THOMPSON - The winter of 2013-14 has been long, hard, and relentless in northeastern Pennsylvania. Robins and blackbirds arrived only to be met by blizzards.

Even in mid-April, the ground is still largely frozen. Finally, however, spring is finally beginning to emerge, and once again Florence Shelly Wetlands Preserve in Thompson will host its two annual bird walks.

In the company of our expert birders, walk participants—both experienced birdwatchers and amateurs alike—will enjoy exploring the woods, fields, and wetlands of the 400-acre preserve as they identify birds by sight and song.

On Saturday, May 3 at 6 a.m., Ron Milliken will present his twenty-seventh annual walk in the preserve. Ron’s walk focuses on migratory birds and often lasts the entire morning, covering a wide area of the preserve.

It is not uncommon for participants to spot between 60 and 65 species in Ron’s expert company. (You are invited to stay as long as you wish.)

Two weeks later, Saturday, May 18 at 7 a.m. Evan Mann, a local birder and amateur naturalist, will conduct a leisurely, in-depth walk around a smaller area of the preserve.

Besides identifying birds that are nesting in the preserve’s diverse ecological niches, Mr. Mann will discuss the habits of the various species spotted.

Diversity is the key to the Shelly Preserve’s beauty and value and also the reason it hosts so many species.

The brushy meadows are home to tree swallows, wrens and sparrows, while the deep boreal bog attracts eastern bluebirds nesting in dead snags, swamp sparrows, and belted kingfishers.

Hawks can be spied hunting in open areas, while the preserve’s pristine brook and dense woodlands provide habitats for the northern waterthrush, Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers and least flycatchers.

Plews Swamp is the preferred habitat for families of wood ducks, mallards and red-winged blackbirds.

Participants can expect to see both familiar species and some surprises.

The two bird walks launch our season of monthly guided walks with local naturalists. Join us at 2 p.m. during the rest of the summer to discover wildflowers (Sunday, June 8), dragonflies (Saturday, July 28), and trees (Sunday, Sept. 14).

The two bird walks, like all our walks, begin at the preserve parking lot one mile north of Thompson on Route 171, where Stack Road intersects. The trails are uneven and may be wet, so wear warm, protective footwear.

Don’t forget your binoculars, and come prepared to spend a morning—or mornings—exploring the fascinating world of birds.

For further information, contact Andy Gardner, 570 727-3362.