Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count to begin soon!

So, the Super Bowl is over, now what are you going to do? Do you have 15 minutes of free time and can you count up to 100?  If so, you can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. 

The 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will be held February 17-20, 2012. The event is hosted by the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada and sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited. Bird watchers of all ages count birds to create a real-time snapshot of where birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning birder to experts. Last year, participants posted more than 92,000 checklists online, creating the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.
But why count birds? The results provide a snapshot of the whereabouts of more than 600 bird species and their movements. Think of it this way - no single scientist or team of scientists can document the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time so why not use the general public? Some questions the count  answer are:
  •  How will this winter’s snow or the lack thereof, the cold or unseasonably warm temperatures influence bird populations? 
  • How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
  • What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
  •  Bird research is important to help maintain and restore habitats necessary to sustain healthy migratory and resident bird populations.
  •  Are any birds undergoing worrisome declines that point to the need for conservation attention?
Courtesy of Bird Source

To participate, just visit the GBBC web site at: There you will find that you can count 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. All the information and forms are located on the website. You can count in your backyard, travel to different locations or count with another group. If you plan to count in your backyard, be sure to have full feeders with a variety of foods to attract the most birds. You can also send photographs of the birds you see which will be included in the online gallery.

The GBBC website includes a wealth of information for novice and experienced birders. There is an online bird guide where you can browse 600 species for identification, photos, sounds and maps. There are tips to distinguish between those pesky similar-looking species. You can also access the Audubon Watch List, get help on choosing/using binoculars and feeding birds.

So what happens to all those numbers? Information collected goes into a database that shows trends and health of the birds over time. There are more than 36 million bird observations, which are used by scientists, in the Avian Knowledge Network database. There is also a map showing the location of all counts. The GBBC Summary page of the website has year by year counts dating back to 2005.

But what I love best is that you can see the count online as it progresses. Since results are reported on the website you can see the numbers almost immediately. It is free, easy and helps the birds. Oh, and, it is a lot of fun to be involved in the health of our planet!

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