Sunday, January 11, 2015

Preparing for Backyard Bird Count

Fun-filled activities have not been abundant lately. Therefore, it is with joy that I note the approach of the 18th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Furthermore, just about the same time it will be ending, pitchers and catchers will be reporting to baseball's Spring Training -- another occasion for cheers.

This week, I will pull out my Sibley's and other bird books and starting brushing up on my skills of identifying the wonderfully varied species of our feathered friends. A nice feature of the GBBC is that you don't have to be an expert to participate; novices are welcome. It is a fun and educational event. And from the checklists submitted online, experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society can glean useful information about how various birds are faring all around the world.

To get the full scoop, go to www.birdcount.org.

Painted Bunting, photo courtesy National Audubon Society
This year's count will be over the weekend that includes Saint Valentine's Day -- Friday, February 13, through Monday, February 16. You can count birds for as little as 15 minutes a day, or for as long as you like. You can literally peer out over your backyard or you can take a hike and expand your vista (I like to do some of both). Last year's total of 144,000 checklists submitted was an all-time high. The photo to the right was taken by Bob Howdeshell, a 2014 GBBC participant.

The event provides an opportunity to hone your ID skills to a higher level off specificity. The sponsors offer some helpful visual guides online in this regard. For example, are those Black-capped or Carolina Chickadees I see boldly swooping in on my feeder in the mornings? Because we live in Carolina, I might make an assumption, but it well could be wrong (same goes for wrens, Carolina or other). And what about all those chip-chip-chipping sparrows that all look like little brown birds if you don't care to discern the differences?

I am looking forward to the Backyard Bird Count, even though developers have decimated the woods out beyond our backyard. I am determined to keep our own land an inviting refuge for these beautiful creatures God created as a blessing to Nature and to all of us.

                                               © Robert G. Holland  2015

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