February 14-17 2014 is the officially designated “Great Backyard Bird Count.” According to its sponsors, the GBBC is “the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time,” started in 1998. According to me, it’s a fantastic excuse to spend the morning sipping coffee and peering eagerly out my windows at the feathery creatures outside, whose songs remind me that the world goes on even in bitter winter weather, and that spring’s just around the corner!
Thanks to Meredith, who always gives such thoughtful gifts (see my previous post), we have a new bird feeder to replace the one that broke last year. We fill it with 100% sunflower seeds, leaving out the filler in some bird seed blends (apparently, contrary to popular belief, birds like millet about as much as humans do. Which is not very much). The famished winter birds go through a whole feeder full in less than a week this time of year. A few days ago a flock of robins passed through the woods behind our house. Carolina wrens (my favorites) have also been active. It won’t be too long until migratory birds start moving back our way – a couple months, maybe?
In fifteen minutes this morning, I observed: 5 Carolina chickadees, 3 (vocal) song sparrows, 2 tufted titmice, 2 mourning doves, 2 white-breasted nuthatches, 1 downy woodpecker, 1 red-bellied woodpecker, 1 house finch, 1 Northern cardinal.
Counting birds through citizen science helps scientists understand the “big picture” of bird populations, and the influences of weather, climate change, and diseases; migration patterns over time; and differences in bird diversity among urban, suburban, rural, and natural areas. You can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count today – here’s how! You can also consider making your yard and garden more bird friendly – here are some tips.