It is not too late to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count! From Friday, Feb. 17, through Monday, Feb. 20, citizens all over the U.S. and Canada will be counting birds.
Started by the Cornell Ornithology Lab, www.birds.cornell.edu, fifteen years ago the numbers of birds counted increase each year as more citizens take part. All you need to count is a window into your yard or a stroll outside. The backyard bird count provides important data on numbers of bird species, migrations, and other population data.
Several press releases have indicated that there may be some surprises in store this year because of the warmer than normal winter and the lack of snowfall in the lower 48 states. Thus record snowfalls in Alaska and Canada may push snowy owls into the count in the lower 48 as they stray outside their normal territory in search of food.
This is a great family activity or a great excuse to visit parks or wooded areas outdoors as the weather promises to continue to be warmer than normal this weekend. Go to the website and familiarize yourself with what birds you are likely to see, download a list of Midwestern birds most commonly sighted, and have a watch handy so you can time your sightings from fifteen minutes to 4 hours.
This morning I sent in my sightings: 7 species of twenty birds. The most unusual was an American Kestrel, the smallest falcon in the U.S. One has been hanging around my apartment building all winter long. Other species sighted included pigeons, starlings, juncos, sparrows and cardinals, common to our area.
If you feel comfortable with your birding knowledge, you can go straight to the tally sheets at http://www.birdcount.org. The National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada are partnering with Cornell Ornithology Lab this year to really get the word out.
So grab your pencil and tally sheet (binoculars are optional) and start counting!