I’ve been into birdwatching (or “birding” as it is commonly called) for a little less than a year now, and this year the kids and I are participating in the GBBC—The Great Backyard Bird Count.
Basically, everyone in North America can count the birds wherever they go this long weekend (Friday through Monday)…whether it be on birding trips or hikes, or just on a trip to a local park or running errands to the grocery store. Did you see 6 pigeons when you went to WalMart? You can count that. Were your kids playing at the park when a flock of 30 starlings flew by? Check. Did some adorable black-capped chickadees come visit your yard bird feeder this morning? The GBBC people want to know. (Scientists use this information gathered every year to track bird trends, health and other things.)
We are having a blast watching the home page for the GBBC change constantly as it’s updated every 30 minutes or so with bird finds from across the country. Yesterday morning, when it started, there were a few red dots marking submitted checklists in the west part of the U.S., with a large cluster of them on the East Coast. Now the map is nearly full of red, with lots in Canada and Mexico, too. We love to see the bird count and species count change.
You can also access lists for your state and even city. We are following Utah (because we live here) and Wisconsin (my beautiful home state…I love that my hometown of Eagle River even had 1 checklist submitted! Thank you, unknown Eagle River birder).
Yesterday we watched our back and front yards for a while and counted 1 Black-Capped Chickadee, 1 Mountain Chickadee, 12 House Sparrows, 5 Starlings, 1 House Finch, 1 Dark-Eyed Junco (Oregon variety) and a Spotted Towhee. The Spotted Towhee was a thrilling find…we’d never seen one before, let alone had one visit our yard! They’re beautiful birds. The kids decided they have the head of a Junco, the tail of a Magpie, and the stomach of a Robin.
Spotted Towhee (from Wikipedia)
Last night we went out to the International Center, near the airport, and saw a Great-Horned Owl. He was more awake than the last time we’d seen him and the kids were so excited to see him wide awake and looking at them. We tried to get some pictures but our cameras aren’t the best:
Here’s the nest, which is a bundle of pine needles, sticks, and leaves, and the owl peering out of his nest
We also had a fun time feeding the ducks in a nearby pond, despite the bone-chilling wind.
Nia thought it would be fun to pretend this bench was a bed
The kids were beyond excited to come home and enter their count on the GBBC checklists. They loved the fact that we counted the only Great-Horned Owl and the only Killdeer (as of this morning) for Utah.
Note: In the half hour or so I’ve been composing this blog post, the national bird count has gone up by 4,000 birds. We hope you’ll consider taking part in the fun!