Monday, February 9, 2015

4 reasons to join the 2015 Great Backyard Bird Count

Hummingbird on a feeder

See that little green Ana's hummingbird on my feeder? He comes to visit me every single day, at both dawn and dusk. Normally, I just notice his presence and then get back to whatever it was I was doing. But this weekend, I'll do a little more. If he comes within a 15-minute time slot I've devoted to bird watching, his visit will be logged.

That's because I'm all signed up to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. And I think you should do so, too. Here's why:

1. You'll get to know the birds in your yard. 

Sure, you probably notice the little creatures that come for visits. But do you know their names? Do you know about the food they like to eat? Do you know what sorts of nests they build?

If you participate in the count, you'll learn all of that stuff. The online guides you can use to help you identify a bird (I like this one from Cornell) have all sorts of information about habitat and lifestyle. And that data can help you make your backyard even better for the birds that come calling.

2. You'll be linked with birders all around the world.

Last year, some 144,000 worksheets were submitted, and they came from all across the world. Australia, China, Ireland, England... Basically, any country you can think of had birders on the watch. If you're interested in global pastimes that put you in touch with people in far-flung communities, this is the task for you.

3. The data you'll provide is incredibly valuable. 

Scientists use the data gathered by patient bird watchers in order to do really important work. They can:
  • Attempt to explain how migration patterns are changing, due to development or climate
  • Determine if birds are moving to new environments due to habitat loss or climate
  • Assess the overall health of the global bird flock 
As public funding for research declines, it's harder and harder for scientists to get the data they need to do their work properly. This volunteer effort is just vital.

4. The birds need our help. 

Research suggests that 33 common bird species in the United States are in decline. We're ruining their homes with our habits, and we're killing off their food supplies with our chemicals. All of this damage is hard to see, because it happens so slowly. One moment, it seems as though there are hundreds of birds in the air. Decades later, there are hundreds fewer. We can't see the decline unless we count the birds. And if we can prove that we're harming them, maybe we can convince our politicians and leaders to step up and do something. You can be a part of that change.

Getting started

To participate, you'll need to do little more than sign up on this page. Then, set aside 15 minutes on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday (the 13th through the 16th). During that time, count all of the birds you see in your yard. Then, head back to the website and log in those little visitors. That's it!

I do hope you'll sign up and count with me this weekend. And if you do, be sure to leave me a comment here about how it all went! I'd love to hear your birding stories. 

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