian Tern, Osprey, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Yellowlegs, Wood Duck, and many different herons and egrets. We could also see Sandhill Crane, Virginia Rail, Sora, Pied-billed Grebe, Marsh Wren or Common Yellowthroat. After the morning there, we will make the longest drive of the tour (2.5 hours), transiting through a wild diversity of New York’s ecosystems. Eventually, the starkly dramatic Adirondacks mountains will emerge from the grassy plains, and we will settle in for a four-night stay in Lake Placid, which will give us plenty of time to explore these dramatic mountains.


Day 4-6: The Adirondack Mountains

Over the next three days we will make in-depth explorations of the most pristine ecosystems in New York. The Adirondack Mountains mostly comprise northern hardwood forests, though there are also many other ecotypes. Peaks that rise to over 5,000 feet, hundreds of lakes and ponds, and even the southernmost portion of boreal taiga forest in North America occur here. This complex and immense system of habitats transitioning into one another offers some of the best birding and photographic opportunities in the state. Here in the mountains we will be in the heart of the breeding range for incredible warblers such as Blackpoll, Canada Warbler, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Blackburnian, and Mourning Warblers, and Northern Parula. We will also be exploring the vast systems of bogs and swamps to find birds found nowhere else in New York, such as Black-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and Canada Jay.


The peaks of the most accessible mountains permit us the opportunity to find the tour’s key targets. These include the local and highly sought-after Bicknell’s Thrush, a beautiful relative of the robin that is listed as Vulnerable, which migrates in to breed at the Adirondacks’ highest altitudes. Boreal Chickadee is another target, a year-round resident, here found in one of the most accessible places in its range. Other interesting birds we hope to encounter are Common Loon, Evening Grosbeak, Blue-headed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Ruffed Grouse, Barred Owl, Purple Finch, White-winged Crossbill, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. We will also try and find one of New York’s rarest birds, Spruce Grouse. Other rare state birds we will be in range for include Rusty Blackbird, Northern Goshawk, and American Three-toed Woodpecker. During this portion of the trip, mammal enthusiasts will not be disappointed, as we have the chance to see many incredible species while birding, including beaver, river otter, muskrat, black bear, deer, raccoon, mink, porcupine, and with extreme of luck, even American marten, bobcat, and moose are all possible!


Day 7: The Adirondacks to Burlington for DEPARTURES

After a quick and final outing in the morning we will leave the Lake Placid area and head to Burlington, Vermont (Burlington International Airport) for our departures.

Trip Considerations

PACE: Easy to Moderate. The mornings will offer us the best opportunities for bird activity and natural lighting. We will be out for the majority of the day in order to make the most of our time, however lunches and vistas will offer us many opportunities to relax and reenergize for other hikes in the area. Due to very few, if any, feeders being present we will ensure we find our targets by going into the heart of their habitats. Most trails will be rugged and uneven and will require good footwear to ensure a comfortable hike.

PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY:  Easy to Moderate. In the Adirondacks most of our birding/photography is going to be on out-and-back trails, meaning we will be hiking back as much as we hike out. This means on average we will be covering a minimum 2-4 miles a day, though the group's comfortability will dictate how far we make it on each trail. This tour will also cover side roads, in those cases birding will be done close to a vehicle, or a vehicle will act as a shuttle to pick up the group at the end of the road. The hardest habitat to access will be along Whiteface Mountain, where a toll road will allow us to get near the peak with a lot less sweat and exhaustion. Up here the trails will be uneven with gradual inclines and declines in elevation, but this will be our only opportunity to possibly photograph the top targets of the trip. This road will be the highest point of our trip, bringing us to an elevation of 4,800ft (1465m).

The first few days of the trip will involve easy short hikes and a few road walks. All of these will be on even and smooth terrain. There are daily drives on this tour, with the longest ones ranging from 2.5 to 3 hours, though most will be an hour to 1.5 hours. This is due to the large amount of land we hope to cover, and the lack of accommodations close to many hotspots.

ACCOMMODATION: Good to excellent throughout, with full-time electricity, hot water and en-suite facilities at the standard motels and hotels used everywhere. All hotels used have Wi-Fi Internet.

WHEN TO GO: This is an excellent time to visit New York State. June and July is when the many birds have begun nesting and egg laying, though many birds will also have young to care for. However, territorial males will still be singing which will aid us in locating birds, and seeing them in their best breeding dress.

PHOTOGRAPHY: This is a Birding With a Camera tour. The only feeders on this tour are operated by local birders, and so are not always available to visit on every tour. Therefore, most of the photography will be on the fly. There is often good photo opportunities on this tour to capture images of species like Canada Jays, Purple Finch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and the adorable Black-capped Chickadee, among many others.

GEAR: Binoculars and camera equipment are essential items. The guide will have a scope which of course you are welcome to use too. If you would like to bring your own scope, you may do so and it will be useful. A tripod is always welcome but keep in mind that all of our photography will be opportunistic which means you will have to be quick. It is generally more convenient therefore, not to use a tripod. As always, when photographing away from feeders the bigger the lens, the better. Photographers are encouraged to bring as many lenses as they like, with a 300-500mm acting as great lens and good minimum focal length. If photographers wish to bring macro or micro lenses for reptiles, amphibians, fungi, landscape, and plants they are welcome to do so. Monopods are often a better, quicker, and more portable option than tripods, but shooting handheld is the most commonly used option on this tour.

Other Information

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: For US citizens, there are no special travel requirements. Citizens of Canada may enter the US with a valid passport, and do not need to obtain a visa. For citizens of the 38 countries on the visa waiver list (including the UK, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and Japan), you can enter the US with a valid passport and a completed Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which can be applied for online. For all passports, the passport must be valid for at least six months past your intended stay. Citizens of all other countries will need to apply for a US visa. Travel requirements are subject to change; please double check with the nearest embassy or consulate, or ask our office staff if you are unsure. Those who need to apply for a Visa should do so long in advance of the tour, as these can take days weeks to be issued.

WHAT’S INCLUDED?: Accommodations from the night of day 1 through the night of day 6; meals from dinner on the night of day 1 through to breakfast on day 7; all park fees to sites stated in the itinerary; an airport shuttle at the start of the tour, and a single airport drop off for the entire group at a stated time at the end of the tour; Tropical Birding tour leader from the night of day 1 through to the morning of day 7; ground transport for the group to all sites in the itinerary from days 1 to 7 in a modern, rental vehicle with the Tropical Birding tour leader as the driver. Printed checklist to keep track of your bird sightings, this will be given to you on the first night of the tour. Electronic copies can be e-mailed in advance if requested.

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?: Any extra nights you wish to stay in the area; any flights; optional tips to the tour leader; tips to any baggage handlers if used anywhere; any passport or visa fees; excess baggage fees; snacks; any drinks other than drinkable water; alcoholic beverages; travel insurance; excursions not included in the tour itinerary; extras in hotels such as laundry service, internet, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items; medical fees; other items or services not specifically mentioned as being included.

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