- By late November or early December, large flocks of
Canada Geese gather daily at Centennial Park. If ice
forms, the geese keep a sizeable hole open on the lake.
Many birders tend to ignore the geese attempting to pick
out ducks or grebes among the larger bodies, but taking
the time to check the geese carefully can be productive.
Scan feeding and resting birds for a Snow Goose of either
color phase; a White-fronted Goose would be an extreme
rarity. The smaller, grayer-backed Cackling Goose with a
small triangular bill, short neck, and blocky head is
also worth the search. Do not base identification solely
on size for diminutive Canadas frequent this lake.
- Tundra Swan migration (day or night) builds from
early in the month to a peak in mid to late November.
Occasionally, a flock rests on Triadelphia Reservoir,
less frequently on Centennial Lake.
- A constantly changing variety of waterfowl should be
looked for at lakes and reservoirs. Some will remain for
weeks, others may stay only a few hours. Each cold front
brings the potential for unusual birds. Heavy winds and
rain may drop any of the scoter species, a Red-necked
Grebe, or a Long-tailed Duck onto reservoirs; less often
they may be found on lakes. Strong winds and rough water
can make viewing difficult, but it is often a necessary
trade-off. By the time winds have dropped, any exciting
strays have probably departed.
- Ospreys are still occasional this month.
- Hawk migration continues although the largest number
of migrants has passed. Red-tailed Hawks continue to move
well into December. For the patient or lucky observer,
late autumn can produce such specialties as Northern
Goshawk, Golden Eagle, and Rough-legged Hawk.
- An occasional shorebird may linger. Both yellowlegs,
Spotted, Semipalmated, Least, and Pectoral sandpipers,
Dunlin, Wilson's Snipe, and American Woodcock have all
been recorded in November.
- Late Bonaparte's Gulls may still be seen throughout
this month, even well into December.
- Check gull flocks carefully for the infrequent Lesser
- Although most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have left
the area, any hummingbird appearing at feeders this month
or next could be a vagrant from the West. Many cannot be
identified by sight (or even from a photograph). Contact
this website so species verification may be attempted by
a licensed bird bander.
- Eastern Bluebirds winter in flocks and do not defend
territory in the winter so they are unlikely to be
present near nest boxes. Search for them not far from
water in protected areas containing a good supply of
fruiting plants such as sumac, pokeweed, and dogwood.
County bluebird trails have been so successful that it is
possible to see and hear this lovely bird in most of our
parks during much of the year.
- Scan plowed fields, corn stubble, and mudflats for
cryptically-colored American Pipits. Their two-note call
is sometimes detected overhead as they move in small
groups or large flocks.
- Most warblers will have departed by late October.
Orange-crowned Warblers are late migrants with both
October and November records. There is always a chance of
finding a lingering Nashville, Pine, or Palm warbler,
Common Yellowthroat, or Yellow-breasted Chat; less
frequently, a species such as a Wilson's Warbler is seen
(there are even a few winter records). Of course,
Yellow-rumped Warblers winter in small numbers.
- American Tree Sparrows can be located from
mid-November until early April. Most years a few winter
at Centennial Park; Schooley Mill Park and Western Regional
Park are also possibilities.
- Although the first Fox Sparrows usually appear in
October, they start showing up in numbers underneath
feeders or in brushy areas the first ten days of
- Snow Buntings are observed occasionally along
gravelly shorelines at Triadelphia Reservoir when the
water level is low. Late November to early December is a
good time to check for them. This has also been one of
the special species found at the Alpha Ridge Landfill so
watch for field trips to that non-public location.
- Watch feeders for northern irruptives. The movement
of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches, Common
Redpolls, Pine Siskins, and ever-more-elusive Evening
Grosbeaks is related to food abundance on their breeding
grounds. Even when there is ample natural food north of
us, a few individuals of some of these species may wander
into central Maryland. Evening Grosbeaks have become a
rare winter visitor, even during winters when other
northern species may be seen in abundance.
- Scan the tops of tulip trees for finches feeding on
- White-winged and Red crossbills are rarely-seen
irruptives that may stay through April during those years
when they invade. Look for them on cones near the tops of
conifers. Either species is an exciting find for the
county. Please report any you see. The conifers at the south
entrance of Centennial Park (MD 108) were the location for
White-winged Crossbill flocks during the early months of 2009.