If you are looking for a great activity that your whole family can enjoy, why not join the thousands of wildlife enthusiasts across the nation and around the world that will take part in the 2017 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)?
This year the twentieth annual GBBC will be held Friday, February 17, through Monday February 20.
The count is sponsored by the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Bird Studies Canada.
The information collected by thousands of volunteers provide wildlife biologists with a wealth of information regarding the status of birds throughout the United States, Canada, Columbia, Mexico, India, Morocco, Botswana and 123 other countries.
The data collected during this annual event are being used by biologists in a host of ways. For example, it helps us better understand how weather affects bird populations and the timing of bird migrations. It is also being utilized to determine the impact of diseases such as West Nile virus on birds. In addition, it is proving to be invaluable in assessing the impacts of widespread habitat changes on both bird diversity and numbers.
Joining the ever-growing army of private citizens that are aiding in this monumental effort is as easy as one, two, three.
The first step is to visit the GBBC website online at birdcount.org. Here you will find the simple directions needed to compile a checklist and submit your valuable data. In addition, if you download the count form, you will have a good idea what birds are likely to be seen in your area of the state.
Next, select an area(s) you want to survey. The area can be as small as a backyard, neighborhood, park, the countryside you pass on your drive to work, or an entire county for that matter.
Then, anytime during the four-day count, take as few as fifteen minutes away from your busy schedule and count only the birds that you can recognize. If you only feel comfortable identifying cardinals, simply count cardinals.
You can conduct a count on one or all four days of the count period. If you count on different days, you must submit a separate checklist for each day that you run a count. Many people survey a variety of sites each day during the count period.
Once you have completed a count, return to the GBBC website, and log your data. Although some people wait until the end of the count period to submit their sightings, I like to submit mine the day I conduct each survey.
This allows me to see how my data is impacting the count. This is possible because the site provides participants with real time maps illustrating the flow of information arriving from the field. As the data pours in from around the state and country you can literally watch as the maps fill up with color indicating areas where birds were seen.
I cannot overemphasize that you do not have to be an expert birder to take part in the count. All you have to do is tally the birds that you can identify. For that reason, it is a great conservation activity for youngsters, and oldsters, seasoned birders and casual wildlife watchers alike.
In addition, you do not even need to leave your home to do something positive for the birds that make your backyard and neighborhood such wonderful places. It does not get any better than that!