The Great Backyard Bird Count (or GBBC) has begun!
The GBBC is an annual four-day event for birders of all ages across North America. The 2019 GBBC runs from February 15-18.
This bird “census” allows scientists to see where birds are located across the continent and helps answer questions:
- Are birds migrating earlier or later than they did in previous years?
- How is winter cold affecting bird populations?
- The Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society in the U.S., along with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada, lead the event each year with additional sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.
Reason #1 to participate in the GBBC: It’s easy
So I’ll admit it, I am not a rocket scientist. I do not enjoy slogging through five pages of technical instructions to set my alarm clock after the electricity blinks.
I like easy “1-2-3 and it is finished” activities and, fortunately, that is all it takes to participate in the GBBC. Simply (1) count birds for at least 15 minutes, (2) tally the number of each kind of bird you see, and (3) enter your data into GBBC’s website.
Reason #2: Get fresh air
The GBBC is the perfect excuse to get outside and enjoy nature for a
brief time. I realize it is the middle of winter, but there is just something refreshing about getting out in the open and breathing in some of that sweet-smelling fresh air.
If a blizzard or major storm interferes with your bird-counting plans this weekend, I understand, but I am hoping, for your sake, that sometime between now and Monday there will be time to escape outside for a few minutes.
Taking in bird activity from a screened-in porch is a good compromise if you are unable to go outdoors.
Reason #3: It’s educational
What if you go outside and even after five to ten minutes of waiting do not spy a single winged-animal? Or the birds are so far away that you are unable to identify what kind of sparrows or robins they are? Maybe the specimen you spot is close by, but you have not the slightest notion what it is?
Yes, all of these situations could happen, so I suggest checking out the bird-watching resources that the GBBC website provides for assistance. They range from suggestions for how to choose a good pair of binoculars to an online bird guide to bird-feeding tips.
The GBBC does not require that you pass a test or turn in a twenty-page paper at the end of it, but you will most likely learn a lot about birds just by participating and exploring the available materials.
Reason #4: The photo contest
Maybe you need some competitive incentive to go with your helping of fresh air and learning. Well, you are in luck! In addition to the annual bird count, there is a photo contest!
Reason #5: It’s FUN!
My last, but far-from-least, reason for everyone to participate in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count is that you will have SO much fun.
Here is a mental picture for you: You are outside walking through the park near your house. The birds are singing; the sun is shining. Little Johnny yells that he sees a bird and you scramble to hand him the binoculars before he scares it away. Susan is frantically snapping pictures and laughing as you try to disengage the binoculars from your backpack, all the while doing your best not to spill your cup of joe.
Just think of what an adventure this could be, and remember you are helping ornithologists from across the world with their research at the same time.
Happy bird watching!