Birding Howard County, Maryland


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BIRDING YEAR - February

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  • Depending on the weather, ducks may begin migrating any time after the middle of the month. Watch lakes and reservoirs regularly as soon as the ice begins to melt. On any given day, species may be different from the previous day or from those on a nearby body of water. There are times this month and next when each of the Columbia lakes and Centennial Lake is likely to have at least one species not found on any of the others.
  • Northern Pintails are early migrants; most of the few birds seen each year are found in late February and early March.
  • Redheads have become increasingly rare in the county. Search lakes and ponds from mid-February until late March.
  • Killdeer may return in numbers after the middle of the month; some years they are not widespread until March.
  • From late February until early May, watch for Wilson's Snipe in wet, muddy, grassy areas and along pond edges. A few usually winter.
  • American Woodcock first appear around the middle of the month, usually after a thaw. Their courtship flights at dusk and dawn can be seen consistently until near the end of April, sporadically into May.
  • Continue to check gull flocks for species other than Ring-billed or Herring.
  • Great Horned Owls are incubating. Look for twiggy nests in the main crotch or secondary crotches of mature deciduous trees. Most often they use a hawk's nest, occasionally that of a crow or even a squirrel. Look for "horns" or "ears" sticking above the edge of the nest. This species is often easier to find in March when the female may be sitting higher after the eggs have hatched.
  • Erect new bluebird boxes by the middle of the month. Make sure old boxes are in good repair and a predator guard is present below each box.
  • American Robin flocks begin to appear from mid-month on.
  • Fox Sparrows move in if there is a thaw. They are most frequently seen from late February through the third week of March in thickets and brushy areas. Occasionally, they are spotted under feeders scratching in their distinctive two-footed style.
  • It is normal for bird numbers to drop in late winter, but that may not be obvious when a large mixed blackbird flock descends on a yard. Some may continue to visit feeders well into April or even May. Rusty Blackbirds are generally not present in such groups; rarely, a Yellow-headed Blackbird may associate with a flock.
  • Singing Red-winged Blackbirds are a welcome sign of spring.
  • House Finches start singing in mid-February.
  • The best time to spot Common Redpolls (which are uncommon here) is mid-January to early March. Most sightings occur at feeders.

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