Winter weather is one of those things that separates the birders from the sane people.
Today I spent part of my lunch break standing along the Ohio River in blowing snow and single-digit temperatures with the wind chill factor at twenty below zero, scanning for birds. It was totally worth it: I scored my first-of-year common goldeneye.
I was scanning from a public park (typically) frequented by walkers and runners. On this particularly frigid day, I was the only human around.
While some people are content to stay indoors when the thermometer dips, others want to be out there with the birds.
So how is a birder in the northern hemisphere to keep from freezing during the months of December, January, and February?
1. Dress warmly and in layers. Wool and fleece are excellent options. Long underwear is a must. Protect your head, ears, and neck with a good hat and a scarf or neck gaiter.
2. Avoid wearing cotton! Cotton holds moisture and lacks insulation when wet. Wool or polypropylene is superior, especially for socks and mittens.
3. Mittens are better than gloves. Mittens allow your fingers to have skin-to-skin contact to heat each other up.
4. Hand warmers are lifesavers. Air-activated heat packs can provide warmth for up to ten hours. Put them in your mittens, your pockets, your boots.
5. Avoid wearing several layers of socks. This will make your feet sweat, and sweating in frigid conditions is bad news. Instead, wear one pair of thick, wool socks and well-insulated, waterproof boots.
6. Avoid synthetic materials as those used in ski pants. These will keep you warm, but they tend to make noise when walking, which can make birding more difficult.
Following these tips should help to keep you toasty warm even when it’s butterbutt cold at your favorite birding site. If you have any ideas for staying warm in winter, please share in the comments below!
About the Author
Kyle Carlsen is the assistant editor of Bird Watcher's Digest. Find him on Twitter @kycarlsen.