February 15, 2019 is the first day of the twenty-second annual world-wide Audubon Backyard Bird Count, an annual weekend event that draws in over 150,000 volunteer “counters” in over 100 countries, and which last year reported counts on approximately 6,500 different species of our avian friends.
If you’re an amateur birdwatcher, at whatever experience level, and you have a spare fifteen minutes or more, and you’d like to help out, you can find information at birdcount.org, as well as the downloadable PDF with instructions on how to do this year’s count. It’s a wonderful family activity which can be done either while walking in the park, or sitting at a window watching the birds come and go in the trees or at the feeder. No feats of physical strength are required, and anyone with normal observational powers, pencil and paper, and a means of sending the results to the website can participate.
Right now (about 7:30PM on February 15), there have been over 22,000 checklists submitted, almost 4,000 species observed, and about 2.3 million birds counted so far this year. The count runs through the end-of-day on Monday, February 18.
Are you a photographer? There’s even a photo contest!
The Count is sponsored, and the numbers are compiled by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, and the data is used to help understand the migration and iruption patterns of birds world-wide, and the natural flux that bird populations have exhibited over centuries. Some of the questions addressed (if not completely answered) by this count, as well as the annual Christmas Bird Count and Project FeederWatch include:
• How will the weather and/or climate change influence bird populations?
• Some birds, such as winter finches, appear in large numbers during some years but not others. Where are these species from year to year, and what can we learn from these patterns?
• How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
• How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
• What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
We have a very respectable selection of Eastern birds at Chez She and its environs, and the two of us greatly enjoy observing them. So of course we’ve got our checklists and papers ready for tomorrow!
As far as the rest of the year goes, I have the eBird app on my iPhone, and when I see a bird I don’t recognize I try to snap a photo of it and submit the date and location to the Audubon Society. I was excited, one day, to see a pileated woodpecker, there are several different kingfishers down by the beaver dam, and there’s currently a very odd duck (really) who hangs out with a couple of Canada geese. I have not quite figured out what’s going on there, but I’m keeping an eye on the situation, trying to avoid one of those “there goes the neighborhood” moments.
Happy Birding, everyone! It’s a wonderful, enjoyable, peaceful little pastime.