From the National Audubon Society GBBC webpage:
Bird enthusiasts across the U.S. and Canada are gearing up for the Great Backyard Bird Count. It’s not too late to participate in the February 17-20 event. It’s free to participate, and everything is available online. The GBBC is open to anyone, including novice bird-watchers and students. Participants don’t need to be able to identify every bird, and the online submission process helps check their accuracy and prevent errors. Out of excuses yet?
Here’s a quick guide to what’s involved:
1. Make a plan: You’ll need to count birds for a minimum of 15 minutes on one of the count days, but you can count all four days, and you can count for as long as you want. More counting = more data to show us where the birds are.
2. Know your place: Decide whether your count is a STATIONARY COUNT, like watching a feeder out the window, or a TRAVELING COUNT, such as birding during a hike. Print out a data form so that you’ll know what information to record, and a regional bird checklist to help with identification.
3. Count: Record the highest number of each species seen together at one time in stationary counts. For traveling counts, record the total number of individual birds of each species you see during the walk. For more info, visit http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/howto.html.
4. Report: Enter your findings through the website by clicking on “Enter Your Checklists!” and following instructions.
5. Spread the word: Tell others about your experience. Find out how to be a GBBC ambassador by clicking “Get Involved” on the website. Also, join the GBBC Facebook group, and tweet about the count (use #GBBC when tweeting).
Today, we received a report of Sandhill Cranes in a field between Beidler Forest and Harleyville. Even though it is not time for the Great Backyard Bird Count, Sandhill Cranes are only in the area during winter and always worth a short drive to see. When we arrived at the field, the cranes had moved on for the day. We'll stop by in the morning and try to get some images.
Although the Sandhill Cranes were absent, we saw plenty of Eastern Meadowlarks, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Common Grackles along with several Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, Northern Flickers, Eastern Bluebirds, European Starlings and the Loggerhead Shrike shown below.
Loggerhead Shrikes use the hook at the end of their bill to kill a variety of prey from large insects to mice, lizards, and even birds! Shrikes also impale their prey on thorns or barbed wire to impress a potential mate or to hold the prey in place while it is torn apart and consumed.
You do not need to know any such delicious avian facts to participate in the GBBC nor do you need to drive out to the country. Stay in your backyard, visit someplace new, or join a group like the following:
Mark Musselman, education director at the Francis Beidler Forest, will be birding at various sites around Summerville on Day 1 (Friday, February 17th). The count will begin at the parking area near the tennis courts in Azalea Park at 8:30 a.m. Other stops may include the nature trail at Ashley Ridge High School, The Ponds community, and Middleton Place. Anyone can join him for all or part of the day, especially those looking to learn about birding or improve their bird identification skills. Anyone wishing to join this group or simply to follow the progress can check @TheSwampThing (http://twitter.com/#!/TheSwampThing) on Twitter.
Though a pair of binoculars will be useful to help with the GBBC, only a healthy curiosity is required!
Images by Mark Musselman