Naturalists, what do you do all winter?

As winter sadly approaches, I keep wondering what I will keep myself busy with during the cold months (especially cold where I live, I think it reached -42 degrees last winter), besides schoolwork. Being a birdwatcher, there are some things I know I want to do and birds I know I would like to see.

  • Northern Goshawk
  • Gyrfalcon
  • Northern Shrike
  • Snow Bunting
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Hoary Redpoll
  • Pine Grosbeak
  • Grey-crowned Rosy-finch
  • Steller’s Jay
  • Sharp-tailed Grouse
  • Eurasian Collared-dove
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Northern Hawk-Owl
  • Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Northern Pygmy-owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Great Grey Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Short-eared Owl

and birds I will try my best to see during the short windows during the fall and early spring (when it’s still snowy outside and still feels like winter) where interesting birds are migrating through.

  • Lapland Longspur
  • Smith’s Longspur
  • Harris’s Sparrow
  • American Tree Sparrow
  • Ross’s Goose
  • Greater White-fronted Goose
  • Pacific Loon
  • Grey-cheeked Thrush
  • American Pipit
  • Long-tailed Duck
    and a handful of rarities…

But even then, for me, most of winter is spent sitting around, or going out to freeze my fingers holding binoculars and to see the same three or so birds. Which is fine, a bird is a bird and I’m delighted by them all but I do wish for the winter to go by quicker, which it never does.

What do you do during the winter? What are you looking forward to in the Winter? Especially for the folk who like plants, fungi, insects and the like, because at least where I live, during the winter the insects all leave (except for the snowfleas and midges) and the plants and fungi are covered by snow. Do you still go out?

And for the many of you who I envy who live in warmer climates, like Florida or South Africa; is the winter the same? Or do things also slow down during the winter for you?


Winter is cold here too. For work i am doing data entry and planning for the next field season and looking at historic data. On iNat that is the time of year i do the most ID help for others, though to be honest i do a lot less of than than i used to. Most of my interest in winter turns to weather as i love snow and winter storms so spend a lot of time watching those as well as the way the water moves through the landscape when it’s cold. I will occasionally add winter tree observations or animal tracks in snow, and usually get away for a week or two to somewhere at least a bit warmer, but overall my naturalist activity diminishes at least when it comes to biotic things


Well it’s a lot harder to find anything to observe during the winter, as it gets really cold and snowy where I’m from too but I feel like because seeing things becomes more scarce, it makes it even more delightful to find something. One of my favorite things to see during the winter months are cardinals, they look more striking with a pure white background! Another thing about the colder months is that it gets a lot quieter too - no frogs or toads croaking through the night, no crickets or cicadas either. But that doesn’t make it any less fun to get outside and explore :)


Fine question topic IMHO for people who live in a climate which has the winter season .

In the tropics here we have no winter season.
Some equatorial tropics regions have two wet seasons, and not so wet so called ‘dry’ seasons.
Here in Yalanji Bubu [Country] Yalanji Bama–bama [first people] have well recorded and documented six seasons, and with more nuanced finer detailed named parts of seasons.
For more information please refer to this fine high quality, scholarly, bilingual book, in both Kuku Yalanji (language) and English (language):


Fortunately Autumn is long and often still quite nice here in NYC. But when real winter comes I do still go out and I search hard in order to try to find as many things as possible that I can photograph. We don’t normally get a huge amount of snow here in NYC, but we do usually have some very cold cold-snaps that tend to kill off everything.

But there are still lichens, and a few mosses and fungi, also mammal tracks in the snow, or on the sand of river sides and estuaries.

And some plants are still recognizable even when they are dead.


This is a significant part of why I live in California, despite the absurd cost of housing. One can be out observing nature all year round. In fact, because winter is our wet season, winter is overall the easiest time to find most of the organisms I want to see.

For those fierce enough to inhabit the frozen wastelands of the north, all I can say is come visit us in California.


I will be in SoCal from Oct 29th to Nov 14th. Plenty to see!


In two winters on iNat, I have uploaded almost 300 species, including 200 in my home state,2,12&place_id=9&subview=table&user_id=egordon88&verifiable=any&view=species


I was in Europe (Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia, Poland, UK, Germany) last December to January. I still managed to take pictures of fungi, and wild mammals and birds.


I start observing more birds, and continue on IDing.


Nah. You guys are going to fall off the edge of the continent any day now. I can put a hat on when it’s cold. Earthquakes, you can keep.

Also, I feel bad for the Colorado River. I stay home as a gesture of solidarity.

Winter is actually interesting here (I live in a village in Quebec). The summer birds drift away and then one day, right around when the first snows fly, there are tree sparrows at the feeder, down from James Bay. Then the grosbeaks arrive, one snowy afternoon. There are snowy owls on posts, short-eared owls quartering snow-covered fields as the sun nears the horizon, and grey owls in the park across the river. Siskens are hardcore winterized feather bullets that join the few hardy goldfinches who stuck around at the niger feeders and bury themselves in snowdrifts on very cold nights. Then one day in February the crows are back, annoying the neighbourhood ravens. And then the red-winged blackbirds, then creepers. The rivers melt and the loons show up with some early ducks. On one of those days that can’t decide whether to be sunny or damp you’re walking the dog by the river and a palm warbler is scratching under the dogwood. Winter is over.

In winter your see things like foxes, martens and their kin more easily. A whole busy world of mammals large and small is revealed in fresh snow and learning to read the signs is a pleasure.

Want check out the fish in a lake? Take a chair out on the ice, augur a hole and drop a line in.

Anyway, in the 60s Gilles Vigneault wrote a song called Mon Pays (which translates as My Country or My Homeland). The first verse is:

Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver
Mon jardin ce n’est pas un jardin, c’est la plaine
Mon chemin ce n’est pas un chemin, c’est la neige
Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver

Plug that into Translate and you’ll get the idea.

Come visit. I’ll lend you some snowshoes. And a hat.


Birds, fungi, myriapods and other soil creatures. But then, we are cold, wet, frosty, but not buried under a metre of snow like some places…

January I start my new year lists, so finding lots of the obvious plants (have I got ivy yet?) and mammals and I find it the easiest time of year for birds because you can actually see through the deciduous trees and spot what’s perching in them!


I agree with the sentiment that the scarcity makes finding something that much more exciting. When I get to see a Pine siskin or one of my other favourite boreal birds that I typically only see in winter, it makes freezing my butt off worth it. Last winter I was out with the birdwatching group I’m in, and someone spotted a robin, which was exciting, and we spent around 5 minutes looking at it (which isn’t much but it’s 5 minutes more than we would at any other time of year). I wish we got cardinals where I live, I’ve heard that they were originally a more southern bird because it struggles with finding food covered by snow, but now with birdfeeders and the like they expanded their range but they need other birds to uncover the seeds for them; so hopefully we’ll get them in a couple years!


On iNaturalist: Identify, identify, identify.

Off iNaturalist: Check for migratory birds (one day I’ll spot a Baikal teal), drop by ‘the mandarin duck spot’ to see how many are there, take care of any needed camera maintenance, delete photos from my phone that I’ve transferred to my computer/uploaded to iNaturalist, and visit local (natural history) museums.


Around the Mediterranean, the “bad” season is summer: often too hot, roads and beaches crowded with tourists, plants dormant, so very few flowers… I can’t wait for September!

I don’t know, maybe in winter you could become an identifier and look at other areas?


In the Western Cape in South Africa, we are very lucky. Winters are wet and mostly mild, we have more diversity during these wet months. Summers are also good, very hot and dry inland, but one can go out early and find lots! No down time here!


Lots of things.

  1. Travel to the countries where there is no true winter.
  2. Short local trips to the nature (weather allowing, i.e., no deep snow, not very cold, no blizzard or sleet).
  3. Identify more (not much time during vegetation period).

In winter, it is quite cold (-15-20 C, sometimes up to -35 C), and there is a lot of snow. There are few birds in the forest, and I photograph them very rarely, but I still often come to the forest to go skiing.
There are very few interesting activities. It is impossible to work in the garden. It remains to identify. I know that a lot of work is waiting for me in winter to identify Asian bumblebees.


Here in Central Vermont it is cold out in the winter and there is plenty of snow on the ground, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to see. I make sure to get outside every day for a walk. I search for arthropods on snow ( which I generally find every day the temperature gets about 15F/-10C. I also look for and document animal tracks, and practice identifying trees by their buds and weeds by the remains of their stalks emergent from the snow. And I spend plenty of indoor time identifying observations. There’s so much to do!


Abd why did you skip Austria? :smile:

I recently felt the winters were too short and not freezy enough, in the hopes of less going outdoors and more working on my backlog and maybe start writing some short articles about my findings

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