As a follow up to my previous post, here is a wonderful outdoor activity you can do with your children. In that post, I listed “feeding the birds” as an easy activity to use to encourage them to go outside. Well, this one will help you take it one step further because it will help you teach them about nature.
Consider participating in the National Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count coming up in a few weeks. At the end of this post, I have included the official press release from the National Audubon Society, which includes all the information you need to participate.
If you choose to participate with your children, I recommend taking them to the library to borrow a couple of bird identification books. You can browse through them and point out birds you are likely to find in your yard. Some easy ones are Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, Black Crows, Black-Capped Chickadees and the Tufted Titmouse. Have them look at the photos or drawings and then read about each species’ habits such as what they eat, where they will build nests in the Spring, etc. Or you can browse the site www.allaboutbirds.org, courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which includes a plethora of information about birds, how to attract them to your yard and birding basics. I also suggest practicing outside with them a few days before the bird count. This will give them some experience in looking for birds and confidence in their ability to find and name them. You could also purchase a set of binoculars to help them feel like official “birdwatchers,” but it isn’t necessary.
Next, go outside between February 12-15 and count. Then, enter your results at http://gbbc.birdsource.org/gbbcApps/input. Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada use the infromation to learn more about birds and how to protect them. Be sure to send me comments about what you spotted in your backyard. And lastly, have fun!
New York, NY, January 27, 2010 – Bird watchers coast to coast are invited to take part in the 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, Friday, February 12, through Monday, February 15, 2010.
Participants in the free event will join tens of thousands of volunteers counting birds in their own backyards, local parks or wildlife refuges.
Each checklist submitted by these “citizen scientists” helps researchers at Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada learn more about birds and how to protect them. Last year, participants turned in more than 93,600 checklists online, creating the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.
“Taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to get outside with family and friends, have fun, and help birds—all at the same time,” said Audubon Education Vice President, Judy Braus. “Even if you can identify a few species you can provide important information that enables scientists to learn more about how the environment is changing and how that affects our conservation priorities.”
Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from novice bird watchers to experts. Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the event and report their sightings online at www.birdcount.org. One 2009 participant said, “Thank you for the opportunity to participate in citizen science. I have had my eyes opened to a whole new interest and I love it!”
“The GBBC is a perfect first step toward the sort of intensive monitoring needed to discover how birds are responding to environmental change,” said Janis Dickinson, Director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab. “Winter is such a vulnerable period for birds, so winter bird distributions are likely to be very sensitive to change. There is only one way—citizen science—to gather data on private lands where people live and the GBBC has been doing this across the continent for many years. GBBC has enormous potential both as an early warning system and in capturing and engaging people in more intensive sampling of birds across the landscape.”
Bird populations are always shifting and changing. For example, 2009 GBBC data highlighted a huge southern invasion of Pine Siskins across much of the eastern United States. Participants counted 279,469 Pine Siskins on 18,528 checklists, as compared to the previous high of 38,977 birds on 4,069 checklists in 2005. Failure of seed crops farther north caused the siskins to move south to find their favorite food.
On the www.birdcount.org website, participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during the count. The site has tips to help identify birds and special materials for educators. Participants may also enter the GBBC photo contest by uploading images taken during the count. Many images will be featured in the GBBC website’s photo gallery. All participants are entered in a drawing for prizes that include bird feeders, binoculars, books, CDs, and many other great birding products.
In 2010, Bird Studies Canada (BSC) joins the GBBC as the program’s Canadian partner. “Bird Studies Canada is delighted to be the Canadian partner for this extremely valuable program,” said George Finney, President of BSC. “Participating in the GBBC is an excellent way for Canadians to reconnect with their love of nature and birds.”
For more information about the GBBC, visit the website at www.birdcount.org. Or contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473, [email protected], or Audubon at (202) 861-2242 ext. 3050, [email protected]. In Canada, participants may contact Bird Studies Canada at 1-888-448-2473 ext. 134 or [email protected].
The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible, in part, by generous support from Wild Birds Unlimited.
Photo courtesy the National Digital Library of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.