Three winter bird counts were conducted in the Berkshires on Dec. 15 and Jan. 1,

n Northern Berkshire birders spotted 50 different species that included a rare Hoary redpoll, Lincoln's sparrow, American woodcock as new species for the count that totaled 4,337 individual birds

n Central Berkshire birders listed 65 different species, including the cackling goose and American pipit that were new for the count that totaled 6,619 individuals.

n Southern Berkshire birders reported 64 different species, with the red-shouldered hawk and white-crowned sparrow new to count that totaled 8,209 individual birds.

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FEEDING WATERFOWL: On several occasions in this column I have admonished people who feed waterfowl, primarily at the Onota Lake causeway in Pittsfield, and the Hoosic Lake or Cheshire Reservoir causeway in Cheshire at Farnam's Crossing. While it may not be against any law or ordinance, I recall "Do Not Feed Waterfowl signs posted there.

In a recent release, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) is asking for help from sportsmen, birders, and other interested conservationists across the state to report sites where wild ducks and geese (waterfowl) are being fed or to report sightings of ducks and geese they see feeding at artificial waterfowl feeding sites from Jan. 6 to Jan. 26.

Information needed includes town, specific location (address, map, or GPS coordinates), date, number, and the kinds of wild ducks and/or geese observed.

Currently, MassWildlife is trying to determine if there is a correlation between artificial feeding sites and waterfowl population size.

Feeding site locations or waterfowl feeding reports should be reported to H Heusmann, MassWildlife Waterfowl Project Leader by e-mail at: h.heusmann@state.ma.us; phone (508) 389-6321; Fax (508) 389-7890; or postal mail at DFW Park Mallard Survey, 100 Hartwell Street, Suite 230, West Boylston, MA 01583.

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ANIMAL TRACKING: I remember how difficult it was last winter to enjoy wild animal tracking in the snow. For the better part of the winter, what little snow cover we had, was often as not coated with ice. Even places like the Eugene Moran Wildlife Management Area in Windsor along Route 8A were discouraging last winter.

Not this winter. So get out, if only briefly, and be surprised at the variety and quantity of footprints scurrying this way and that.

Places like the Pittsfield State Forest and even the Springside Park (both in Pittsfield) are worth a visit.

If you live at either end of the county, Sheep Hill in Williamstown or Bartholomew's Cobble in Ashley Falls are worth a visit. The best time is after recent snow fall left uncovered or windblown, overnight.

Questions and comments for Thom Smith: Email Naturewatch@live.com.