The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will take place from Feb. 12-15. This is a worldwide event when birdwatchers can contribute important data about the population of birds in this one concentrated timeframe. For the past year we have been confined (for the most part) to our homes and neighborhoods and for many of us, feeding and watching the birds come into our yards has been a welcome source of entertainment and enrichment.
This citizen-science project was begun in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. It was the first online project used to collect data on wild birds. Last year over 260,000 birdwatchers participated
and counted over 27 million birds. Reports came from 194 countries and identified 6,942 bird species. When you go to the website you can see a world map graphic that lights up with each checklist that is submitted.
It is a very simple process to participate. The website will give you instructions on how to enter your data, after watching birds for 15 minutes or more, at least once over the four days. You can do this at home, or at any other location where you can see and count the birds. This can be done by yourself or with others, but this year we need to
take extra precautions if we are counting away from home. Wearing a face mask and social distancing are still
If you have done this previously, maybe this year you can set a goal of counting more birds than you have in the past. You can seek out a new location, or a different group of friends to search with. In this age of Apps, you can find one (Merlin) to help you ID the birds and another one (eBird Mobile) that lets you enter data on your phone. But if you prefer recording what you see with pen and paper, that data can be entered later on your computer. If you’d like to know more about this project you can watch a Livestream webinar on Tuesday, February 9th at 12 noon (EST). The GBBC happens just before the season of migration begins for the New Year, giving scientists a good snapshot of bird populations where they spend the winter months.
This might be a good time to try out some new and different types of wild bird seed in your feeders. You might put out Finch Max, No Mess Mix or Shelled Peanuts. Put these out a few days before the Count begins so that new birds have time to find them.
We all need a bit of excitement in the middle of February, as we are half way through winter and dreaming of an end to this deadly pandemic. Let the birds bring you some much needed good news.
By Kate Crowley