November is for the Birds

Goose photobomb by Eric Reed/Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

By Dennis Doyle 

The crisp, cold days of November are particularly ideal for locating and identifying migrating birds and waterfowl passing by the hundreds of thousands through Maryland during their annual fall migration. Ducks such as mallards, teal, canvasbacks, bluebills, widgeon and buffleheads plus Canada geese and snow geese, not to mention the gulls and the accompanying hawks, ospreys, pelicans and eagles arriving daily on the Chesapeake Bay on their way south and can be seen at many locations designated for this purpose along its shores.

Sandy Point State Park is just one of these places on the Bay and is ideal for birdwatching. This 786-acre park is well-suited to watching these beautiful birds in their prime as they swarm the skies and shores, moving in large numbers to their wintering grounds thousands of miles away. All that is needed to appreciate this spectacle is a pair of binoculars and a bird book to help identify exactly which of the 450 species of feathered beauties that grace our shores each year you are looking at.

Other great bird viewing areas are Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Wetlands Overlook Park, Greenbury Point, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, Fort Smallwood Park, Piney Orchard Nature Preserve and Quiet Waters Park among many others. Patience and keen eyesight are helpful features in a quest for identifying feathered creatures that pass our way every fall.

Generally you can witness the spectacle from the comfort of your car but there are also bird blinds and trails built for your convenience by DNR if you care to enter more closely into the birds’ habitat. Birding is an activity that is growing rapidly throughout the nation and there are countless clubs and organizations that have formed to assist in the activity.

The Audubon Society and its many local chapters are primary among these many sources though the Maryland Ornithological Society is also quite active in our area. You don’t have to be a member to enjoy the experience, however, just interest and curiosity will suffice. The Maryland DNR websites for many of the aforementioned parks and refuges are also a storehouse of bird watching information and very helpful to anyone considering the activity.

Dress warmly as you will be tempted to close the distance between yourself and your objects of desire. Layered clothing is a must—what is comfortable in traveling may not hold up to the exposure of outdoors. Have a warm coat, gloves or mittens and waterproof footwear. You could soon find yourself ankle deep in the wetlands.

Photographing birds will necessarily require telephoto lenses. No matter how close the bird seems, without an appropriate lens and tripod on your camera the image will ultimately be disappointingly small. 

The wilds of nature beckons in the fall and the opportunities to observe will never be greater. Dust off your binocs, obtain a good bird book and start your quest. You’ll never regret it.

Editor’s note: We have more stories plus local events and resources for the budding birding enthusiast.