Tomorrow is the Last Day of the Great Backyard Bird Count
Yesterday and today Judy and I sat for an hour on the back porch, watching birds. This was not an example of us wasting time. No, it was an example of us carrying out our responsibilities as Citizen Scientists.
Specifically, we were taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Launched in 1998 and led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, the GBBC enlists amateur birdwatchers to measure bird population trends.
One thing I really like about the GBBC is that you can do it from the comfort of a chair by the window. That’s the kind of birdwatching I can really appreciate. Particularly since yesterday got down to 5 degrees F (-15 C). Today it was snowing and a bit warmer, but I still preferred to count my birds from inside.
Hardier birders head out to parks, beaches, nature preserves, and other likely outdoor locations.
Over both days Judy and I saw nine bird species, including Juncos, Goldfinches, Cardinals, Chickadees, House Sparrows, Tree Sparrows (I think), Downy Woodpeckers, and Hairy Woodpeckers. The greatest excitement, however, came when a Red-Tailed Hawk twice swooped through the backyard. This caused all the other birds to scatter and not return for another fifteen minutes or so.
I was a little disappointed that the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and White-Breasted Nuthatches did not make appearances, because they have been fairly frequent visitors to our back garden this winter. I even thought of cheating and putting them on my checklist (because they might have shown up, after all).
But then I thought, would Jonas Salk or Albert Einstein have falsely recorded a Red-Bellied Woodpecker on their checklists? I don’t think so. And so I stayed true to my oath as a Citizen Scientist. Not that there is an actual oath, but you know what I mean.
A nice thing about the GBBC is that you can enter your data online and see the data develop in real time. For example, as of this afternoon there were almost 43,000 checklists submitted from the USA, plus thousands more from 115 other countries. Closer to home, there were 223 checklists submitted from Cook County, Illinois, where I live.
Monday, February 16, is the last day of the GBBC. I have the day off, and I’m thinking I’ll spend one more hour doing another checklist. Maybe the Red-Bellied Woodpecker will show up.
If you’d like to participate, check out the GBBC website here. You can spend as little as 15 minutes watching from the comfort of your own home, and there are guides to help with bird identification.
Have you taken part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, and if so what birds did you see?