I, Citizen Scientist
We just got another six inches of snow, but let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), which ends today and which I participated in for the first time.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is an exercise in crowd sourcing begun in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada. The basic idea is that on at least one day over a long weekend, volunteers jot down all the birds they see over a set period, which can be as little as 15 minutes. The location can be a park, a wildlife preserve, or your own yard (which is my preference).
Since I already spend a lot of time watching birds from the back porch, I figured I might as well count them and contribute to something productive.
Last year, over 100,ooo people from 111 countries reported seeing more than 33 million birds on the GBBC website. The data helps scientists identify at-risk species and changes in migration patterns, among other things.
Judy and I had fun counting birds in the back garden from the comfort of our enclosed porch. We did 15 minutes for each day of the project. There were lots of birds, though of only seven species, which was a little disappointing. We saw many Northern Cardinals, plus Mourning Doves, Goldfinches, House Finches, Juncos, Downy Woodpeckers – and, of course, English Sparrows. A number of our favorites, such as the Chickadees, Nuthatches, Bluejays, and Northern Flickers, did not bother to visit us during our counting periods.
I felt quite virtuous while entering my bird reports, like I had done my bit for ornithology. In fact, I was so inspired I signed up for another citizen science project sponsored by the Cornell Lab: Project FeederWatch, which I’ll write about in a later post. Just know that if you regret missing out on the Great Backyard Bird Count, Project FeederWatch lasts until April 4th. Plus, there’s always next year.
Have you ever participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count?