Photo courtesy of Audubon Society
Written by SGG Volunteer birder Pat Pepper
The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will be held over a four-day period in February, Friday through Monday, Feb. 16, 17, 18, 19. This count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.
Smith-Gilbert Gardens will host its GBBC on Saturday, Feb.17. I will be on hand to help visitors identify the birds they see. You can bird from a comfortably heated back porch of the Hiram-Butler house and/or walk out to other feeders around the gardens.
We will have bird checklists that name the most common birds you might encounter. The Gardens also have small informational signs with bird pictures that will also help you identify the birds.
This count is a mini version of the Christmas Bird Count that takes place over a five-week period in December and the first week in January. I was part of a team that counted for 9 hours on Dec.16, 2017. The Atlanta/Marietta team counted about 93 species that day in Cobb County.
The results of both counts provide Cornell Labs and Audubon with very valuable information on the always shifting patterns of where birds are located. While winter may not be the most comfortable time to stand outside and count birds, it is a stable time as the birds are not migrating. Some areas, such as Berry College, get to count nesting Eagles and Owls.
The GBBC takes very little time. You can record what you see in as little as 15 minutes. You can count just in your own backyard or go to a park or gardens, such as SGG! The benefit of going to SGG is that you will have someone to help you with identification.
When you are finished counting, you report your sightings online at birdcount.org On the home page, click on “Get Started.” You will be able to open a free account. If you count at SGG, we will give you a checklist that when completed, you can hand in to me, Pat Pepper, and I will be happy to enter your results to Cornell.
One of the fun things of feeder counting in winter is seeing birds at your feeder that you won’t see when food supplies are more plentiful. During our recent snowfalls, I had Bluebirds and a Hermit Thrush at my seed feeders. Bluebirds are in the Flycatcher family and prefer insects and worms. Hermit Thrushes are a winter visitor for us and prefer berries and insects. However, when snow covers the ground, both these birds will take the easy pickings.
Now, I can’t promise that you will be able to hold a Downy Woodpecker as the young lady in the introduction picture is doing, but I can guarantee that you will have fun finding and identifying our winter birds. You will also have the satisfaction of knowing that you have contributed to the largest citizen-science project in the world.
Hermit Thrush and Eastern Bluebird photo courtesy Audubon Society