Counting Birds for Science in February
Mid-Atlantic February weather underscores why an annual citizen science bird count is named “Backyard”. This year was typical: a raw, blustery week-end with temperatures in the teens and wind chill hovering near zero. No one wants to stay outside for very long while standing in place observing birds. The wind bites at your face and the chill makes it way through your clothes – no matter how carefully you’ve dressed. Your fingertips hurt if you remove your gloves to take photos or adjust your binoculars. It’s certainly not conditions that encourage regular folks to take up the hobby and count birds outdoors.
On the other hand, watching birds from the warmth of our home, from windows and doors, or stepping out in our backyard for the suggested 15 minutes is do-able! It’s fun to take a few minutes carefully noticing who is visiting your little spot of nature, and more so if you have bird feeders and baths. Besides contributing data to research, one feels a bit inspired that Spring is on its way.
The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is sponsored by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society to understand how bird populations are shifting. Worldwide, over 150,000 checklists were submitted this year.
I’ve participated in the project for several years. This year I watched birds from a new “backyard” – a native garden at a site where I work. I don’t know how the data compares to previous years at the same place. But I saw cardinals, nuthatches, titmouse, chickadees, downy woodpeckers, blue jays, and several unidentifiable-to-me sparrows.
These are all typical birds for February in my area, but it was nice to confirm they are still around!
Did you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count?