Winter birding is a hot cold-weather activity!

Just because some animals settle down for a long winter's nap doesn't mean they all do. You'll find that the Whitefish Chain Area is teeming with life even in the coldest months. Many types of birds stay active in the area all winter long, and in some cases it's your chance to see some truly beautiful birds. Winter offers a great opportunity to experience nature's beauty first-hand through birding.

Two trumpeter swans glide down the Pine River on a snowy afternoon. Photo by Kate Perkins

One of the water birds that's currently hanging out around the Whitefish Chain is the trumpeter swan, a bird that was once very rare in Minnesota. The bird is still on Minnesota's threatened and endangered list, according to the MN DNR, though it has made a massive comeback from reintroduction efforts started in 1966. The trumpeter swan was believed to be gone from the state in the early 1900s, when the last record of a breeding population was from 1885. These birds live up to their names, often making raucous, trumpet-like sounds day and night. As the lakes completely freeze over, these birds will continue their journey south; but until then, they can be found on areas of open water. Try looking for them on either side of the dam in Crosslake. You may even spot seven swans a-swimming!

There are lots of other bird species to see in many other locations around the chain. You'll find chickadees, blue jays, nuthatches, ruffed grouse, many types of woodpeckers and even owls. Download or print the Birds of the Byway tour guide and checklist and you'll have a great starting point for a day of birding. The brochures go along with the Birds of the Byway program, which details the many great locations around the chain to birdwatch along with the most common types of birds you'll see. You can also hire a local, qualified guide to show you around.

Join in an adventure of citizen science for this year's Christmas Bird Count, organized by local bird guide Judd Brink. This year's count will take place on December 30. Anyone who wants to join can meet at the A-Pine restaurant in Jenkins at 7 a.m. Dec. 30 for breakfast before breaking out for a day of counting birds. For more information, email Judd at

The Christmas Bird Count not only offers residents and visitors a chance to get out and see birds, but also provides the Audubon Society with an immense amount of data about bird populations across the country. Participants count all the birds they see and hear all day and submit their tallies via the local count organizer to the Audubon Society. It's free to participate and anyone can join in the fun.

Don't let the cold frighten you- there's an immense amount of natural beauty to see and experience around the Whitefish Chain year-round.

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