Thursday, February 13, 2014

Goodbye Storms, Hello Birdies!

Now, after the massive winter storm that socked the Deep South with freezing rain, sleet, and snow, and then buried the mid-Atlantic and Northeast in snow, comes some real February fun!

And it is not just for Americans but for anyone with computer-access who wants to participate from any place on Earth.

It is the annual Great Backyard Bird Count beginning tomorrow (St. Valentine's Day) and lasting through Monday, February 17. Birdwatchers of all ages and levels of experience can count and report birds and give scientists a snapshot of avian populations and migration patterns.

Just go to and sign up. There is no charge. Three top-rate conservation-oriented organizations run the event -- the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada.

This will be the second consecutive year the Steadfast Dawgwalker and his household (including grandkids) have participated. (You can look up our reports on the last Count under February 2013 on this blog.)

This fun event comes just in time to rescue many of us from going stir-crazy after rare back-to-back ice storms for coastal South Carolina. It still feels like the Arctic today, but tomorrow the sun is expected to be out with temperatures rising to the high 50s, which will feel like a heat wave.

The birds have been numerous and very hungry through the storms, and likely will be through the four days of the Count. During the crisis, they have discovered that my new lantern-shaped feeder contains a reservoir of sunflower seed that will pop out for them if they only will take a perch. There has been much traffic on the feeder and on the ground as well, plus we have two smaller feeders at the side of the house that the smaller birds, notably sparrows and warblers, enjoy.

To participate you can count birds for as little as 15 minutes on one or more days of the event, or for as long as you want.  You then submit your list to the website each day.

If you sometimes have trouble distinguishing among birds of similar appearance (as I do), there are guides on the site to help you. I love the pretty, yellowish warblers, but there are dozens of varieties of this little bird. I surmise that we amateurs do the best we can do after consulting the Sibley Guide and other sources, and then the experts that receive the data sort everything out.

Anyway, this is a nice family activity, and a great way to enjoy Nature after a rough spell of winter weather. Have fun!

                                          © Robert G. Holland  2014

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