Winter can be a great time to enjoy watching the birds. They’re so much easier to see at this time of year when the leaves can’t hide them from us. Have you ever thought of keeping a birding journal? I’ve been doing this for many years. I began when our family was re-located to Marietta Georgia. So many different kinds of birds to learn about! I have continued this journal since our return to Pickering 12 years ago and now have 20 years of bird watching and behavior in one book!
This can be as detailed or simple as you like. Choose a journal that fits your individual style. Some people like to draw and keep notes whereas some prefer lined pages for notes only. I come under the second of the two, not too much of an artist… I find it interesting to keep notes on a few different things. First and foremost would be the time of year we are seeing different species of birds, so recording dates is a good idea. This particularly comes in handy when I’m waiting for the return of our orioles, hummingbirds and rose-breasted grosbeaks. Two years ago the orioles returned to my backyard feeders before the end of April. Last year they didn’t appear until May 5, almost a two week difference. By doing this you will have a handy reference to remind you when to put the oriole and hummingbird feeders up. I also record the date of the last time I see them before they migrate. This time period can vary from mid- August through mid-September.
Behavior is always interesting to observe. I’ve had many customers telling me how many cardinals they are seeing this winter. One customer had 13 in her back yard! It’s interesting to see how they all get along together when it’s not mating season. These numbers will decrease as they chart out their territories in the spring. You can also take notes as to which birds feed contentedly together and which ones don’t. I find that the cardinals, chickadees, gold finches and junco’s are quite amicable and will feed in small groups. Blue Jays, on the other hand, come in large groups and take over the feeding station. This sometimes occurs with mourning doves as well.
Keeping track of their appearance can also be a learning experience. By doing this you will see how long it takes young birds to attain their adult plumage. You can also observe the molting process. This takes place from as early as June though the fall months. Some birds have two plumages, a basic plumage and an alternative plumage. Pretty soon you will notice the goldfinches starting to get their bright yellow feathers. They look like a little patch-work quilt during this time.
Take the time to visit different habitats to see warblers this spring. Thickson’s Woods in Whitby is a great place to see a variety of warblers.
Author – Jane Paradis