Best Birding Spots!

Photo: Tom Reimers

Best Birding Spots in the Finger Lakes Region

Over 300 species of birds have been recorded in the Finger Lakes region. If you are a beginning birder, it’s a great place to get started. If you are already a diehard, you can devote hours and hours, week after week, to birding here and never run out of rewarding discoveries. And whether you live in our region or are here just for a short visit, you have endless options about where to find the birds, all year round.

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Montezuma is the crown jewel of the area’s birding sites, almost literally at the top center on the map of the region at the north end of Cayuga Lake, within an hour’s drive of Syracuse, Rochester, and Ithaca. The refuge itself encompasses almost 10,000 acres, but is only one part of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, a vast patchwork of almost 50,000 protected acres, or about 78 square miles. Most people begin their visit at the refuge’s visitor center, and then proceed slowly on the Wildlife Drive around the Main Pool. During spring and fall migration, these open waters host hundreds of thousands of migrating ducks, geese, swans, grebes, coots, cormorants, and every now and then, even local rarities such as American White Pelicans. Montezuma also hosts a dazzling array of charismatic breeding birds throughout the summer, and in winter, the area is still excellent for roadside birding, perhaps most notably for wintering Snowy Owls and Northern Shrikes.

Heron at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
Heron feeding at Montezuma NWR. Photo: Chris Ray

Sapsucker Woods

Located in Ithaca, this 220-acre sanctuary is the home of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, one of the world’s leading institutions dedicated to the study and conservation of birds. Sapsucker Woods is a particularly good place to start if you are new to birds and birding. The sanctuary itself has more than four miles of trails, which are all wide and flat, making for easy walking even for young children. Comprising beech-oak forest, swampland, brushy edges, and ponds, Sapsucker Woods typically hosts more than 150 bird species per year. During peak migration in May and September, birders collectively find 20+ species of warblers, plus vireos, thrushes, and much more. Summer is less of a riot of diversity, but still, with a well-trained ear, one can find 50 or more breeding bird species in Sapsucker Woods, including Barred Owls, Northern Waterthrushes, Scarlet Tanagers, and of course eponymous Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager. Photo: Lang Elliott

High Tor Wildlife Management Area

With ponds, waterfalls, rivers, gorges, forests, and open fields, there is an abundance of wildlife habitats within the 6,315-acre wildlife management area in Yates County. Numerous songbirds and marshland birds may be viewed here.  No doubt the rich habitat and all the wildlife it supports is why the Audubon Society has recognized High Tor as an Important Bird Area.

Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area

The Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area is 1,120 acres of broad, flat floodplain nestled between two glacially steepened hillsides at the foot of Conesus Lake. Its marshland habitat is a favorite stopover for numerous species of migratory birds, and Bald Eagles have been nesting within the area and can be seen fishing the lagoon.

Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area
Conesus Inlet. Photo: Nigel Kent

The Finger Lakes Land Trust owns many lesser-known nature preserves, open to the public and much beloved by locals but often overlooked by visitors. Here you can really discover the variety in our regional landscapes, and accordingly, the diversity of our breeding birds.

Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve

Located in West Danby, Tompkins County, this preserve covers more than 500 acres of meadows, hedgerows, hardwood forest, hemlock woods, and streams and ponds. Over 70 species of birds nest here in a typical year, including both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, plus Prairie Warblers among 17+ breeding warbler species.

Hinchcliff Family Preserve

The Hinchcliff Preserve in Spafford, Onondaga County, has a similarly impressive mix of habitats and bird species across its 206 acres, plus a sweeping view of Skaneateles Lake.

Birding at Hinchcliff Family Preserve on Skaneateles Lake
Photo: Bill Hecht

Wesley Hill Nature Preserve

And in the 390-acre Wesley Hill Preserve between Canandaigua and Honeoye Lakes, you can expect to find Hermit Thrushes, Eastern Bluebirds, and up to three dozen other species on a slow morning walk through the mature hardwoods and conifers in spring and summer.

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Portions of this article also appeared in Life in the Finger Lakes magazine.

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Trailblazers!

Photo: FLLT

You’re Invited to Get Outdoors with Our Land Trust Volunteers

How does the Finger Lakes Land Trust maintain thousands of acres of nature preserves across a 12-county region with a small staff of only a few people?  Volunteers!  Sign up here!

The Land Trust operates over 30 nature preserves that are free and open to the public for quiet recreation.  You can see a few of them on the Go Finger Lakes map (find the tree icons) and you can see them all on our web site at fllt.org/map.  We care for them with our volunteer corps!

Here are a few photos of volunteers including our “Trailblazers,” who build trails, clear brush, construct signs, and generally care for the nature preserves, and others who help us host educational and recreational events that are open to the public.

fllt.org/volunteer

You can sign up to volunteer.

fllt.org/events

See our schedule of events.

Get your friends to sign up, too!

Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, do good work, and get outdoors in the beautiful Finger Lakes.

Want to get dirty? Help the Finger Lakes Land Trust blaze miles of trails!

Volunteer! Sign Up

Outdoor Events

Photo: Nigel Kent

Get Outdoors at Public Events Hosted by the Land Trust and Fellow Organizations

You can participate in hikes, bikes, paddles, and outdoor events of all kinds across the Finger Lakes region.  Almost every event hosted by the Finger Lakes Land Trust is free and open to all.

Go to the Land Trust events calendar

Photo: Rick Lightbody
Photo: Rick Lightbody

On our events calendar, you will find outings for all ages.  We often list events co-hosted with partner organizations.  Don’t miss great events in your area – sign up for the Living Land, the monthly email newsletter of the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

Do good work in the great outdoors… Join the Trailblazers at the Land Trust!

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Red Alert!

Photo: Jeff Katris

Watch more nature videos on the Land Trust web site!

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FLX Animals

Photo: Tanglewood Nature Center

Favorite Animal Photos from the Finger Lakes

Here are some of our favorite animal photos, shot in the Finger Lakes region by volunteers of the Finger Lakes Land Trust and other folks on nature preserves across the region.

Thanks to our volunteers and partners for sharing!

Do you have great photos and videos of wildlife in our region?

Want to share with the Finger Lakes Land Trust?

Please contact us at gofingerlakes@fllt.org.

Your imagery can help advance conservation through our communications and outreach on the web, social media, print and more!

Save wild places in the Finger Lakes for everyone to enjoy!

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Top 10 Strategies

Photo: Bill Hecht

A Conservation Agenda for the Finger Lakes Region

Bold new report highlights 10 strategies for permanently protecting the priceless lands and waters of our region

The Finger Lakes Land Trust, in consultation with over 40 organizations, has identified 10 strategies for seizing timely opportunities, countering active threats, and securing the lands and waters that sustain agriculture, tourism, and quality of life.  The illustrated report, Lakes, Farms, and Forests Forever, is available free online so you can download digital copies, request free print copies, and see success stories.  Please visit fllt.org/top10 and share with friends who love the Finger Lakes.

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The strategies were developed through a review of natural resource inventories and conservation plans, coupled with outreach to public conservation agencies, planning departments, watershed groups, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, and other stakeholders.

The 10 strategies are grouped into 3 themes:

Protect Our Lakes, Streams, and Drinking Water

  • Buffer Our Streams & Create New Wetlands
  • Save Our Last Undeveloped Shoreline Now
  • Protect the City of Syracuse Drinking Water Supply
  • more about this theme

Save Farms, Wineries, and Rural Character

  • Save Threatened Farms & Wineries
  • Protect Scenic Vistas & Designated Byways on Cayuga and Seneca Lakes
  • Maintain Rural Character Through Stronger Land Use Planning
  • more about this theme

Keep Nature Wild and Enhance Public Access

  • Create the Canandaigua Skyline Trail
  • Complete Cayuga Lake’s Emerald Necklace
  • Create the Chemung River Greenbelt
  • Save the South End of Skaneateles Lake
  • more about this theme

What can you do?

If you love the Finger Lakes region, please take a moment to read Lakes, Farms, and Forests Forever.  You can download a digital copy at fllt.org/top10 and request free print copies.  Please share with friends who love our lands and waters, and consider supporting the Finger Lakes Land Trust by becoming a member and getting involved at our events and volunteer opportunities.

 

Get your copy of our top 10 conservation strategies for the Finger Lakes!

fllt.org/top10 Sign Up

Hanging Falls!

A Birdseye View of Carpenter Falls Unique Area

In your travels around the Finger Lakes, be sure to visit the western shores of Skaneateles Lake, where you will find Bahar Preserve and Carpenter Falls.  The Finger Lakes Land Trust conveyed 36 acres of these lands to New York State, creating the Carpenter Falls Unique Area, while the remaining 51 acres of land downstream toward the lake continue to be owned and managed as the Land Trust’s Bahar Nature Preserve.  The Land Trust has entered into a cooperative management agreement with the state, engaging volunteers to help take care of this special place.

To find other outdoor adventures near Carpenter Falls, see the interactive map.

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Do you have great videos or photos of nature in the Finger Lakes?

Want to share with the Land Trust?

If so, please email us at gofingerlakes@fllt.org.

Watch more nature videos on the Land Trust web site!

Go to fllt.org/video Sign Up

Chemung Fog & Sun

Photo: Bill Hecht

A Brilliant Autumn Day on the Chemung River

See this beautiful stretch of Chemung River between Bottcher’s Landing and Fitches Bridge as the classic morning fog burns off to reveal a stunning landscape of hillsides, farms, and forests, including conservation lands protected by the Finger Lakes Land Trust and other organizations.

To find other outdoor adventures near the Chemung River, such as the Steege Hill Nature Preserve, see the interactive map.

Please join the conversation about this video on Facebook.

Do you have great videos or photos of nature in the Finger Lakes?

Want to share with the Land Trust?

Please email us at gofingerlakes@fllt.org.

Watch more nature videos on the Land Trust web site!

Go to fllt.org/video Sign Up

Over the Boardwalk

Photo: Bill Hecht

Watch more nature videos on the Land Trust web site!

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Aerial FLX!

Photo: Bill Hecht

Favorite Airplane Photos of the Finger Lakes

Here are some of our favorite aerial photos of the lakes and natural areas across the region, sent by volunteers of the Finger Lakes Land Trust.  Help us save more land and water!

Thanks to our volunteers for sharing!

Do you have great photos and videos of our region?

Want to share with the Finger Lakes Land Trust?

Please contact us at gofingerlakes@fllt.org.

Your imagery can help advance conservation through our communications and outreach on the web, social media, print and more!

Join the conservation conversation…

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