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Join the Great Backyard Bird Count in February

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A garden isn’t a garden without birds.  From the orange, black and white towhees scratching through fallen leaves for bugs, to hummers sipping on a red-flowering sage, we are blessed in the Sierra foothills by their visitations.  If you’re a bird lover, there’s a special opportunity coming up: the global Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) on February 18-21, conducted jointly by National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada. During the four-day count, you can watch, record your sightings, and share them with bird watchers around the world.

This is the 25th anniversary of the count, and with it, they’re offering a free webinar on February 16 to help you prepare for identifying birds. “Join our experts as we brush up on bird ID, unlock the mystery of bird songs, and practice counting birds no matter how large the flock or busy the feeder,” say the organizers. “This webinar is designed for birders of all ages and experience—you’ll leave confident and ready to be part of the GBBC!”

Anyone can conduct a bird tally for as little as 15 minutes anytime during the event, then enter their sightings online at www.birdcount.org.  Each checklist submitted during the count helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology 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 opportunity 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, either on a desktop or mobile platform: https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/.

Last year, an estimated 300,000+ participants submitted their bird observations online, creating the largest instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations ever recorded. Other 2021 results included:  6,436 species of birds identified; 151,300+ bird photos added to the library; and 190 countries represented in the count.

Both the national and local-chapter Audubon websites, https://www.audubon.org and https://sierrafoothillsaudubon.org, are rich with information and resources for bird lovers.  With the Great Backyard Bird Count’s Explore Regions tool, you can get a sneak peak at the kinds of birds you can expect to see in our area during the count.  On the bird.org site, participants can see what others are reporting via real-time maps during and after the formal count.  And any time of 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 species that are endangered.

Another wonderful resource for birders is eBird.org, managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  According to eBird, which says it is “the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project,” their goal is to be a valuable data source.  “From being able to manage lists, photos and audio recordings, to seeing real-time maps of species distribution, to alerts that let you know when species have been seen, we strive to provide the most current and useful information to the birding community.”

So, participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count and become a Cornell Labs and Audubon “Community Citizen Scientist.”  Happy birding!

 

Rachel Oppedahl is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County whose favorite bird at the moment is the Northern Flicker that makes rare appearances at her bird feeders.

University of California Cooperative Extension Central Sierra Master Gardeners can answer home gardening questions. Call 209-533-5912 in Tuolumne County, 209-754-2880 in Calaveras County or fill out our easy-to-use problem questionnaire here. Check out our website here. You can also find us on Facebook.

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