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Marsh Madness: Learning to Bird Watch at Our Native Wetlands with North Branch Land Trust image
March 16, 2023
Marsh Madness: Learning to Bird Watch at Our Native Wetlands with North Branch Land Trust

DiscoverNEPA is partnering with North Branch Land Trust, a nonprofit that conserves the natural, working and scenic landscapes of NEPA. They’ll provide conservation tips and give us a look at their protected lands. Learn how you can join NBLT and do your part to protect NEPA’s natural resources.

There’s Plenty of Wildlife to See in Early Spring


March can be a difficult month for outdoor enthusiasts.

It is rarely warm or cold enough to appreciate the landscape—unless you like mud. Yet, at this moment, area wetlands are teeming with life and paving the way for the beauty of spring. The combination of open sky, plentiful resources, and sheltering brush make wetlands a great stop for migrating bird species.

NEPA’s unique wetland habitats are not only appealing to those birds, but they also have some special properties that make them perfect for the novice birder. Keeping in mind that most activity occurs early in the morning or around dusk, a sunrise or sunset visit to a marsh is sure to provide more than a few identification opportunities. With low foliage this time of year, it is much easier to spot birds hopping in bare branches or splash-landing in the water. And as an additional bonus to the birder, there are far fewer biting bugs to contend with while the weather is still cold!



North Branch Land Trust staff have used some of their field visits to hone their birdwatching skills.

Executive Director, Ellen Ferretti loves the new mobile technology available to novice birdwatchers such as Audubon and Cornell’s Merlin Bird ID. At one location, she asked for brief silence and then held out her phone—it was identifying the surrounding birds by call in real time. “I am not a birding expert, so I love these tools to help me learn. I’ve occasionally found myself sitting on the porch or out in the field using MerlinBird ID and just feeling like I’m communicating with our winged friends”

While physical birding guides still provide great resources, they have a tough initial learning curve. Using an identification app like those mentioned can help the novice know what they are looking at when they come across a new species. And Ferretti’s habit of entertaining herself with birdcalls? That is the perfect way to become familiar with which species are making which sounds, which becomes increasingly important as spring leaf coverage begins reducing visibility in your birding areas.



The birds are returning.

Karley Stasko, Director of Marketing and Development has been checking on water levels at Hanover Crossings Marsh and spending some time with the flocks who have called the wetland home. “A few weeks ago, there were maybe a handful of songbirds. Since the beginning of the month, there has been Red-Winged Blackbirds, Mallards, Geese, and a Belted Kingfisher to name a few. Last time, there was a massive flock of starlings that looked like something out of Hitchcock! But it sounded amazing.” Using the digital field guide in the app, Karley compares the characteristics of the birds in her binoculars to the one on the screen before she marks a sighting. Keeping a record of what you see each visit can help you track when the best birding opportunities are.



Get out there and give birding a try!

Are you ready to fill your Marsh Madness Bracket with Migratory Waterfowl? Gather your binoculars, get on some comfy shoes, and check out your nearest wetland!

If you want to help conserve NEPA’s natural resources for future generations of birders, please consider supporting North Branch Land Trust today. Visit today to become a member, stay up to date on regional conservation efforts, learn about Preserved lands (including Hanover Crossings Marsh) and more!