Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Great Backyard Bird Count is on!

This weekend marks the fifteenth annual Great Backyard Bird Count. This event is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada. Thousands of people with an interest in birds from all over North America and the State of Hawaii go into their yards or to some public space over the four day weekend and watch and count birds and then report what they have seen on the GBBC website. Participation is free and is open to anyone, regardless of their level of expertise about birds.

This is one of several citizen science projects related to birds or butterflies that take place throughout the year and in which I participate. I have to admit, though, that this is probably my favorite of all. This is my ninth year to participate since 2003. (I've only missed one year, 2004, due a death in my family.)

My designated count area is my suburban garden and I count on all four days of the event. I try to spend as much time as possible outside observing the birds during the weekend, but if you choose to participate, the time you spend is entirely up to you. A participant can spend as little as fifteen minutes counting.

There are around 30 - 35 species of birds which could reasonably be present in my yard in mid-winter and I try to see and count as many of them as I can. This year is off to a poor start, mostly because of rainy weather. Over two days of counting, I've only tallied twenty species so far. But even under less than optimal conditions, it is always a pleasure to watch and count birds and I always learn more about the birds and the Nature that exists in my yard in the process.

For anyone who has the slightest interest in Nature, this really is a fun and educational project. There are two days left in the weekend, plenty of time for you to take part. Just go to the GBBC website and read the instructions and start counting. The data collected are important to ornithologists in studying bird populations and in attempting to devise ways to assist populations that are in trouble. You can help in that effort.

Female Northern Cardinal in my yard. She got counted today. 

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