Nestled up against the south shore of Lake Ontario, Rochester is the perfect venue to observe early spring migration. Clouds of raptors stream overhead; rafts of ducks probe the bay; diurnal flights of blackbirds, robins, Blue Jays, and flickers are not uncommon; even shorebirds put in a welcome appearance. Monroe County has seen 249 species eBirded in April, and the very best spring spots are all along the lakeshore.
Lakeshore Hotspots – from East to West
Braddock Bay Park and the Hawkwatch Platform give some of the best April views of migrating raptors, waterfowl, and passerines. Even shrikes are known to be remarkably cooperative at this appealing location. Park at the small lot along the road or at the large lot near the lodges, and wander out to the hawkwatch platform. Take a stroll out to the pier, and then take a walk along the bushes that line the bay.
The West Spit is located on the west side of Braddock Bay and offers one of the best raptor and passerine flight locations in the spring. While the trails are often muddy and sometimes overgrown, at 172 species seen in April it can be worth the trek. Park along Manitou Beach Road (look for a grassy patch on the bay side of the road just before the last house, and pull up on the gravel). Walk along the road around to the right past the giant mansion, and proceed through the cement barriers.
The Owl Woods give the best chances of seeing Northern Saw-whet and Long-eared Owls. Wander the trails looking for whitewash, and keep an eye out for passerines as well. Park in the lot on the bay side of Manitou Beach Road, and cross over to the trailhead. The main trail is generally well maintained, but April is often muddy and muck boots are recommended if you want to step off trail to get a look from the back side of a tree.
Hamlin Beach State Park and the Primary Lakewatch (off Parking Lot #4) showcase waterfowl, but are also a prime spot for early passerines. A small colony of Red-headed Woodpeckers located near the concession stand (between parking lots 1 and 3) are a popular draw. Park near the west end of Lot 1 and wander westward through the trees toward the lake. Alternately, visit the Yanty Creek Trail, accessed from a small parking lot at the far eastern end of the park. There is no entrance fee to the park in April.
High Acres Nature Area is a mitigation site managed by Waste Management. Despite the disheartening abundance of invasive plants, birds seem to find the place more than acceptable. Numerous trails wander through upland and lowland woods, and around marshy wetlands and abandoned quarries. Bitterns and rails are not uncommon, and arriving waterfowl are often visible on the many ponds. Park in a lot across from the landfill, on the north side of Perinton Parkway.