Defeat Winter–Count the Birds!

Happy Veterans’ Day. Thank you to all the brave men and women who have served our country.

Tomorrow starts the count period for Project FeederWatch, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Now the name is slightly misleading because you don’t really have to have a bird feeder to participate (although you will have a more reliable source of birds if you do).

But if, for whatever reason, you choose not to have a feeder but you still have birds–or, say, for example you regularly go to the same spot every day–a public park, or even your local coffee house but you do see birds from their window–you can still participate.

Here’s how it works. First you sign up. It costs $18 to participate for the season, and the season runs from November 12 until April. You can choose to participate solely through an “online kit” or I believe you can still participate via “paper.” I have only done the “online” version.

You will get all sorts of nifty guides even if you are participating online, and there is a ton of support including online bird guides.

Once you have decided to participate, you agree to count birds, at least once a week during the count season, on two consecutive days, for a period of 15 minutes per day. That’s it. It’s pretty simple. If you see no birds during your count period, you report “no birds” (but I can tell you that that never happened to me in over 10 years of counting!)

A lot of people wonder how do you “count” birds? It’s not as hard as you think. Let’s say you see a flock of goldfinch on a Saturday morning. There are 15 of them. So you mark your count sheet “15 goldfinch.”

At my house, before a storm, the goldfinch always came in in huge numbers before a snow. So I might go back in the evening and look.  I might see 22 goldfinch. I wouldn’t add those to the 15. I would just “report” (on the paper sheet I am using to tally my 2 day total) the higher 22 number.

The next day, Sunday, I look out and see 8 goldfinch. I don’t change my count at all because that number isn’t higher than 22. But if I go back later and see 33 goldfinch, I will then change my count, because that number is higher than the 22 from Saturday. That would be the number I would report as my “2 day total.”

Obviously over the 2 days I would be seeing other birds as well: chickadees, juncos, assorted woodpeckers, cardinals and a few other species. As you can see, this kind of thing, really keeps it interesting and really gets you thinking!

The web site to sign up, find bird guides and to get perhaps a better explanation of everything I have just said is right here! Give Project FeederWatch a try this winter. I don’t think you’ll be sorry!

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