Be sure to watch your feeders and glance around your yard at least once this weekend, then go online and report your findings for the Great Backyard Bird Count
, the most casual and relaxing avian monitoring program all year. This is a mid-winter effort organized by Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada, and sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited. As described on the GBBC website, it is meant to “engage bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts.” This effort differs from the recent Christmas Bird Counts in a few important ways:
(1) It is local. As with any birding effort, you can expend any level of energy to accomplish this task, but “backyard” is the operative word, however you define that. This might literally be your own yard, your favorite city park, a walk on a local nature trail, or a whole day excursion to your favorite wildlife refuge. That’s your “backyard” for one bird list.
(2) Rather than accumulating a grand total of all birds counted all day, the information you report is “the greatest number of individuals of each species seen at any one time”. For instance, if a flock of 10 waxwings flies over once, then later on you see 30 in a nearby tree, you report 30 waxwings, not the total count. You might end up reporting the one flock of 10 Turkey Vultures that circled overhead, the one Western Scrub-Jay that came to your feeder, or your high count of 45 Chipping Sparrows all over your yard in mid-morning.
(3) It is real-time and online. When you complete your birding effort, go online and enter your list of birds, then “explore the results” which are coming in from all over the continent. You can examine species distributions, totals, or the distribution of effort. You can participate on just one day or more than once, even submitting a new list for each day during this four day event, February 12-15. You may submit your lists for this weekend until March 1, but the fun of the event is keeping up with it as it is happening. This may be the perfect boredom reliever for those snow-bound folks on the East Coast!
Rob Iski and Elizabeth Lesley helped me accumulate a list of 24 bird species for the Refuge on Friday, the first day of the GBBC. For our purposes, our “backyard” was just the HQ and ops center including the photo blind and Post Oak Creek trail. Perhaps due to the chilly breeze, birds were not terribly conspicuous this day. There were no ducks on Post Oak Creek and we didn’t even see a Bewick’s Wren. I invite you to go to the GBBC results page
to find our entire list and further explore what is being seen across the country.