Violet-crowned, blue-throated and magnificent hummingbirds, along with a dozen other bird species, have been recorded at the the Conservancy’s 380-acre Ramsey Canyon Preserve. © Teagan White

A Birding List for the New Year

December/January 2017

In 2016, birders celebrated the centennial of the signing of the United States’ Migratory Bird Treaty. In 1918, the resulting legislation became one of the country’s first major pieces of environmental law. Today birders reap the benefits of the act, which barred, among other things, the hunting of migratory birds during nesting and mating seasons.

In Nature Conservancy magazine’s most recent issue, TNC’s migratory birding program director, Dave Mehlman, wrote about the importance of the act and a few key birding sites. Here are 10 more places he likes to visit that have benefited from the Migratory Bird Act.

Spring

Along the Saugatuck Trail in Devil’s Den. Photo © Alden Warner
Along the Saugatuck Trail in Devil’s Den. Photo © Alden Warner

Devil’s Den, Connecticut

Visitors to the Conservancy’s largest contiguous Connecticut preserve, Devil’s Den, will see the greatest diversity of birds during the area’s peak migratory season: April to June. Look for migrants with such colorful names as the yellow-throated vireo, the worm-eating warbler and the rose-breasted grosbeak.

Disney Wilderness Preserve, Florida

Each spring, hundreds of endangered wood storks arrive at the preserve in central Florida where they flock to the bald cypresses to roost. Scientists closely study these pairs to help gather information to further protect the species. Other birds found there include sandhill cranes, Florida scrub-jays, and the reintroduced red-cockaded woodpeckers.

A biologist releases a newly banded red-cockaded woodpecker at Disney Wilderness Preserve. Photo © Carlton Ward
A biologist releases a newly banded red-cockaded woodpecker at Disney Wilderness Preserve. Photo © Carlton Ward

Grand Isle, Louisiana

In 2016, 168 species of birds came through Grand Isle, Louisiana, on their way north for the summer. Each year in April birders celebrate the barrier island’s role as a crucial stopover point for songbirds flying over the Gulf of Mexico. While there, meet other birders at annual spring festival.

Port Susan Bay, Washington

Each spring, birds traveling up the Pacific Flyway stop at bays like Port Susan Bay and nearby Skagit Bay to rest and refuel among the marshes and mudflats. See snow geese, bald eagles, western sandpipers and short-eared owls are here at different times of the year. 

Baxter’s Hollow, Wisconsin

In spring, visitors flock to Baxter’s Hollow to see its wildflowers, but birders can also find more than 40 species of breeding birds there, such as the worm-eating warbler and the hooded warbler. For the casual birder, check out tips for birding from your car before you go.

Summer

A broad-billed hummingbird—one of the species found in Patagonia-Sonoita Creek, in Madera Canyon, Arizona. Photo © Dick Dickenson
A broad-billed hummingbird—one of the species found in Patagonia-Sonoita Creek, in Madera Canyon, Arizona. Photo © Dick Dickenson

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, Arizona

As many as 15 hummingbird species migrate through Ramsey Canyon Preserve and nearby Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near the Arizona border with Mexico. Mehlman suggests visiting in August for the best chance to see migratory birds. Mark off birds on the Patagonia-Sonoita birding checklist as you go.

Great Egret Marsh, Ohio  

The birds for which Great Egret Marsh Preserve is named can be seen wading the shallows there in summer. A 1.2-mile trail loops through the marsh to give visitors a peek at birds like the great blue heron and spotted sandpipers.

Fall

Swallow-tailed kites gather near Palmdale, FL, before migrating to Central and South America. Photo © Mac Stone
Swallow-tailed kites gather near Palmdale, FL, before migrating to Central and South America. Photo © Mac Stone

Pascagoula River Watershed, Mississippi and Louisiana

Mehlman suggests visiting the Pascagoula River watershed in Mississippi and Louisiana in September to see migrating swallow-tailed kites. The Conservancy owns five preserves in the nearby Pearl River basin that help protect habitat for the migrating raptors.

Block Island, Rhode Island

See raptors including peregrine falcons and double-crested cormorants pass over Block Island, where the Conservancy has worked for more than a generation. The Biodiversity Research Institute has an ongoing multi-year project studying the birds of prey as they pass through Rhode Island.

Winter

Sandhill cranes over the floodplains of Cosumnes River Preserve. Photo © Ramona Swenson
Sandhill cranes over the floodplains of Cosumnes River Preserve. Photo © Ramona Swenson

Cosumnes River Preserve, California

Travel south from Sacramento to visit Cosumnes River Preserve to see birds like northern pintails, northern shovelers, American wigeons, American coots and, one of the area’s most popular visitors, sandhill cranes, as they winter over in the preserve’s grasslands, forests and wetlands. Keep an eye out for scheduled photo walks and bird surveys, and review the preserve’s tips for seeing the cranes here. — NCM

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13 comments

  1. I am a novice bird watcher. I live on the Delaware River in Bucks County that allows me to enjoy a family of Bald Eagles, hummingbirds, Finches, sparrows, herons, many different species of ducks, and many other beautiful birds that I have yet to learn their names.

  2. Any suggestions for the Tucson area in spring? What birds are migrating back north through there? Also, what about Colorado’s Front Range/Foothills – where to go and what to look for in Spring? Thank you.

  3. Absolutely LOVE your web site. Have a large PC screen so the delight of even more of your beautiful pics. Many thanks

  4. hello,

    We live in Central Florida on the coast. Each winter a pair of Woodstork visit here for a couple of weeks. Such elegant birds with their huge wingspan. Love the sound they make as well. We feel so privileged to live here where these special birds visit in our winter. Thank you for the great photos.

  5. I’ve been a birder for years and I’m from Harford County, Md. I study birds and identifying them. I have a Diary which keeps a list of all the birds I’ve seen and heard around the world.

  6. I’ve been visiting the Cosumnes Preserve for over 20 years now and each year I see fewer and fewer migratory birds — and more and more mega wineries put in, which go for many many acres. Sandhill Cranes and Tundra Swans, Greater White Fronted Geese, Snow Geese, need resting places of fallow fields — in some of the (few) remaining fields you still small groups of Sandhill Cranes but every year I’m seeing fewer. It is so disheartening. I used to watch them come in at night and nearly blacken the sky with their numbers. I’m so grateful to President Obama who worked hard to designate as many monuments as he possibly could so that the areas would not be prey to toxic mining, drilling, tracking which pollute our waters. We clearly need more wildlife habitat protections.

  7. Why is there no mention or the Rio Grande flyway or Bosque del Apache?

  8. In your mailing for memberships, you included a small wallet size 2017 calendar with a picture of on that looked like a “Kingfisher” type bird! It had no identification on the picture! It was sitting on a fallen /cut tree! The bird was blue spotted back and wings; black head; long beak like a woodpecker, orange-reddish breast and white ring around neck! I’m really interested in the name of this bird! I wish it was identified! Please let me know what it is!
    Thank you,
    Rita O’Brien

  9. I have been a bird watcher for many years now. I live in Atlanta, GA and I am curious about night jars. When I first came down here, I was able to see many birds, that was at the end of the 1980s. Population have fallen off suddenly for some time now. I would like to know what happened. I would also like to ask some one about volunteering for the conservancies bird division.

  10. What a lovely collection of photos of our wonderful birds. I hope they survive the Human Race!