OFF THE PORCH with Judy and Don Self
As we write, the 115th Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is about to get under way. Between the 14th of December and 5th of January, tens of thousands of volunteers will take to the field to count the birds in over 2000 count circles, each 15 miles in diameter. They’ll count for a single 24-hour period, from midnight to 11:59 pm.
There are 11 count circles in Alabama. If you’re interested in participating, you can obtain the contact information for the Compiler for the circle nearest you by visiting the National Audubon Society website, www.birds.audubon.org.
This blog is supposed to be about the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), and about now, you may be asking yourself why they’re describing the Christmas Bird Count. And that’s a valid question.
We enjoy participating in both. And, with the CBC’s only a few days away, we thought some of you might like to give one a try. On the other hand, CBC’s may or may not be located near you. And the date selected for the nearest CBC may or may not fit your calendar. And there is a small participation fee. As an alternative, we’d like to suggest the Great Backyard Bird Count!
The 2015 GBBC begins at 6:00 am CST on Friday, February 13 and continues through Monday, February 16.
A complete description of the project and slide shows of:
- How to participate in the count
- 10 most frequently reported birds in last year’s count
- Tricky bird ID’s and,
- A list of frequently asked questions, visit www.gbbc.birdcount.org.
So, why should we participate? The serious answer is that our observations will provide scientists with crucial data at a scale that would otherwise be impossible attain. From the checklists we submit, scientists are able to track the health of bird populations, identifying the impact of diseases like West Nile virus, and the expansion or contraction of the range of both native and introduced species.
For school-age youngsters, the GBBC provides an opportunity to participate in real, hands-on science.
For you outdoor types, who’ve just begun to experience the first twinges of cabin fever, it’s an excuse to get out of the house. And the more domesticated among us can observe from the comfort of their easy chair with a cup of Java or hot chocolate in hand. In either case, it’s easy, fun and it’s free!
You can participate if you can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and you can enter their sightings online at www.gbbc,birdcount.org.
All skill levels and ages are welcome. And for the beginner and intermediate bird watcher, Cornell’s Merlin bird identification app is available at www.merlin.allaboutbirds.org.
Unlike the CBC, you can count anywhere you find birds. Your backyard and around your bird feeders works, but also think of the local municipal or Corps of Engineers park, your favorite wetlands, or a local wildlife refuge, and may I suggest, one or more of the stops on Alabama’s Birding Trails. Stops on the trails are open to the public and have habitat that attracts birds. Find a birding location near you on the Alabama Birding Trails website.
And if you simply can’t pry yourself out of that recliner, drag it and your binoculars, favorite field guide and a blank checklist over to a window where you can keep an eye on your backyard and count away!
The “bird observatory” at Almosta Farm. It’s nowhere near off the porch, but the birds are great and you’re never cold and wet!
And finally something for the statisticians in the audience, some numbers from the 2014 GBBC:
|Region||Checklists submitted||Species reported|
*Over 17.7 million individual birds were counted.
For the record, we submitted 30 checklists that included stops on the Piney Woods, Black Belt and West Alabama Birding Trails. Our final tally was 90 species. This year we’re going for 100.