Winter Bird Watching

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Photo By Fotolia/UTOPIA
Create a log for reference as you track a variety of species through different areas. If you watch enough birds, you may catch one watching you!

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.