Sunday, January 2, 2011

5 Ways To Make Winter Birding Enjoyable

1) If it's just too cold, visit your local library-Most of the time I'd prefer to be outdoors enjoying nature but when the weather's not cooperating I enjoy visiting the local library. The Portland Library recently put some books about birds and nature on display. I checked out a book titled: How To Spot An Owl by Patricia & Clay Sutton-which leads me to #2 on my list.
2)Winter is a good time to look for owls: I occasionally come across Barred Owls by chance but I've never really found an owl by actively searching for one. The one exception is when my wife woke me up at 3am to tell me that she heard owls calling. I went across the street with a flashlight and found two Great Horned Owls in a big pine tree. That was worth getting out of bed for. I've read this book before. It has the basics of owling -playback of owl calls, searching for pellets, listening for mobbing from other birds, and looking for "cakey-white whitewash. Beyond the basics, it also teaches you how to get in the right frame of mind to look for owls-sort of like the Zen of owling. There were two sentences in the book on page 92 which read as follows:

"Check every hole in a tree, particularly those facing the sun, during cold weather. It may take a while, but eventually you will be rewarded by a camouflaged figure sitting at the entrance to its home."

I had those words in my head as I drove past a tree which had a peculiar looking knothole in it. I went back to take a closer look and found an Eastern Screech Owl sitting silently in the entrance of a hole in the tree! From what I read, screech owls tend to be more reddish or brown in our area versus gray in other regions. 3) Visiting places that have man-made duck Ponds: There are some places that have man-made ponds. Lyman's Orchard in Middlefield is one such place that I know of. There is always domestic waterfowl there either on or near their man-made pond but often there are wild ducks or geese mixed in with them. When your tired of checking through the flock, you can go inside to grab some pie and a hot cup of coffee. Not a bad way to spend a winter morning.
4)Outdoor campfire at the state park: I have seen many state parks in Connecticut that have outdoor fireplaces under pavilion shelters. I thought it might be a good idea to have some birders meet up and get a good fire going. This way you can search for birds in the surrounding woods while staying warm.
5) Keep track of the number of species you see in January: This is a tradition amongst birders called "Big January". You make a list of all the species you see between January 1st and January 31st. It's a nice way to motivate you to get out and see new birds in January. You can compete against your own previous totals, other birders or bloggers, or just do it for fun. The Hooded Merganser (photo from 2/09) was the 25th species I saw on the first day of 2011. My total for the day was 28 species with Fox Sparrow, Bald Eagle, Great Cormorant, and Common Goldeneye being some of the other notable birds I saw. All of my birding took place in Portland on Saturday.
So those are a few birding related ideas I have to help me make it through the winter months.
Do You have any ideas you'd like to share about ways to make winter birding more comfortable or enjoyable?


Ruth said...

I would love to find an owl in the wild! (Other than a Snowy Owl) I will compete against myself in the January bird count again this year.

Hilke Breder said...

Good idea, Larry, about checking south-facing tree holes for owls. I have seen only a couple of owls in the wild. This should help me find more.

Dan Huber said...

very nice post Larry.
I have yet to be rewarded but try to look in every knothole.
Happy New Year.


Chris said...

Excellent Larry... I'm jealous at your 28 species already! I've only seen 15 so far!!! happy new year BTW...
You did a very ncie post there and I loved reading it!!!

Larry said...

Ruth-I'd love to see a Snowy Owl!Don't compete too hard against yourself or you'll never win.

Hilke-Thanks-although it wasn't my idea-only my idea to read the book.

Dan-I hear you Dan-it was mostly luck on my part but reading that inspired me to look a little harder.

Chris-Thanks-It's all relative to where you're birding. The birders in Connecticut who live near the shore have 28 species in the first hour-let alone the first day.

Warren and Lisa Strobel said...

Great post, Larry! Happy New Year! I really enjoy car birding this time of year- it takes the edge off.

Larry said...

Warren and Lisa-thanks-same to you!
I enjoy car birding during in the winter also- I always have access to coffee or the radio during the slow spells.

Lana Gramlich said...

My solution for Winter birding was to move from Canada to Louisiana, but I was REALLY tired of Winter. *L*

Larry said...

Lana-That sounds like a permanent solution.-Do I hear a 5 ways to make summer birding more enjoyable post coming?

troutbirder said...

I'm kinda the opposite from Lana. We usually head up to the boreal forest from the Banana Belt here in Souther Minnesota. My targets up there are irruptive species like Great Gray, Snowy and Hawk Owls. It's doable and always a thrill to spot one.

Larry said...

troutbirder-Good idea!-I was thinking along similar lines but I'd probably be heading north for possible winter finches or other boreal species other than owls.

Dostoy said...

Great blog! It's so cool that you're able to see all of these birds yourself. And thanks for sharing what you've seen.

Harold Stiver said...

Great suggestions!!

I'll add... Bird from your car.

Kathie Brown said...

Larry, I am in on the Big January thing. I found a funny knot hole at the bog and stared and stared at it with my bins but soon realized it was only a knot. Oh well, I'll keep looking. Great suggestions by the way.

Larry said...

Dostoy-Thanks for the comments-I appreciate that.I enjoyed reading the recent post about Trower on your blog as well.

Harold-Great way to get photos too.

Kathie-I've been staring at lots of knots too.I was fortunate to find the Screech Owl.