Winter Bird Watching

Bird watching is a fun, often surprising, way to connect with nature, and it's one pleasure you can enjoy out in the wild or from the comfort of your own home. Enjoy winter bird watching no matter where you are with these simple birding tips.

| December 2007/January 2008

Whether you're watching from the warmth of the living room or traipsing through the woods, winter can be a wonderful time for bird watching. It's easy to entice new visitors to your yard in winter by offering much-appreciated food and shelter. Or grab your boots and make a visit to their neighborhood.

If you're looking for fellow enthusiasts, there are a handful of national bird watching events scheduled right in the middle of the winter season ? open to beginning birders and experienced ornithologists alike. Whatever your preference, there are hundreds of species to be seen, and a few simple tips can help you make the best of your search.

For backyard birding, one of the most important rules is to simply be consistent. Once the birds have decided your yard is a reliable food source, they'll return even on the coldest days expecting ? and counting on ? ready food stores to provide them nourishment and energy. You can find easy feeding tips and recipes in Winter Bird Food Recipes. Fresh water is crucial during winter months, so be sure to de-ice daily any water supplies you've provided, or try a bird bath heater. If you're worried about squirrels, mount feeders on poles at least six feet off the ground, and beyond jumping distance (also about six feet) from a roof or nearby trees. (Learn more about attracting winter birds to your yard in Bringin' in the Birds.)

If you decide to venture out, it's especially important to carry the right gear this time of year. Wearing or bringing extra layers of clothing is a must, and you can bring a tote to stash any items that become unnecessary if the weather warms during the day. Keep in mind that areas near water generally feel cooler than uninterrupted woods or a field. Be sure to wear sturdy boots and a well-insulated coat ? both should be wind- and waterproof. Of course, binoculars and a good field guide are valuable tools any time of year. Bring a notebook to mark which species you spy, and create a log for reference as you track a variety of species through different areas in the seasons and years to come.

One great resource for bird watching tips and events is the National Audubon Society ? you can even find state offices and local chapters for your area on their Web site. Once you're there, sign up for the 108th annual Christmas Bird Count, and join over 50,000 bird enthusiasts in identifying and counting birds throughout North America from Dec. 14 - Jan. 5. If you're up for yet more bird watching fun, check out the Great Backyard Bird Count (Feb. 15 - 18) ? last year's participants reported over 11 million birds of 616 species! There's also Project Feederwatch, which runs from November to early April (sign up is open until Feb. 28), and eBird, where birdwatchers can report sightings year-round.

Bird watching is a fun, often surprising, way to connect with nature, and it's one pleasure you can enjoy out in the wild or from the comfort of your own home. Are you an avid birder? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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