Southern Adirondack Audubon Society

Protecting the environment through the preservation of natural habitats
 and the advancement of environmental education

Birding the The Betar Byway

and the SGF Beach Bikeway Extension

in the Village of South Glens Falls, NY

The Betar Byway is a paved path that follows the shoreline of the Hudson River in the Village of South Glens Falls for approximately .6 mile. The SGF Beach Bikeway extension is a 1.3 mile gravel road on a wooded bluff overlooking the river. Together they offer a pleasant half-day of birding through several types of habitat. Birding the entire trail system will take you through mixed woods, riverfront, a small wetland area and the beach itself. Pets must be leashed at all times.

Photo of trailhead signboard

There are two entrances to the Betar Byway. From the southern entrance you may also access both the SGF Bikeway Extension and the beach area. To reach this entrance, use exit 17N (South Glens Falls exit) of I-87 and proceed north on Rt 9. Travel 4.5 miles north on Rt 9 and take a left onto Beach Rd - directly across from the intersection of Rts 9 & 32. Straight ahead you will see the Village of South Glens Falls DPW garage. You may park in the cleared area near the sign to the left of the roadway at the southern end of the garage. The Bikeway extension trail starts here. Continue on Beach Rd down the hill and park at the bottom of the hill and walk to the right to access the Betar Byway trail; continue on the road to the left to access the beach area. Do not trespass on the SGF reservoir lands! Alternately, travel 5.6 miles north on Rt 9 after exiting at 17N, turn left onto First St - watch for a small blue sign "South Glens Falls Historical Park" on the corner. Go to the end of the road and park in the parking lot adjacent to the trailhead near the gazebo.

The paved walking path
The Betar Byway paved walking/biking path

The path overlooks the river
The path overlooks the river for much of its length

Wood Ducks love this spot
Wood Ducks and kingfishers love this spot

Overlook from the Extension trail
View from the overlook on the bikeway extension trail


Birding the Byway

The paved Betar Byway meanders along the river and is flanked by pockets of predominately deciduous trees with tangled undergrowth, providing good habitat for ground and low elevation nesters. Forty-three different species of trees provide a wide variety of nesting places and food sources. Commonly seen during the summer months are Eastern Wood-Peewee, Eastern Phoebe, Great-crested Flycatcher, Cedar Waxwing, House Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Wood Thrush, Brown Creeper, both Warbling and Red-eyed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Song Sparrow and Northern Cardinal. Chimney Swifts are seen frequently in summer as well. Blackbirds, both nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, catbirds and mockingbirds are seen year-round. As might be expected in this habitat, Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers will be sighted year round; Northern Flicker as well. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has been sighted in spring and summer.

Birding is generally slower in the fall and winter months. Resident jays, cardinals, goldfinches, nuthatches and chickadees will be sighted along the path and Mallard, American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Common and Hooded Mergansers may be seen on the river. Northern Flicker, Belted Kingfisher and Eastern Bluebird often over-wintered here. Bald Eagles have been sighted as well. The river trail is cleared of snow in the winter.

Late winter and early spring migration will bring Green-winged Teal, Common Goldeneye, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, both Hooded and Common Mergansers, and American Black Ducks as well as Mallards and Wood Ducks that remain to nest. Pied-billed, Horned and Red-necked Grebe, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, may be sighted during April and May.  The spring migration period will find the woods harboring a large variety of songbirds - warblers in particular. To date, 23 species have been seen here, including Blackburnian, Blackpoll, Pine, Palm, Canada, Wilson's, Magnolia, and Black-and-white Warblers.  Also returning during this period are several species of vireos, flycatchers, and both Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows. Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and American Redstart remain to nest and summer can be an interesting time to visit as well.

The South Glens Falls Beach Bikeway Extension is a mixed oak and pine woods, and as expected, woodpeckers, creepers, titmouse, and chickadees are prevalent. Also sighted here in the past have been both Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks and several warbler species including Tennessee, Pine, Northern Parula, and Blackburnian.

Check the flooded area near beach entrance for gnatcatchers, woodpeckers, ducks and warblers. Northern Flicker families are often seen on the grassy areas. The wet areas and river setbacks adjacent to the beach concession stand building have yielded Wood Ducks, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, and House Wren during nesting season. In early winter, Snow Buntings have been sighted on the beach and Spotted Sandpiper is often seen during migration times. This oasis of mixed habitat can be very productive.

A birding brochure, which includes a checklist for this site, is available in the literature holder at the First Street entrance, courtesy of Southern Adirondack Audubon.