Friday, February 13, 2009

Another Way Birding Can Help Avian Research and Conservation


As many of you know today marks the official start of the 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), headed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. But don't let the catchy name fool you, the intent of this citizen science endeavor is to garner as much information about the wintering status of birds as possible. So don't fee like you have to only watch the birds at your feeder for four days! That is unless you want to.

If you are a regular eBird user you can enter your sightings to eBird as usual and your records will still have the same overall effect. If you'd like for your sightings information to be used in the regional map information you need to inter your tallies to the GBBC site directly. There is also one difference in recording species numbers that I should point out. For the GBBC you are supposed to "Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time" rather than the running total count system you may use for eBird. Of course you can find more specific info at the Great Backyard Bird Count site.

To be honest, and on my soap box for a moment, I really would love to see more of these types of counts at various times of the year! I know that the data gathered during these counts are often not quite as research robust as more rigorous Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS) or structured scientific research. But, I am a firm believer in every little bit counts. Imagine adding summer and migration counts (maybe even an early season and later season migration count) to the already rich data sets of CBCs, BBS, and GBBCs. Who knows what might be able to be pursed out of the data! Beside the importance of helping to instill a personal sense of place and value that comes along with our efforts at ensuring that the birds we all love to watch are benefiting from our "birding for science."

While the weather over most of the country will be cooling off over all, most locations should see decent weather for getting out to enjoy some birding. In the mid-Atlantic we can expect pretty nice partly cloudy conditions with decreasing winds but as I say getting a bit colder.

So, head out to your favorite birding "hot spot", take a nice long walk at your local patch, watch the backyard feeders, but do get out and find some birds. If nothing else, than for your own enjoyment. After all, it's proven that a nice leisurely walk does wonders to reduce stress and increase health!

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