The Great Backyard Bird Count (or GBBC) has begun! The GBBC is an annual four-day event when bird watchers of all ages across North America count birds. The 2011 GBBC begins today, Friday, February 18, and lasts until Monday, February 21.
This bird “census” will allow scientists to see where birds are located across the continent and can help answer questions such as: Are birds migrating earlier or later than they did in previous years? How is this winter’s cold temperatures and snow affecting bird populations? The Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society in the U.S., along with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada, lead the event each year with additional sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.
Reason #1 to participate in the GBBC: It’s easy
So I’ll admit it, I am not a rocket scientist. I do not enjoy slogging
through five pages of technical instructions to set my alarm clock after
the electricity blinks. I like easy “1-2-3 and it is finished”
activities and, fortunately, that is all it takes to participate in the
GBBC. Simply (1) count birds for at least 15 minutes, (2) tally the
number of each kind of bird you see, and (3) enter your data into
GBBC’s website. If you want more information, the website provides
downloadable instructions and an instructional video. Sounds like a
snap to me!
Reason #2: Get fresh air
The GBBC is the perfect excuse to get outside and enjoy nature for a
brief time. I realize it is the middle of winter, but there is just
something refreshing about getting out in the open and breathing in some
of that sweet-smelling fresh air. If a blizzard or major storm
interferes with your birdcounting plans this weekend I understand, but I
am hoping, for your sake, that sometime between now and Monday there
will be time to escape outside for a few minutes. Taking in bird
activity from a screened-in porch is a good compromise if you are unable
to go outdoors.
Reason #3: It’s educational
What if you go outside and even after five to ten minutes of waiting do
not spy a single winged-animal? Or the birds are so far away that you
are unable to identify what kind of sparrows or robins they are? Maybe
the specimen you spot is close by, but you have not the slightest notion
what it is?
Yes, all of these situations could happen, so I suggest checking out the
bird-watching resources that the GBBC website provides for assistance.
They range from suggestions for how to choose a good pair of binoculars
to an online bird guide to bird-feeding tips. The GBBC does not require
that you pass a test or turn in a twenty-page paper at the end of it,
but you will most likely learn a lot about birds just by participating
and exploring the available materials.
Reason #4: The photo contest
Maybe you need some competitive incentive to go with your helping of
fresh air and learning. Well you are in luck! In addition to the
annual bird count, there is a photo contest this year. Images will be
judged in six categories including: overall, bird in its habitat,
behavior, group shot, composition, and people enjoying birds.
Reason #5: It’s FUN!
My last but far-from-least, reason for everyone to participate in this
year’s Great Backyard Bird Count is because you will have SO much fun.
Here is a mental picture for you: You are outside walking through the
park near your house. The birds are singing; the sun is shining. Little
Johnny yells that he sees a bird and you scramble to hand him the
binoculars before he scares it away. Susan is frantically snapping
pictures and laughing as you try to disengage the binoculars from your
backpack, all the while doing your best not to spill your cup of joe.
Just think of what an adventure this could be, and remember you are
helping ornithologists from across the world with their research at the
same time. Happy bird watching!
Becky for My Wonderful World
Photos courtesy of My Shot Your Shot