Washington County Grasslands

The Washington County Grasslands

This 13,000 acre expanse of fields and meadows lies along the Atlantic and Hudson River flyways in upstate New York. It extends from the fertile valleys and rolling hills of southern Washington County to the southeastern peaks of the Adirondack Mountains on its northern border. This rich natural area strewn with small woodlands, ponds and working farms is watered by the numerous streams and canals of the Hudson River valley and Lake Champlain basin. It provides a livelihood for human residents and an “all you can eat buffet” for hundreds of species of birds and other wildlife.  (Snowy owl photo courtesy Gordon Ellmers 2018)

The 2,000 acre Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area (IBA) lies at the heart of this incredible wildlife habitat. The IBA is critical to the survival of Short-eared Owls in New York State. It supports almost a dozen other threatened and at risk grassland bird species, including Northern Harrier, Upland sandpiper, Horned lark, Eastern meadowlark, American Kestrel and more... 

This unique area hosts abundant populations of grassland breeding birds and wintering raptors.

Common raptor sightings include Short-eared owls, Northern harriers, Red-tailed hawks, Rough-legged hawks and Snowy Owls; Bald eagles and Osprey can be found near the river. Peregrine falcons nest nearby and are occasionally spotted hunting in the area.

Breeding songbirds include Bobolinks, Eastern meadowlarks, Eastern bluebirds, Savannah sparrows and Grasshopper sparrows. Snow buntings and Horned larks spend the winter.  

photo: Bobolink female with grasshopper, courtesy Dr. Gordon Ellmers

Public Access

Friends of the IBA's Alfred Z. Solomon Grassland Bird Viewing Area 

This area is best known for viewing wintering raptors, including Short-eared owls, Snowy owls, Rough-legged hawks and Northern harriers; Red-tailed hawks, Northern harriers and American kestrels hunt the property year-round. Flocks of Horned larks and Snow buntings also forage here in winter. However, this is also prime habitat for breeding songbirds, including Bobolinks, Eastern meadowlarks, Savannah sparrows, Grasshopper sparrows and dozens of other bird species!

This handicapped accessible viewing area offers a nearly 18 foot long covered viewing blind with multiple viewing slits for bird watchers and photographers. It's located at 160 County Route 42 in the Town of Fort Edward.

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New York State DEC

A trail in the newly designated "Washington County Grasslands Wildlife Management Area" gives visitors a chance to see and hear the birds for themselves. You can follow this half-mile fairly level trail trail to a viewing platform that offers fine bird watching and a panoramic view in all directions. 


Photos: AZS Viewing Blind and Winter Scene courtesy Laurie LaFond; Short-eared Owls at WCG WMA courtesy Dr. Gordon Ellmers

See and learn about many of our native owls, hawks and falcons at Friends of the IBA’s annual Winter Raptor Fest! 

This exciting event features Live Bird of Prey programs and “free-flight” demos starring some of our most amazing raptors!  Horse-drawn sleigh/wagon rides, activities for kids, local food vendors and more round out this fun and exciting weekend where raptors rule!  Learn more at: www.winterraptorfest.com