Some tips for the window-watching naturalist in us all NATURE IN WINTER
By Sheila Cubick
Ohio certified volunteer naturalist
Winter is the season many people snuggle into their homes as opportunity allows, while waiting for warm weather and the earth to come alive again.
For the window-watching naturalist, though, winter is the most exciting season for viewing life outside.
I have always preferred the winter months for observing wildlife, especially with snow covering the ground. In the spring and summer, the verdant vegetation allows animals and birds to hide in the brush, so I can’t see them to identify what’s making the sounds I hear. Birdsong is lovely, regardless if I know the species, but when I can’t identify birds by their sounds or song, I go crazy wondering if a new species has wandered into my yard and I’ll never know what it was!
Over the years I have honed my bird-watching skills from the comfort of my home looking out the window at the birds at the different feeding stations I have provided. This has given me the time to use my binoculars and my bird guides to identify differences in several types of sparrows, finches, and woodpeckers so I can identify them easily from a distance. Patterns of behavior also become apparent when watching regularly. Some birds show dominance to some species and appeasement behaviors to others, often relating to bird size and aggression.
While refilling my feeders, I often see animal tracks in the snow or mud nearby. This has shown me the large number of animals around at night or dawn/dusk that I couldn’t see from the window. Identifying the tracks and what the animal or animals did while there, becomes a fascinating story I can piece together by looking at the clues and the pattern. Sometimes a clump of feathers nearby tells its own story.
You can hone your naturalist skills as well this winter. Create a few feeding stations in your yard, pull up a comfortable chair to a window, and read this page each week through March for many ideas on what and how to observe the natural world beyond your window. We will be sharing tips on tracking, winter tree ID, insects, winter birds and watersheds to name a few. You may be inspired to leave your window and your house and venture out into your yard, neighborhood or park to explore the wider world of winter wildlife. You may be inspired to take our Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist (OCVN) course beginning Jan. 22. Add this to your New Year’s resolutions. To learn more about the training, go to: http://go.osu.edu/naturalisttraining.