From the Ground Up: Looking for signs of spring?



I know that not everyone loves a snowy winter the way I do, and the weekend’s snowstorm — still just a forecast as I write this — may not be what you want. But take heart! Spring is on the way, evidenced by noticeably longer days and birds practicing their warm-weather songs.

A different sign of spring is the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), which runs this year from February 18-21. Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership with the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada, the GBBC is a fun, citizen-science project that just about anyone can participate in. You don’t need to be an experienced “birder,” and you don’t even have to leave your home.

During the count, people around the globe watch and record the birds that they see in a designated area of their choice. This can be a backyard bird feeder, a local park, or any other outdoor area where birds are likely to visit.

The amount of data collected from this project is huge. In 2021, GBBC participants in 190 countries counted nearly 6,436 species of birds on nearly 380,000 checklists.

Participating is easy. Here are the basics:

Register — create a new account through the website, or sign in using your existing login name and password.

Count — Count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more of the days of the Count. You can count birds at as many places and on as many of the days as you like; just keep a separate list of counts for each day and/or location. Submit a separate checklist for each new day, for each new location, or for the same location if you counted at a different time of day.

Enter — Enter your results on the GBBC website by clicking “Submit Observations” on the home page. Note: You will need access to a computer to enter your data.  Anyone with an email address and access to a public computer can submit data. It doesn’t have to be your own computer.

Updates have been made to the process over the past several years. For instance, to help with bird identification you can download the Merlin Bird ID app on your smartphone. To enter your bird sightings, you can use the eBird Mobile app.

Uncertain about your bird identification skills and ability to participate in the Count? On the website, look for the link to register for a free webinar. Experts will help you brush up on bird ID, unlock the mystery of bird songs, and practice counting birds no matter how large the flock or busy the feeder. The webinar is designed for birders of all ages and experience and will leave you feeling ready to be part of the GBBC.

Closed captioning will be provided and the webinar will be recorded. All registrants, even those who do not attend, will receive the recording later that week.

Our feathered friends not only brighten the landscape in the winter, but they also bring music to our ears the rest of the year. They also take care of a huge quantity of insect pests for us gardeners. Taking part in the GBBC is something we can do for them! Just show up, and wait for the birds to show up. Why not register now and be ready to start counting tomorrow?

For full details on how to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, go to birdcount.org/. If you do participate, I’d love to hear about your experience.

Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to pamelacbaxter@gmail.com, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Share your gardening stories on Facebook at “Chester County Roots.” Pam’s book for children and families, Big Life Lessons from Nature’s Little Secrets, is available on Amazon.



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