Favorite winter organisms?

Feeding birds in winter can be rewarding and enjoyable in the midst of chilly weather. Because natural food sources are scarce in the winter, therefore more birds may be attracted to backyard feeders. I usually chose the feeder has a large overhang that provides shelter and shade for birds.

Winter here is cold and snowy (and long… there is snow on the ground now and it could last until early May). There are some straggling migrants still moving through but once they’re done, bird-wise, it will be the regular residents and an occasional winter visitor (Snowy Owls, Northern Shrike, and other birds experiencing an irruption).

But I think the seed heads on plants and grasses are fascinating and I think iNat’s computer vision isn’t great on identifying plants from their dry, wintery seed heads (nor are there lots of photos of them to reference). I always notice the lichen and fungi but they’re hard to id most of the time.

If I can roll over a log, I might find something under it. And I love galls and they tend to stand out when everything else is minimized.

Otherwise, it’s kind of slim pickings for observations. I seek to get better at identifying trees from their bark and structure. I’m not very good with that right now.

As to what I just enjoy… it’s our backyard regulars: Eastern Cottontails, Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos, House Finches, Hairy and Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees. There’s a Merlin that likes to perch nearby and I look for him when I step to the window. We get occasional visits from Hawks (Red-tailed, Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned), and Red-bellied Woodpeckers and rare visits from Virginia Opossums and Raccoons.

One of my life goals is to visit the Sax-Zim Bog (upper Minnesota) in the winter to view birds we never see in the southern half of the state.

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I really enjoyed learning tree bud identification when I lived in Maine, and am excited to try it with some of the warmer climate hardwoods here in New York state this winter. I’ll have to find myself a bark field guide as well.

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Welcome to the Forum ;)

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Birds are my biggest winter targets but I notice raccoons too hanging in trees or in holes in old trees when it is cold and the trees have lost their leaves.


There is an attractive little parasitic wasp, Chrysocharis gemma, worth looking for in winter. It is a parasite of leaf-mining flies and micro-moths, and as in the cold months this mainly means species in evergreen trees, look for it on holly. Portuguese laurel and holm oak. It isn’t restricted to these plants, but they are the most likely habitats in winter. Widespread in Europe, also known from Nearctic and possibly Hawaii and new Zealand (Hansson 1985 Taxonomy and biology of the Palaearctic species of Chrysocharis, Entomological Scandinavica Supplement no. 26). Look for a little metallic green wasp with a dark patch in the wing (though there are one or two others with this combination so best to take the specimen).

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One thing you could do is, if you know that there is someone in your area who always makes a lot of observations, check their Calendar pages, and click on some of the days where they made a lot of observations during last winter.

You will be able to see what they found, and you can also work out where they went by looking on the observation map. That might give you some ideas.


Growing up we’d get more elk and bighorn in the winter as they came out of the high country to lower (like 8,000 feet) elevations. They were a treat.

Here in Dallas it’s mostly winter birds. Herps aren’t as active and I haven’t noticed any mammals that are more active in winter here. But we get cool finches and harriers come back and there’s neat ducks and the kinglets are here so that’s something.

My favorite are Isopods in general.

I would recommend searching under logs for isopods.

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