Saturday, February 22, 2014

No Need to Stop the Bird Counting!

Having thoroughly enjoyed the Great Backyard Bird Counts of February 2014 and '13, I was happy to discover that there is no reason to limit the reporting of bird sightings to just those special four days in February. By going to eBird.org, you can use the name and password you created for the GBBC and just keep on with your online counting year-round. (Or, I'm sure, if you didn't participate in the GBBC, you could register and start counting.)

It is nice to think that sighting from daily dawgwalking (or from sipping coffee on the patio) could help the good folks at Audubon and the Cornell Lab or Ornithology keep tabs on bird populations throughout the year.

Although some checklists will continue to trickle in through the end of February, most of the GBBC stats are set, and they are pretty interesting to ponder. Here are some in the GBBC eNewsletter:

Bird checklists came in from participants in 131 countries, a nice increase over last year's 110 and indeed a new record.

Stork-billed Kingfisher, Spotted in Borneo
Residents of the good ol' USA submitted the most checklists (112,281) followed by Canada with 12,340. However, India was the talk of the Count, with the great number of species reported -- 806. (From the U.S., the number of species was 643.) Checklists also came from (among others) Australia, China, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Iceland, Kenya -- and even Antarctica!

The species making the greatest number of appearances on checklists was the Northern Cardinal (53,540) closely followed by the Dark-eyed Junco, and then the Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, Downy Woodpecker, American Goldfinch, American Crow, House Finch, Tufted Titmouse, and Black-capped Chicakdee.

I have to say that the bright-red daddy Cardinal peeking from my green cedars at my main bird feeder is  right up there with the prettiest sights in my backyard.

The most numerous species (in terms of individuals spotted) made for a quite different list, topped by the Red-winged Blackbird (1.6 million), followed by the Snow Goose, Canada Goose, European Starling, Mallard, Ring-billed Gull, American Coot, Dark-eyed Junco, American Crow, and American Goldfinch.

Red-winged Blackbird, a Frequent Visitor

As reported here the other day, one of the most fascinating findings was a "massive irruption" of Snowy Owls into the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes states of the USA, along with southeastern Canada. So far, GBBC participants have logged more than 2,500 Snowy Owls in 25 states and seven Canadian provinces.)

The frigid conditions associated with the Polar Vortex also had an effect, with unusual movements of waterfowl and grebes reported. As the aNewsletter noted: "With the Great Lakes almost completely frozen, some species, such as the White-winged Scoter and the Long-tailed Duck, have fled the frozen lakes and stopped at inland locations where they are not usually found at this time of year."

Smart birds! We'll keep the feeder full for you and continue counting.

                                                      © Robert G. Holland   2014

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