It is now the dead of winter, so nighttime MUF's and noise levels are at their lowest. This is peak season for lowband work. There is more activity than last year, and conditions are better with louder signals. In the evening, the MUF along the path to Europe drops below 7 MHz, so much of the transatlantic activity moves to 80 (actually 75 SSB). Those with good setups for transmitting and receiving on 160 are doing very well this season. Conditions peak at the European sunrise, which now occurs after our midnight. The louder EU stations are able to work stateside without benefit of the sunrise phenomena, especially on 80.
The East Coast enjoys excellent conditions to Europe on 40 with high activity well before sunset. Most of the rest of us use the band peak following the EU sunrise. There is another interesting opening to Europe at our own sunrise. At this time of year, the grey line tilts toward the northeast in the morning. This opens a high latitude path to the north that serves up loud signals from Scandinavia and can extend into some hard to reach areas of Central Asia. Since this opening is of short duration, your experience with this path will vary if you live in other parts of the US (or world), since the grey line will lead to different countries than here in W5. High latitude paths are difficult on the low bands, and this sunrise opening gives us our best shot at certain countries.
20 has become primarily a daypath band, replacing 15 which has gone the way of 10. Let's not forget that it is summer in the southern hemisphere, and that 20 Meter nightpaths are open down there. Long path is not nearly as good or reliable as it was at the sunspot peak, but signals come through quite regularly in the Southern US. From W5, the opening begins with a short opening to the Middle East and then broadens to Europe. (The path to VU and 4S7 usually doesn't open first, but is a daily happening higher in the cycle.) There is less activity on long path than at the sunspot peak, and little competition in pileups. The East Coast is busy working Europe short path, and sigs switch to short path for us after an hour or so. Long path is also workable around our sunset, but the activity at the other end of the path is scarce. Instead of Europe, we work S.E. Asia. Our sunset is also a good time to tune for other signals from the south, like Antarctica. The loud signals with equatorial ring are South Americans. Certain exotic areas of the Indian Ocean are also along this path, so this is your short path window to FT, ZS8, 3Y & Heard (the long path is a summer opening).