The Great Backyard Bird Count

February 8, 2011 1 Comment

Most of the winter, Dwayne and I have been trying to figure out how many pairs of Cardinals are visiting our feeders.  We have had at least 6 males at one time and as many females, although not necessarily at the same time. The problem is, they keep flying off as a new one flies in, or moves to a different spot.  Very difficult to count.

This photo boasts a female downy woodpecker on the suet feeder, a mourning dove on the arbor in the background, a male cardinal in the flat feeder along with a purple finch and a sparrow. The other one may be a sparrow or a female finch.

Which should make for an interesting time from February 18-21 this year.  Those are the dates of the 2011 Great Backyard Bird Count.  While I have heard of the Christmas Bird Count for years, this is the first year that I have heard of the Great Backyard Bird Count (even though this will be the 14th year).  I have probably heard of it before and just thought it was the Christmas one.  The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. 

This picture shows several of the 13 or so doves on the fence, the one on the deck, 1 cardinal and 2 sparrows. Unfortunately, I am not sure about the variety of sparrow, so I wouldn't count those.

Even though it is called the Great BACKYARD Bird Count, you do not actually have to be in your backyard to help out.  You can go to a park, your schoolyard, a nature center… anywhere there are birds.  You also don’t have to be an ornithologist (bird expert).  If you see a species you can’t identify, look in a field guide.  If you still aren’t sure, you don’t have to report that species.  Only report the ones you know.

The hairy woodpecker on the wooden suet feeder with the doves on the fence.

You only have to could for 15 minutes on one or more of the four days.  You can count for longer each day and all of the four days.  You can enter your tallies at the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) website…. click on the chickadee cutout…

The more people who participate the better the snapshot of the winter’s birds.  Scientists can track the ups and downs of bird populations and learn more about their movements from year to year.

The chickadee (and we have counted at least 6 at one time) likes to grab a seed....

And take it to the rose canes to crack it open. This is a look at his, um, rear end.

According to the GBBC’s website, last year the participants of the count reported 602 species on more that 97,300 lists.  They also recommend keeping your digital camera handy, too.  You can upload photos of the birds you have seen during the count through the GBBC website. 

This has a junco, looks like 3 purple finch males, 6 finch females and a couple that I can't tell what they are from the back.

Hit the site before the count and you can download a list of birds that you could see in our area right now.  It is on the GBBC website under the “What is the GBBC?” or “How to Participate” buttons on the left side.  Then click on the link for a regional checklist and put in your zip code.  This list may make it easier to tally the species that you see.  If you see eight juncos, then twelve and then a flock of about 30, you will record the 30.  That is the highest number you see at once.  They recommend this method in order to avoid counting the same birds over and over again.

Junco, 2, check. Purple house finch, 2 male, 3 female, check. Goldfinch, 1 check (the one with his back to you and the sort of forked tail). And the bird poking his head into the right side of the picture may be a finch...

If you are counting for more than one day, enter a new checklist for each day that you participate in the count.  It doesn’t matter if you are in the same spot or move to a different one.  They want a new list for each day.  And if you move to a different location on the same day, you can submit a new checklist for that location in addition to the first one.

The female finch is in the foreground with the goldfinch in the back.

Click here for instructions on how to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

The downy (can't tell if it is male or female) is on the birch tree looking at the suet, making sure the hairy doesn't come back to chase him away. The line up of the doves continues on the fence.

Good luck in keeping track of all the birds that fly in and out of your counting space.  And if you can’t do it this year… make plans for next year!

Oh… and I’m pretty sure I saw a robin on Sunday.  I’ll take that as a good sign!

Dig it!

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  1. Mike Weinard says:

    The Great Backyard Bird Count will be a lot of fun! And thanks to Eileen for posting the info to help people participate. BTW–has anyone else noticed, some of the birds (especially cardinals)have been singing their “Spring songs” in the mornings for the past few days! Go outside about 6:30 a.m. & listen for them.

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