the great backyard bird count

This weekend was not only President’s weekend, but it also marked the world coming together for the Great Backyard Bird Count. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, GBBC was the “first online citizenship project to collect bird date in near real-time.” For the last twenty years during the month of February over 100,000 participants have counted birds during the four-day event. The annual collective count provides a geographical identification and distribution of birds for scientists to study.

This weekend, Ava and I joined the collective and decided to count birds.

I am certainly not a bird expert, but I thought it would be fun to engage in this short scientific experiment.

I expected the project would teach her to accurately report a discovery, the importance of following instructions, and how to understand her role in a worldwide event.

We woke to a warm sunny day with wisps of white clouds painting the blue sky. The air was fragrant with the early the arrival of  Spring. Twittering birds sang a morning symphony to us accented by the drum beat of a local rooster sending his wake-up call.

Ava was armed with a pen and paper and I with my phone and camera; we marched out to the backyard to begin our mission.

I reviewed the instructions from our online account which told us to watch for at least fifteen minutes, count, and identify as many birds as possible.

I started the clock and we began. It was 9:33 a.m.

Only a few minutes passed before we spotted our first bird sitting on a bush near the fence. I have no idea what it was but we counted it anyways. Ava marked her paper with a hash mark for each bird we saw.

Two mourning doves appeared and flew over the house; they were the first birds we recognized right away.

Before long, we spotted a whole flock of Canadian geese flying in a v-formation across the sky.

We identified a few more birds before the clock ticked down. We noted a finishing time of 9:48.

She tallied her hashtags which totaled 38 birds in all.

We went back inside the house and logged our findings on the Great Backyard Bird Count website. We set our location and answered the question, “What did you see or hear?”

I was sure the bird experts of the world would cringe at our findings. I marked the number five in the Canadian Goose box and the number two in the Mourning Dove box, the rest I entered as “other.”

When we visited the submissions page and over 12,000 others had already sent in reports just that morning.

On the map, we saw a yellow pulsing dot appear in the general location our area. I like to think it was our report being counted.

Ava enjoyed locating and counting our local birds. She took careful notes and did her best to be accurate.

Later that day, she ran in the house when she thought she heard a woodpecker. We looked high into the big oak tree out front and saw a bird way up in the branches. I snapped a photo.

I went back inside to check and located a photo on the web of a smaller woodpecker who looked pretty close to what we had seen. Woodpecker. Check.

It was a fun, easy, and free activity to encourage environmental awareness and love for science.

If you want to participate, you still have today, so get out and join us in the Great Backyard Bird Count!

 

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