SOUTH SHORE – When you’re out in your backyard this Friday through Monday, pay close attention to your feathered visitors and report what you see online at the Great Backyard Bird Count. Doing so will help national organizations at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society learn how birds are doing, where they are going and how we can protect them and their habitats.
It’s all part of the 17th annual bird count Feb. 14-17, where folks of all ages can help provide a snapshot of what’s going on in the world of birds. It also tells us something about our own environment.
“This is a very important citizen-science project,” said Ann Paul, regional coordinator for Audubon Florida. “Looking at data from all over the country computers can tell us where the birds are and how their populations are changing, shifting and using resources.
“Birds are exquisitely designed to survive in a specific habitat,” Paul continued. “So if their habitat improves, they do better; if not, they do worse.”
But there’s more, said Dolly Cummings, a master naturalist and manager of Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center in Ruskin.
“Birds are one of many forms of life that help us track the state of the environment,” she said. “The bird count is a tool for monitoring our environmental systems.”
Camp Bayou is including the bird count as part of its Master Naturalist Program this Saturday, Cummings said, adding she likes this type of survey because it allows average citizens to participate in an important monitoring process. Visitors who come to Camp Bayou between 9 a.m. and noon on Saturday are welcome to help count birds there. Just stop by the visitors center and get a common birds flier and additional information.
The bird count website has real-time maps and charts that reveal what others have reported during and after the count. Everyone who participates is entered in a prize drawing for items like bird feeders, binoculars, books, CDs, and other bird-related products. The site also has lots of additional information about birds and how the data that’s submitted is used.
The Cornell lab is a nonprofit membership institution whose mission is to “advance the understanding of nature and engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet” through research, education and citizen science.
Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitats that support them.