A garden is not a garden without birds. From orange, black and white towhees scraping leaf litter for insects, to hummers sipping red flowering sage, we are blessed in the Sierra foothills by their visits. If you’re a bird lover, there’s a special occasion for you: the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) from February 18-21, organized jointly by the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada. During the four-day count, you can watch, record your sightings, and share them with birdwatchers around the world.
It’s the 25thand birthday of the count, and with him they offer a free webinar on February 16 to help you prepare for bird identification. “Join our experts to delve deeper into bird identification, unravel the mystery of bird songs, and practice bird counting, regardless of flock size or feeder occupancy,” organizers say. “This webinar is designed for birdwatchers of all ages and experiences – you will leave feeling confident and ready to be part of the GBBC!”
Anyone can conduct a bird count for as little as 15 minutes at any time during the event, then enter their observations online at www.birdcount.org. Each checklist submitted during the count helps researchers in the Cornell Ornithology Lab and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing, how to protect them and the environment we share. You also have the option to share photos of the birds you see. And if you see a bird you can’t identify, the GBBC offers a free bird identification app called Merlin, on a desktop or mobile platform: https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/.
Last year, about 300,000+ participants submitted their bird sightings online, creating the largest instant snapshot of global bird populations ever recorded. Other 2021 results included: 6,436 bird species identified; 151,300+ bird photos added to the library; and 190 countries represented in the count.
National and local Audubon websites, https://www.audubon.org and https://sierrafoothillsaudubon.org, are rich in information and resources for bird lovers. With the Great Backyard Bird Count’s Explore Regions tool, you can get an overview of the types of birds you can expect to see in our area during the count. At bird.org, participants can see what others are reporting via real-time maps during and after the official count. And at any time of the year, the Audubon site offers endless information about birds, like: how to tell the difference between a raven and a crow; how to find the best native plants for birds in your area; and of course, how you can help save endangered species.
Another wonderful resource for birders is eBird.org, run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. According to eBird, which claims it is the “world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project”, their aim is to be a source of valuable data. “From the ability to manage lists, photos and audio recordings, to viewing real-time maps of species distribution, to alerts that let you know when species have been seen, we strive to provide the most recent and useful information to the birding community. ”
So take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count and become a Cornell Labs and Audubon Community Citizen Scientist. Happy bird watching!
Rachel Oppedahl is a master gardener at the University of California Tuolumne County Cooperative Extension whose favorite bird right now is the Northern Flicker, which makes rare appearances at her feeders.
University of California Cooperative Extension Central Sierra Master Gardeners can answer questions about home gardening. Call 209-533-5912 in Tuolumne County, 209-754-2880 in Calaveras County or fill out our easy to use problem quiz here. Discover our website here. You can also find us on Facebook.