Residents brave the cold to count birds in the Great Backyard Bird Count
Winter doldrums got you down? Cabin fever starting to set in? Tired of your humdrum routine? Well, the 10th annual Great Backyard Bird Count may be the cure for what ails you.
The four-day event is hosted by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. It runs from today through Monday and welcomes participants of all ages and skill levels.
The GBBC creates a snapshot of where the birds are across the continent, which allows scientists and bird enthusiasts to determine if bird populations are declining to the point of needing conservation attention. The count, among other things, also helps them learn the impact of West Nile and other viruses and diseases on bird populations in different regions
Salt Lake City residents Barbara and Scott Berry got involved in the event a few years back because of their fascination with the birds in their backyard.
"Each morning our backyard is alive with chickadees, finches, juncos, quail and scrub jays," Scott Berry says. "Our favorites at this time of year are the gorgeous northern flickers, downy woodpeckers and a lone lesser goldfinch."
Avid bird watcher Bill Fenimore of Layton also can be counted on to help with the bird count.
"It's a citizen science project that is educational and fun," he says. "I gather my grandchildren to help me count the birds. It's a great way to introduce them to nature."
Veteran bird enthusiast Betsy Beneke has been taking part in the count since it began.
"I would encourage people of all ages and bird-watching abilities to give it a try, even if [they] only have a few minutes to spare," she says. "When you submit your bird count online, you can watch the animated maps quickly update with information coming in from bird watchers all across the country. You can explore previous years' data or check to see where in the country your favorite bird species are most common. There's a lot of interesting information on the GBBC Web site."
Participants reported a record-breaking 623 species totaling 7.5 million birds in 2006. Seven of the 10 most commonly reported species last year can be seen in areas all along the Wasatch Front. They are the mourning dove, dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, downy woodpecker, house finch, black-capped chickadee and American crow.
Help birders do the math
The 10th annual Great Backyard Bird Count takes place today through Monday. To take part, follow these three easy steps:
* 1. Go to http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc for easy-to-follow instructions and local checklists.
* 2. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes during the prescribed four-day period. Count the birds in as many places and on as many days as you like. Just keep separate count lists for each day and/or location. For each species of bird, record the highest number of individuals you see at any one time during your count.
* 3. Go back to the GBBC Web site, complete an online checklist and report your sightings electronically.