While winter drones on before slowly fading into spring, there are a number of birds that can be seen near the river if one is willing to look.
Bill Thompson, editor and co-publisher of Bird Watcher's Digest in Marietta, said a large number of birds not often seen in the area have flocked to the Ohio River.
"Right now, because it's been such a cold winter, a lot of bodies of water up north are frozen," he said. "It's pushed birds (south) to the river."
Photo submitted by Bill Thompson, Bird Watcher’s Digest
A ruby-throated humming bird can be seen around mid-April in Marietta.
Steve McCarthy, of Marietta, looks for birds around the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers. McCarthy is an avid bird watcher
Elsa Thompson, one of the founding publishers of the magazine, said many gulls have been migrating south to the river because "the river is open," unlike Lake Erie.
Kyle Carlsen, assistant editor for the magazine, said two types of gulls have been frequenting the river.
"The gulls are Ring-billed Gulls with the occasional Herring Gull," he said.
Ring-billed and Herring gulls.
The elusive Harlequin Duck.
Canvasback and Merganser ducks.
And in the spring:
Red Winged Blackbirds.
Bill Thompson said a huge variety of ducks have been seen on both the Muskingum and Ohio rivers around Marietta, most especially in the open water at the foot of the dams.
Carlsen added that the Canvasback and Merganser ducks have been seen.
"(Mergansers are) very common on Lake Erie," he said. "This winter, we've seen a lot."
Carlsen said the Long-tailed Duck, which is uncommon in the area, has also been visible; two have been seen in Marietta along the river.
He added that a rare Harlequin Duck was seen in Belpre a few weeks ago.
"It's the first time to have one in this area ever," Carlsen said. "That's a rare sea duck that's not even common on Lake Erie; it's from the arctic."
Bill Thompson said this winter hasn't been very prosperous for a few bird species.
"It hasn't been a very good winter for finches," he added.
Thompson said the winter has also seen a decrease in the number of cardinals, blue jays and chickadees. He added that at his personal feeders there are usually around 75 cardinals, but that number has dropped to around 10 to 12 this winter.
"We're seeing a little wave of illness or something that dropped their numbers," he said.
One thing that it has been a good winter for is snowy owls, which are generally arctic birds. More than 100 have been spotted in Ohio, said Thompson, an all-time record.
"The big story this year is the snowy owls," he said. "The last one we had here was maybe 2003 up at Willow Island. The nearest one we've seen (this year) is up around Wooster and Amish Country, where there are a lot of open fields. They are birds of the tundra-they don't like wooded areas; they like open spaces."
Marcy Wesel, 51, of Marietta, said she is an amateur bird watcher with expert friends who also bird watch.
She said the key to good bird watching is simple.
"Just stop, open up your ears and open up your eyes," she said. "It seems simple, but it's true. There's an amazing amount of (birds) out there."
Wesel said the most interesting birds she's seen in town are the white-winged crossbills.
"One day I was working in my office and looked out the window," she said. "I noticed a fluttering of birds, and said, 'Those are different from robins.' It was during their irruption. It was a treat that I got to see that rare of a bird for this area."
Irruptions can happen every three or four years and mean a large influx of the birds have left the area where they normally winter.
Wesel said people in Marietta are usually pleased that there are bald eagles in the area.
"The first time you see one, it's really quite majestic," she said.
Carlsen said bald eagles have been really noticeable in and around Marietta this year.
"This year, you're able to see 20 or more in one spot," he said. "That's more than usual, which is a cool thing. People like to see an eagle."
Looking forward to spring, a variety of birds can be seen in and around Marietta.
"When we get toward spring, when the weather warms and flowers are blooming, our insect and fruit eaters come back," Bill Thompson said.
He said to expect Red Winged Blackbirds in March, as well as the American Woodcock.
"It's a really cool-looking bird," Thompson said of the woodcock, adding that he remembered watching one as a child right around dusk and seeing "an elaborate courtship display."
"(These birds) are better displays of spring than the first robin," he said.
Once spring warms a little more around mid-April, Thompson said to expect the return of a certain little bird many love to see.
"Around April 15, we get our first hummingbird," he said. "We'll be watching."