Today marks the start of the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Running through until Monday you can help scientists track bird populations as well as seasonal movements with as little fifteen minutes of your time. It is free to participate, great fun for beginner and expert birders alike and the perfect way to introduce newcomers to birding. If you haven’t participated before signing up and submitting your counts is easy. Simply go to this link and follow the steps to sign up and participate. http://gbbc.birdcount.org/
Birds can be counted anywhere anytime over the course of the next four days. You may count for as little as fifteen minutes or all day if you like. Counts aren’t limited to your backyard despite the name. You can count in your backyard if you like but can also participate at your local park or other favourite birding hotspot. You may submit a list just once, everyday or multiple lists from the same day at different times. Every count is important as it helps scientists understand bird populations, ranges and seasonal movements. The information collected is then compared to that of other years and helps researchers understand how weather influences bird populations, where irruptive species such as the Snowy Owl appear some years and not others and how diseases like West Nile is effecting birds in different areas.
If you are new to birding and reluctant to participate, don’t be. Although accuracy is important every observation is helpful, so submitting counts of just the birds you are comfortable identifying still helps. It is also a great opportunity to introduce newcomers to the hobby of birding. If you are an avid birder count with someone, whether it be a niece, nephew, grandchild, or someone of similar age, compile a list together and help them to identify new species. Not only will you be helping science, you may just gain a new partner for your next birding adventure.