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Winter is the best season for birding

While the days may be cold and gray and the last thing most of us want to do is spend any length of time outdoors, winter is one of the best seasons for birding. Spring migration may get all of the attention (and crowds) but there are many advantages to braving the cold.


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A Hermit thrush feeds on berries at Eden Mill Nature Center near Pylesville, MD.
A Hermit thrush feeds on berries at Eden Mill Nature Center near Pylesville, MD. (Jerry Jackson / The Baltimore Sun)

One obvious seasonal advantage is that birds are much easier to see when trees have no foliage. Another is that when the temperatures are cold enough to freeze lakes and ponds, many birds, especially waterfowl, will concentrate around water that is still open.

This Snowy owl near Street, MD, was one of several reported in the state this season.
This Snowy owl near Street, MD, was one of several reported in the state this season. (Jerry Jackson / The Baltimore Sun)

Winter is also when irruptive birds are seen. When food is scarce farther north some species are forced beyond their normal range. This year there have been several Snowy owl sightings in the area. You can sign up to receive alerts of rare birds in your area at ebird.org/ebird/alerts.

Of course, if standing in the cold for hours is not your thing, winter birds can still be enjoyed from the comfort of your home with feeders. Black oil sunflower seed will attract a lot of resident birds such as chickadees, cardinals and titmice. A suet feeder will bring in woodpeckers and nuthatches.

A Bald eagle carries a freshly caught fish below the Conowingo Dam.
A Bald eagle carries a freshly caught fish below the Conowingo Dam. (Jerry Jackson / The Baltimore Sun)
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