Thursday, February 11, 2016

Are You Up for the Count?

Tomorrow begins the worldwide Great Backyard Bird Count, which will run four days, St. Valentine's Day included. The good folks at the Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Bird Studies Canada provide leadership and inspiration.

It is free, a lot of fun, and involves no more heavy lifting than perhaps a pair of binoculars. You can count birds for as little as 15 minutes a day or for much longer periods of time if you wish. Go to to find the details and sign up.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is also my re-birthday. I call it that because just two days before Valentines, 11 years ago, I had complex heart surgery that extended my life. It entailed replacing my very leaky aortic valve and my greatly enlarged aortic root, all in one operation. A super-great surgeon, Dr. Alan Speir at Inova Fairfax in Northern Virginia, performed this five-hour procedure.

So today I am counting my blessings along with birds.

A day before the count, we witnessed the return to a neighborhood lake of a pair of gorgeous swans. We had enjoyed seeing them regularly and pretty much year-round, until about a year ago when they just disappeared. It was a thrill to see them sailing the lake again. Of course, we have no idea if this is the same pair that was with us before, but we like to think it is our old friends returned home.

As for the Bird Count, in 2015 people in more than 100 nations toted 5,090 species of birds on some 147,000 checklists submitted online. Scientists gather valuable data from this citizen-participation event. For instance, they may gain a better understanding of differences in bird diversity that are evidence in cities as opposed to suburban and rural areas.

Join the fun if you can.

                                   © Robert G. Holland  2016

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