Everyone is busy; we know that, but we'd like to ask you to drop and give us 15. No, it’s not about pushups or crunches. Instead, drop your cell phone, computer or whatever screen you are looking at, and give 15 minutes of your time to look around your backyard. Specifically, look at the birds.
Friday, Feb. 12 through Monday, Feb. 15 is the 19th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), conducted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate Valentine’s weekend than showing your love for nature and creatures by participating in the count. The good news is, you don’t have to participate all weekend–scientists are only asking for a minimum of 15 minutes (or more if you'd like!) of counting birds to participate. You can be any age and from any location around the world to get involved, according to the National Audubon Society.
To participate in the count, simply register online. Then all you need to do is count the number and kinds of birds you see for 15 minutes or more over that weekend, and put them into a checklist. You’ll be able to see what types of birds other people in your area are counting and even share photos. Last year, the bird count included participants in 100 countries, observing 5,090 different species, according to the GBBC website.
The Great Backyard Bird Count was launched in 1998 and gives scientists a wealth of information they wouldn’t normally have at their disposal. The fact is, birds are constantly in flux, and no single scientist or team of scientists could possibly understand their distribution and movements over a short period of time without such citizen science. The annual count, along with similar citizen science projects, provides vital information about how climate and weather influence birds, timing of migrations compared to previous years, diseases that affect birds in different regions, and so much more!
Without such widespread observation, there are idiosyncrasies and changes in bird behavior that might remain unknown. According to the National Audubon Society, in 2014, the count data showed a large irruption of snowy owls across the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions of the U.S. Scientists are still studying the reason for this and gathering data from bird watchers, but it likely has to do with available food sources.
So, put down your devices (for the moment), get out your binoculars and help scientists with this important work. You will likely learn something new about the feathered friends who frequent your yard, and we hope you’ll have fun in the process!
We recommend using feeders and water sources to help draw birds into your yard. Having a bird-friendly yard will make for easier counting, but it’s a great idea to leave these out all year round. Just be sure to check the National Audubon Society’s website for recommendations, particularly about keeping feeders clean so they don’t spread disease.
Also, don't forget to REGISTER here!