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    Friday, April 19, 2024

    Nature Notes: It’s easy to join the Great Backyard Bird Count

    Bird counts record many important sightings, like this beautiful red-tailed hawk. (Photo by Bill Hobbs)

    If you like to watch birds and want to make an impact, the National Audubon Society is holding its 25th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), running Feb. 17-20.

    People can participate in a variety of ways.

    All you need to do is choose a site: your own backyard, a street, or a park, or take a stroll along the seashore. My favorite place to watch birds is along forest edges.

    Then, for at least 15 minutes or more, during any of those four days, record the different species of birds that you saw, how many, their approximate location, the time of day — and then report them.

    Here’s how: If you have participated in the count before and want to record numbers of birds, try the free app, called eBird Mobile app (you can download it on your smartphone), or enter your bird list on the eBird website from your desktop or laptop.

    Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, the GBBC is mushrooming. In 2021, for example, an estimated 300,000 people worldwide submitted checklists, reporting 6,436 different bird species.

    “Historically, the GBBC event was national. Then we expanded to Canada, and now it’s global, with 192 countries participating in 2022,” explained Becca Rodomsky-Bish, project leader for The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s GBBC.

    Why are bird counts this size important?

    “The Great Backyard Bird Count is an important bridge between the Christmas Bird Count and summer bird counts.  It helps scientists better track distribution and trends in birds in the late winter,” said Patrick Comins, executive director of The Connecticut Audubon Society. “It’s fun and easy to participate,” he added.

    To help birders — beginners and experts alike — Bish advises participants to download a free, brilliantly engineered app on your smart phone, called Merlin Bird ID app.

    As many birders know, often you can hear a bird, but can’t see it. This app listens to the bird’s call, scans various bird songs from over 6,000 species of birds in its inventory, and instantly identifies the fine feathered friend. All you need to do is activate the app and hold your phone up to the singing bird, and bingo! It’s identified.

    “We are always paying attention to the types of birds people are reporting, flock numbers, and any unusual sightings,” Bish said. “The sky is the limit with what we learn each year from this event.”

    Please join in the fun. Enjoy!

    Bill Hobbs is an avid backyard birder and contributing writer for The Times and Estuary magazine. He can be reached for comments at whobbs246@gmail.com.

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