Feb 27, 2013

OHC: The Great Backyard Bird Count

   For all the years I've been a birder (my whole life) and all the years I've homeschooled , I've never had us participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count! But thanks to the Outdoor Hour Challenge, we finally got the nudge.
  We got all those feeders up and filled, (see my post about our backyard bird paradise here!), then created our account, got out our binoculars, and made up a chart for counting. (which I can't find right now).
   Our wonderful three-sided sunroom provided optimal conditions for keeping track. On the website it seemed confusing, but by actually participating, we soon got into the swing. Mei had to learn to be very still and PATIENT for the birds to arrive. But after about five minutes they started returning to the feeders that our presence had startled them from. The bold little chickadees led the way. Then it was the juncos who resumed their pecking.
   "Hey! What's that?" "A sparrow." "But what KIND of sparrow?" (white-throated) "Did we count that bird?" and so on. We had recently attracted a Red-breasted Nuthatch. I so hoped we could include it in our first submission. But it was a no-show.
Mei attempting a most challenging feat: photographing birds.
   We thought that the counting would be the best part, but found that entering our data was even more exciting. We found that our submission was timed to approach the 5000th of the day on Friday, the first day of counting,  and watched with fascination as the interactive world-wide map (the first year ever for international tabulation) popped up locations one-by-one around the globe as the counter moved quite quickly to the 5000 mark.
    I continued the challenge three more times over the weekend under varying conditions and settings. Around a wetland near Mei's ballet studio, I heard my first Red-winged Blackbirds of the season. I was glad that birds HEARD were countable as well as birds SEEN. On another occasion, while walking the dog, I encountered some bluebirds. Back home on Sunday near sunset, the Red-breasted Nuthatch  made his appearance (yeah!), followed by a Downy Woodpecker and our newest member of the suet gang, the not-at-all-creepie Brown Creeper. I guess everyone wanted to be part of the game!

    All in all, we observed over twenty species of birds, putting us at the middle mark for species entered in our state. It was a great feeling knowing, as I explained to Mei, that we "citizen scientists" helped accumulate data that can determine species migrations, movements, rises and declines. And it was a lot of FUN too!
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  1. I so enjoyed reading your account of the GBBC. I am surprised this is your first time to participate...so glad you decided to join. It is something that our family really enjoys doing each year.

    Thanks for sharing your entry with the OHC Carnival.

  2. I don't blame you for being surprised. Usually we are away for President's Weekend. I think I may have first learned about it from your blog a few years ago. So glad we finally participated! Thanks!


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