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South Enjoys Cold Spell’s Bird Bonanza; Northern Birders Screwed

Winter bird and wildlife watching leans heavily on cold pushing animals into places they can eat or just keep warm. Eagles fly south to find unfrozen rivers. Manatees (and sometimes turtles) huddle around hot springs and power plants. This super harsh weather, then, is especially bountiful for wildlife watchers–as long as you’re in an area just warm enough. That’s why the south, despite cold weather, is having a great season for wildlife watching while northerners have to bear trifling numbers of animals.

The eagle-watching festivals going on around the country illustrate the trend. Anthony Lawrence, director of recreation at Kentucky Dam State Resort Park says the trees are practically dripping eagles. “They’re landing two by two on the ice and basically ice fishing, which you never see,” he says. Same deal over in Alabama. Patti Donnelan, naturalist at Lake Guntersville, says all the known nests are active. “It seem to be a good year,” she says. Up north, it’s a bit slower. They’ve seen fewer birds this year in Keokuk, Iowa. (Though, as the midwest’s biggest concentration, they’ve got hundreds to spare.)

But it goes beyond eagles. Up in Canada the scarcity of birds showed up in the Christmas Bird Count. “”I had a total of 14 individual birds,” one biologist told the CBC. “Normally I’d have a couple of thousand of birds by that time.” Birders around Ottawa also blamed a cyclical lack of seeds.

So many factors go into how many birds are found in counts, it’s hard to just blame a cold spell. Anecdotally, though, Tampa saw a big bird count. Loss of habitat pushed down migratory bird numbers on the east coast 12-18%. since the ’60s. And around the world birders from India to Holland to Cornwall are contemplating  the impact of climate change on bird appearances. Birds have adjusted their migration to warmer weather, but these freak cold snaps keep them on the move.

Where to See Animals Down South

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