Thursday, February 17, 2011

Great Backyard Birdcount Starts Feb 18th


Put out the birdseed and grab your binoculars. The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) starts tomorrow!

Once I started gardening for wildlife, I was quick to go from casual birdwatcher to full-fledged critter loving nature nerd. In fact, right now I have my thrift-store baby monitor turned on and placed outside my window so I can enjoy the sound of the robins on my birdbath.

I also have my bird guide and binoculars ready so that I can start counting birds tomorrow for the 2011 Great Backyard Bird Count.

What is the Great Backyard Bird Count?

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that encourages bird watchers to count their backyard birds and report their findings on-line. This year, the GBBC runs from February 18th – 21st.

Although it may sound silly to count your backyard birds, these counts are very useful in helping scientists learn where birds are across the continent and to see how populations compare with previous years. This helps to determine how things like development, pollution and weather may be affecting various species.

Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts and you can count for as long as you want each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

If you want to participate, here are the quick and easy steps from the GBBC website:  

1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like—one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.  

2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out your regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you're likely to see in your area in February. You could take note of the highest number of each species you see on this checklist.  

3. When you're finished, enter your results through GBBC's web page. You'll see a button marked "Enter Your Checklists!" on the website home page beginning on the first day of the count. It will remain active until the deadline for data submission on March 1st.

As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore the results from their own towns or anywhere in the United States and Canada. They can also see how this year's numbers compare with those from previous years. Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see. A selection of images is posted in the online photo gallery.

I always think its fun to go back and read the results of previous counts.

You can search by state. Here are the five highest counted species from 2010 for DC, Maryland and Virginia

DC: American Robin – 737; House Sparrow – 396; European Starling – 317

Maryland: Canada Goose – 38,118; Snow Goose – 20,317; Common Grackle – 18,240

Virginia: Common Grackle – 25,421; Dark-eyed Junco – 20,005; Red-winged Blackbird – 19,446

Or you can search by species

American Robin – 737 in DC; 5,489 in Maryland and 13,311 in Virginia

For more detailed information, visit the GBBC website or download this pdf file of instructions.

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