Data from community birdwatchers helps scientists
Diane Salter of Walsingham will be birdwatching as part of the annual Great Backyard Bird Count that starts Feb. 16. Contributed photo
It’s a big weekend for birders and Diane Salter can barely contain her excitement.
A senior citizen and resident of Walsingham, Salter is looking forward to once again participating in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, which takes place Feb. 16 to 19.
“I live out in the country and I’ve got 15 bird feeders in my backyard – I have an acre back there – and I can’t wait to see who shows up,” Salter said. “Over the years, I’ve seen some cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, but you never know what might happen.
“Somebody new might show up and that’s always kind of exciting.”
The 21st annual Great Backyard Bird Count is a community project that gives scientists a snapshot of global bird populations, their migratory paths and help scientists understand how climate change is affecting birds. Volunteer birders will be counting birds in their backyards, parks, nature centres, hiking trails, school grounds, balconies and beaches.
“I’ve been birdwatching for the last 25 years and I’ve been participating in the bird count for about the last seven or eight years,” Salter said. “It’s pretty easy to participate and it’s fun.
“You just count the birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more of the days of the count.”
She’ll be doing her initial count in her backyard and once she has the information, Salter will go over to her computer and input the information to www.birdcount.org .
Salter has already noticed some red-winged blackbirds in her backyard which came as a surprise.
“Normally, I think they would have headed south but we had such a mild November that I think a lot stayed and then got trapped here,” she said.
The first Great Backyard Bird Count was held in 1998 and at that time, 13,500 checklists were submitted by birdwatchers in Canada and the United States. Last year, an estimated 240,418 birdwatchers from more than 100 countries submitted 181,606 checklists reporting 6,259 species – more than half the known species in the world, a statement from Bird Studies Canada says.
“Will we break last year’s record number of Canadian participants?” Jon McCracken, Bird Studies Canada’s national program director asked. “A lot depends on the weather, but a little snow and cold shouldn’t get in your way.
“Remember you don’t have to venture far afield at all. You truly can count birds in your backyard or, better yet, take a pleasant winter stroll around your neighbourhood.”
That’s advice Salter has already taken to heart many years ago and something she will put into practice this weekend. Although she’ll be counting and recording bird species in her backyard, she’ll be out and about at other locations as well.
The bird count is a partnership that includes the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in Canada by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.
To learn more about what scientists have discovered over the past 21 years as a result of the Great Backyard Bird Count visit www.birdcount.org .