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Winter Birding — Less Foliage, Better Spotting

winteratoglebay4.jpgBy Jake Francis, Director of Environmental Education — Have you ever tried to start birding only to be overwhelmed by the shear number of field marks, shapes, and calls of the spring migration? I know that in my case keeping track of every possible spring bird is a huge task to say the least, and one that seems insurmountable to novice birders.  On the other hand, the winter is a spectacular time for beginning birders to hone their identification and spotting abilities on a smaller set of familiar birds.  The lack of foliage and the fact that birds congregate in mixed flocks around fruit-bearing plants makes finding birds and getting a good look at them particularly easy.

Prunus_serotina

Black Cherry

Start by searching out black cherry trees (Prunus serotina), poison ivy vines (Toxicodendron radicans), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quniquefolia), and visit them in the early morning.  You should be able to find Waxwings, Thrushes, Bluebirds, Catbirds, and Warblers.  Additionally beginning birders should look for coniferous trees which attract many northern birds that prefer their seeds.  Some of these northern birds are only in our area during the winter (e.g. Siskins, Crossbills, and Kinglets), and add some challenge throughout the winter.

Cedar Wax Wing

Cedar Wax Wing

Finally there are many winter bird counts that occur during the month of December that give novices a chance to interact with, and learn from more seasoned ornithologists.  This year the Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is free to all participants   There are many circles in our area to be surveyed including Oglebay Park (December 22)  and Buffalo Creek (December 16).  Interested parties can contact Greg Park or Jake Francis at the Schrader Center, 304-242-6855, for more information on the counts and birding in general.

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