Year Round Birding
Blessed with four distinct seasons, altitude variance from ocean-level to 3,600 feet, and situated on the Eastern migration flyway, Maryland and its neighbor, the District of Columbia, provide great opportunities for birding all year round.
Spring is just glorious in Maryland…except when it rains. Temperatures are mild, and early in the season when trees and shrubs are not fully leafed out, even the most evasive passerines can be easily seen. Later, there is a profusion of flowering trees, bushes, and small plants that provide food, shelter, and nesting materials for resident birds. Northbound waterfowl and raptor migration occurs in March and April. May brings another round of migration—shorebirds, terns, flycatchers, catbirds, swallows, thrushes, vireos, warblers, tanagers, orioles—take your pick. Some will continue northward; others will stay for the summer. By June, resident birds are busy building nests and tending their fledglings.
Summer can be hot, although early-morning birding is generally tolerable. June is the height of breeding season for local passerines, and adults are busy tending their nests. The woods and fields ring out with the territorial singing of male birds. By July, bird song has usually quieted down as the breeding season comes to an end, although some species will have second or third broods. Also in July, southbound shorebird migration begins, and shorebirds start to drop in to local mudflats, first in dribs and drabs but in large flocks by August. Other birds such as egrets and herons, shorebirds, flycatchers, swallows, orioles, thrushes, and vireos are also headed south again by late August.
Perhaps the most invigorating season, fall is warm, sunny, and birdy! September is peak season for many of those “confusing fall warblers” heading to their southern wintering grounds. By October, leaves are changing into a kaleidoscope of colors, and raptor migration is at its height. Snow Geese are arriving along with late-migrating sparrows. By November, waterfowl start arriving in large numbers along marshes and bay and ocean coastlines. If you are lucky enough to be around following a hurricane, you may witness all kinds of rare birds, both pelagic and otherwise, blown off their normal course.
Winter, cold and blustery though it can sometimes be, is a birding bonanza—especially when it has been very cold further north. Waterfowl inhabit the coastlines and marshes in great variety and numbers. Many raptors remain, along with wrens, chickadees, bluebirds, finches, mockingbirds, sparrows, and woodpeckers. Our one constant winter warbler is the Yellow-rumped. And White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos return for the season. From the shoreline, pelagic birds and ocean ducks can be seen along with Northern Gannets, Red-throated Loons, and Surf Scoters. Conditions in the boreal regions of Canada can result in irruptions of species like Snow Buntings, crossbills, and even Snowy Owls!