No matter where you are on the Champlain Canalway Trail, you have a front row seat to observe the abundance of common and endangered birds that live in the area or are on their migratory path during the spring and fall. Midway along the Champlain Canalway Trail between Schuylerville and Fort Edward there are two unique and important wildlife nature preserves easily accessible to visitors. Additionally, there are osprey nests in the spring and eagle sightings all year long right along the trail.
The Grassland Bird Trust in Fort Edward has been conserving critical habitat for endangered, threatened and at-risk grassland and migratory birds with over 258 acres conserved and 78 acres owned. Short-eared owls, Northern harriers, Upland Sandpipers, Bobolinks, Meadowlarks and other iconic grassland bird species are once again a common sight across their historic breeding and wintering grounds. The Alfred Z. Solomon viewing area located at 160 County Rd 42 in Fort Edward offers visitors a vista of the grasslands. In the spring returning endangered grassland birds including the Northern Harrier, will make nests and raise young there. In the still of winter, Snowy Owls may be visible in the habitat of the grasslands in Fort Edward.
The Denton Wildlife Sanctuary, owned by the Nature Conservancy, is located on both sides of Rt.4 in the Town of Greenwich several miles south of the grasslands. The sanctuary features walking trails varying in length from 1-3 miles, meandering through mixed hardwoods and swamp, stream, and forest habitats which offer varied birding and wildlife viewing opportunities. Spring wildflowers can be studied here as well, and periods of rainy weather will produce a variety of fungi. The property to the west of Rt.4 is mostly wetland, including river frontage and a small pond. Fall is a good time to observe several types of woodpeckers including: Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Pileated, and Northern Flicker. Following nearby River Road along the Champlain Canalway/Empire State Trail offers a great opportunity to view a plethora of water fowl. If you’re not an expert at identifying birds or wonder what that bird call is, the free cellphone app Merlin, offers instant identification with pictures and bird sounds.
Thank you to Jeanne Williams of the Feeder Canal Alliance for this article.