Cuddling Up with Your Chickadee
Robin Photo by Anne K Moore
<![if !vml]><![endif]>Looking for something wild and crazy to do over
the Valentine weekend? Grab your binoculars and head outdoors - or better yet,
stay indoors - and count birds.
just that easy to become a citizen scientist.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society have organized several
bird count events during the winter that rely on data from people like you and
me. Each of these counts provides ornithologists (scientists who study birds)
with valuable information about the distribution of North
America’s birds and responses to environmental changes.
up in a few weeks is the Great Backyard Bird Count – GBBC for short – on February 12-15, 2010. This
requires nothing more than counting the birds in your backyard, a park, field
or any other place you happen to be, for at least 15 minutes on any or all of
the count days, then reporting the results - an easy time commitment that just
about anyone could embrace. Last year over 94,000 people participated, counting
over 11 million birds.
GBBC website (www.birdsource.org)
provides everything you need to know about equipment (binoculars and
enthusiasm), reporting data (electronically or by mail) and bird
<![if !vml]><![endif]>If it’s any consolation to the bird challenged,
most of the top ten birds found at feeders during the 2009 GBBC are easy to
identify: cardinal, mourning dove, dark-eyed junco, downy woodpecker, American
goldfinch, blue jay, house finch, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee and
and hundreds of other birds are pictured on the website and by clicking the
bird’s photo, information pops up including an audio file of its song and call.
This is one way to learn to identify birds without having to see them –
something I’m trying to learn how to do. So far, I’m feeling confident about
the “hoo-hooing” of the great horned owl that lives in our woods, the
chickadee’s gentle “buzz-squawk” and the mockingbird’s medley.
you are into statistics, you can go to the map section and see what states (Pennsylvania) and cities
submitted the most 2009 checklists. No surprise that the biggest variety of
species was observed in communities along the U. S. coastlines.
you have other “how to count” questions, be sure to go to the FAQ section. It
will tell you how to be sure you are not counting the same bird over and over
and how to estimate flock size – a formula I plan to use the next time a flock
of red-winged blackbirds takes over my backyard.
the “Learn About Birds”, be sure to read the section about buying and using binoculars.
Good binoculars will easily let in enough light to see who is at your feeder at
any time of day. I didn’t realize how much I was missing until I replaced my
old set – sort of like getting your bifocal prescription up-dated.
all this bird watching is assuming you have a feeder or two in your yard. And
who doesn’t? Some of us go into overdrive on feeding equipment: I have eight at
last count, which may be excessive or just average, I’m not sure. But, don’t
forget that water is the number one reason birds visit a location; food
encourages them to hang around.
you are interested in participating in a longer bird count, click on Project
Feeder Watch at the same website. Although it began in November, registration
is open until the end of February. Go to
information about both bird counts.
imagine you and your honey snuggled at the kitchen window on Valentine’s Day
counting the birds at your feeders. Gives a whole new meaning to “my little
chickadee” doesn’t it.