Have you ever heard of the Great Backyard Bird Count?
It’s February and almost time for the 2018 Great Backyard Bird Count! This year it goes from February 16 through 19. Started by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audobon Society in 1998, this is a free four-day long event and anyone can participate. You can count for as little as fifteen minutes or as long as you like, one day or all four. This event helps scientists get a better idea of how bird populations are doing. Last year (2017 GBBC) was the biggest ever with over 160,000 people participating!
To find out exactly how to participate, go to the GBBC website. You will need to make an account if you haven’t already. Here’s a link to an instructional PDF. If you are a brand new user, they recommend registering at BirdCount.org.
You can count birds in your own yard, a park, on roadsides, or anywhere. The online report forms allow you to log the time and location. There are lots of tips on counting and identifying birds on the website as well and many excellent bird photographs. If you take some bird pictures you can submit those too.
You can start with a printed checklist or just use a notebook. Note your date, time, and location. I usually take a notebook and write in the birds I expect to find then use tally marks during the observation period. If there are several birds of the same species, try to report the largest number you saw at one time, this way you won’t overcount. If I get an unexpected bird I just write it in. After I have completed all my viewing I log in and enter the data using their easy forms.
I have tried to participate a little bit every year but it’s been kind of hit and miss. In my own backyard, we usually see lots of birds when it’s cold and nasty out, but when the GBBC rolls around we nearly always have nice warm weather and the birds don’t show up. 😀 I will give it a whirl anyway!
If you really enjoy keeping track of bird sightings, on the eBird website you can log bird sightings year round and it will track all your data for you. I haven’t logged in a while and have some serious updating to do…
Helpful bird identification tips can be found at eBird, along with bird data and news. Audobon.org has news and photos. Cornell’s website has an online searchable bird guide. There are also mobile phone apps you can use.
This is an excellent opportunity to get your kids involved in citizen science, a process in which volunteers partner with scientists to answer real-world questions. Anyone can “do science” this way; you don’t have to have a degree. You could go on a field trip to a park and make a really fun day of it, and you might spot more than just birds!
Are you planning to participate in the GBBC this year? Let us know in the comments!