Friday, January 22, 2010

The GBBC 2010 - They're Counting on You!

It's as easy as looking out your window...really.

Big days, Big sits, CBCs, the World Series of Birding...all big time commitments for most casual birders. Thank goodness there's an event for the majority of people to participate in, and enjoy; the GBBC. The Great Backyard Bird Count as it is called, "is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent and in Hawaii. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds. Participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report their counts, they fill out an online checklist at the Great Backyard Bird Count web site." Don't despair...there is even an "off-line" form
HERE for those who don't have Internet access. But honestly, doesn't that seem a bit counter intuitive to even mention it on my Birdstud blog? I wouldn't have web access anyway; so how would you be reading this blog right? oh well...let's continue.

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like—one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.

2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out your
regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you're likely to see in your area in February. You could take note of the highest number of each species you see on this checklist.

3. When you're finished, enter your results
through the GBBC web page. You'll see a button marked "Enter Your Checklists!" on the website home page beginning on the first day of the count. It will remain active until the deadline for data submission on March 1st.

HERE'S what all reporting "citizen scientists" counted in their "back yards" (for Wisconsin) in 2009. If you want another area's results: click HERE.

Another interesting link is the one HERE that gives you the Top Ten Lists of species counted.

Here's what I counted last year: (Psst...just cause it says "back yard" it doesn't have to mean literally your back yard. I for instance counted my birds in the Lakeshore State Park area of Milwaukee as you can see by the zip code I entered) Why did I do that? Heck, I guess I was bored with House sparrows and Juncos...I don't know...maybe I just felt like counting shorebirds alright...Jeeze!

Observer: Birdstud
Locality: 53233 Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Date: 15-Feb-2009 03:00 PM

Species* Number of Birds

American Black Duck 2
Mallard 20
Greater Scaup 12
Common Goldeneye 10
Common Merganser 6
American Coot 4
Ring-billed Gull 25
Herring Gull 96
Total 175

Anyway, I plan to be GBBC-ing again this year and may even do it from the kitchen window, who knows? How about you? It's fun and educational and it helps by giving the Cornell and Audubon folks a baseline from year to year from which to operate. It's important to get involved...try it this year.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Like whistling wraiths - they suddenly appear...

In just ten minutes the sun will go down...why now do they come?

I am standing near the "river" portion of the water feature that I keep running all winter, and waiting. My boots have sunken into the new fluffy snow and I can still see my breath even though the light is fading. Hands in the pockets of my most "comfy" jeans, I can easily be mistaken for a tree stump in my khaki colored overcoat. I am however wearing a bright red Wauwatosa East baseball cap; an interesting choice of color for stealth, but I don't mind. My ears, followed by my gaze, are fixated on the predictable nightly spectacle of wonder. "You have to be still Birdstud," my brain reminds me. Suddenly, preceded by that familiar whistling sound, one almost collides with the back of my head before landing beyond on the narrow river bank. Two, then three more suddenly arrive in a nearly silent fluttering of wings and more apparent whistles. Their buckskin bodies mostly blending with the landscape near the pond. One by one, all ten of these gentle, timid, creatures take their turns at the waterfall and river way, quenching a particular thirst. It all happens in a matter of 5 minutes and then they leave; exploding in a flurry of feathers and sound, clumsily in all directions. Where they go from here is unknown to me, but I look after them counting the blessing of their brief choreographed visit...wondering.