By Becky Herman
Join us Feb 12-15 for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. This citizen science project is a joint effort of three organizations: the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds Canada and the National Audubon Society.
Everyone is welcome to participate in this four-day whirlwind of watching, counting and recording birds. Participants can choose to observe birds for the minimum amount of time (15 minutes) on one of the count’s four days. Or, you can spend all four days outdoors, recording as you go, on your smartphone. Your choice, but remember that even accounts of limited sightings are valuable to the members of the scientific community, especially when that data is compared to previous years’ reports. The data can show the health of a species, or, perhaps, a decline in the species’ numbers. They can point out changes in behavior which could signal birds’ reactions to climate change. There is so much for the scientific community to learn from your observations.
If you are new to counting birds, try downloading the Merlin ID app on your smartphone. It’s an easy-to-use tool to record sightings as you experience them on the fly, so to speak; no pun intended.
If you have watched birds before and are familiar with eBird, you can use either the mobile option on your phone or eBird on your computer to submit your sightings. Note: You can start entering bird lists at midnight local time on the first day of the count, anywhere in the world. Data entry remains open until March 1, but the information you enter should only be from the four days of the Great Backyard Bird Count. Visit www.birdcount.org/participate/ to get started.
If you have questions or simply want more information, try doing an online search for “Great Backyard Bird Count.” You will find a wealth of information there. Local folks with the Weminuche Audubon Society (weminuchaudubon.org) are also great sources for information. They are happy to field questions and offer advice: Jean Zirnhelt (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Keith Bruno (email@example.com).
Have a great time, enjoy being outdoors in spite of the pandemic, wear a mask, practice social distancing and, most of all, celebrate the wonderful variety of birds we have here in Colorado.