Birders of all kinds can help count

The Great Backyard Bird Count will take place all across North America on Feb. 18-21. It is sponsored by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Bird Studies Canada is its Canadian partner. This count is a good way to learn more about birds, and it is an opportunity to help gather scientific knowledge on them.

It is held in February when the bird population is still relatively stable and just before the spring migration gets underway. Counting birds at this time of the year gives a pretty accurate picture of how various species survived the winter. It also shows where large numbers were concentrated and this leads to research on why numbers were greater in these areas.

This count can be as demanding or as simple as you want. Anyone can participate. Both beginning birders and experts are encouraged to contribute their findings and there is no cost to participants. It’s free and fun. You can count for only 15 minutes on one day if that is all the time you can spare. You can also count on all four days and for as long as you want on each day. If you want to make this a marathon exercise in birding, your efforts will be welcome.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is also set up to be used as a teaching tool in the classroom. The count website makes it possible to download various study aids. It is possible to print out posters, puzzles, pages for coloring and a wide range of interesting and colorful projects. These are available at: www.birdsource.org/gbbc/whycount.html. The site is full of interesting facts as well as some outstanding bird photographs.

Part of the count activities includes a photo contest. Participants are encouraged to send in their best shots of birds seen during their count. When perusing the photographs for the last 10 years it is apparent that there are many birdwatchers who are also excellent bird photographers. I’ve been aware of this due to the many good photographs sent in from the readers of this column. I hope that those of you who enjoy photographing birds will pick out your best shots and send them in with your data.

When you visit the count website, be sure to visit all of the sections listed on the left-hand side of the home page. Each one is interesting, informative and helpful. This is an excellent site and worth taking some time to explore.

It’s been several years since I took part in this count but this year I am strongly tempted to do it – from Hawaii. That will be a new experience and in several ways drops me right into the beginner category. It should be great fun. That’s the beauty of this count. You can gather all your forms and other materials from the website and do the count anywhere.

An added feature that I remember from the last time I participated was being able to check the site to see not only what was being counted all over the country, but what were the most commonly counted birds in different parts of the country including the Northwest. Free and fun, a great combination and one I hope you will take advantage of. Remember, it’s for the good of the birds.

Write to Joan Carson, PO Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. (Or send e-mail to joanpcarson@comcast.net)