Written by Paul Nicholson and Brendon Samuels
On the coldest fall and winter days, there will still be lots of “virtual birding” options for us to indulge in including watching Wild Turkeys and other species on bird cams. Photo by Paul Nicholson
London had its first accumulation of snow back on November 3 and cold weather will now be the norm for the coming months. There are lots of interesting birds to be seen in real life, but some folks will opt to stay warm on the wintriest days. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t still be immersed in birding.
In fact, throughout the year there are many people who may wish to partake in birdwatching but who are not able to access popular locations for in-person birdwatching activities in London. People living with disabilities face a variety of barriers to enjoying birds in the same ways and places that able-bodied people tend to take for granted (learn more about accessibility in birding from Birdability). For instance, many natural areas in London where birds are found do not have paved pathways, are not maintained in the winter to remove snow and ice, are not accessible by public transit or do not provide access to nearby public washrooms. These locations may not be accessible to people with disabilities. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that birds can be appreciated by everyone from the comfort of home.
Perhaps the most obvious option if you are staying in is bird cams. To the north, Tammie and Ben Haché host lots of boreal birds on the Ontario FeederWatch Cam for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This bird cam, which is located in Manitouwadge, Ontario, is one of my favorites. The Haché’s feeders attract the only Evening Grosbeaks that I’m likely to see in real time this year. Nuthatches, chickadees, redpolls, Canada Jays, Blue Jays, and other birds are regular visitors.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has its own live feeder cam at Sapsucker Woods in New York State. Their feeders are especially popular with Tufted Titmice, woodpeckers, Blue Jays, and Chickadees.
At allaboutbirds.org/cams/, Cornell hosts several other birds cams. For a true virtual escape, I will sometimes tune in to watch west Texas hummingbirds. I am always impressed at how busy these feeders are, no matter the weather. Another of their bird cams provides a tropical escape with live-streamed views of Panamanian fruit-feeding birds.
If you want to keep it local, check the Wild Turkey cam hosted by Eric and Karen Auzins. You might see Wild Turkeys plus Juncos, Blue Jays, and doves at the Auzins home in west London. At Algonquin Provincial Park, there is a live webcam. This one is more panoramic than bird focused.
There are some excellent local and regional blogs that feature London and area birds and are good reading on the blusteriest days. At birdsbugsbotany.blogspot.com, top London birder Quinten Wiegersma’s shares insights and photos that go well beyond basic eBird postings. Blake Mann’s 'Burg Birder blog features birds and other nature sightings just west of Middlesex.
Another way to pleasantly while away a winter storm is to scroll through social media. On Facebook for example, London Area Wildlife Network (or LAWN) and Ontario Birds are just two of the many accounts that feature images of London-area birds. If you happen to become truly bored, you can always join 5,000 others on Facebook’s Google Street View Birding page and, as the name suggests, look for birds in Google Maps.
Another option is to treat yourself to a new bird-themed book. My favourite title so far this fall is from Firefly Press. Peter Cavanagh’s 100 Flying Birds: Photographing the Mechanics of Flight is chock-a-block with gorgeous bird photos, and as a bird photographer, I find it to be really inspiring.
Of course, setting up a bird feeder is another way to attract birds to your home. Did you know there are special bird feeders that can be applied to the outside of your window with suction cups to bring visiting birds right up close? If you feed birds at home, remember to place your feeder within half a meter of the window to prevent fatal bird-window collisions and to wash your feeder often to prevent disease transmission.
When the sun is shining, by all means venture out with your binoculars and go admire some of our winter ducks. Some more accessible sites for seeing waterfowl in London are Gibbons Park, Springbank Park and Kilally Meadows Environmentally Significant Area. But even on a bitterly cold day, you can throw another log on the fire or pour yourself a nice cup of tea and then get wonderfully lost in a virtual world of birds.