For many birders in Canada and the United States, this is the week we have been anticipating for months now. In just a few days, we will begin one of our favorite citizen science projects, the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Every year on Presidents' Day weekend, thousands of birders across the continent, and across the ocean in Hawaii, take part in this four-day-long census of birds. It is a survey to find out just where the birds are at mid-winter and how they are faring. By this time, the migrants have settled in their winter homes but have not yet started their spring flight north, so this count can give a very good idea of numbers as well as the health of the bird population before it disperses to its breeding grounds.
This will be the thirteenth year that the count has taken place. It has grown substantially in the number of participants each year and ranks with the Christmas Bird Count in its popularity and importance in the birding community. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Audubon Society, and Bird Studies of Canada.
The great thing about this project is that it is fun, free, and open to anyone who wants to count birds and report them. Participants do not have to have any particular expertise in birds; they simply have to be able to observe and report. All they have to do is go to the GBBC website, sign in, give some information about the area they are censusing, and then enter information about what birds they saw. Participants can spend as little as fifteen minutes in observation, or if you are a real bird geek like me, you can spend as many hours of each of the four days that you can manage to squeeze in.
If you have any interest at all in birds, this is the citizen science project for you. Check in at GBBC and get ready to count. The information that you provide can be very helpful to the ornithologists who track the movements of birds and can be useful in planning ways to assist birds, who are facing challenges from every direction these days.
Be a bird geek! I promise it doesn't hurt at all.