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Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are.

And for the first time, this year participants from all over the world will be able to submit checklists, so my dad in England will be able to join in too.

The following is taken from the GBBC website:

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Everyone is welcome--from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

Participants tally the number of individual birds of each species they see during their count period and enter these numbers on the GBBC website.

All you have to do is set up a free GBBC account to submit your checklists or use login information from an existing account if you've taken part before. Visit the How to Participate page for more details.

As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or, for the first time this year,  from anywhere in the world.

Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see for the GBBC photo contest. A selection of images is posted in the online photo gallery.

Why count birds?

Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.

Scientists use the GBBC information, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to get the “big picture” about what is happening to bird populations.

The longer these data are collected, the more meaningful they become in helping scientists investigate far-reaching questions, like these:

• How will the weather influence bird populations?

• Where are winter finches and other “irruptive” species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?

• How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?

• How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?

• What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
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I know in our particular garden, our bird population has been greatly affected by the loss of habitat around us.  Thankfully, there's still a hedgerow on the other side of the road behind our house.  If that goes, I'm sure the rest of the birds will be gone too :-(

It will be interesting to see how this year's numbers stack up against the previous three years that I have participated.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

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