Thursday, February 12, 2009

Great Backyard Bird Count and Pennies for the Planet

Yesterday's blog announced the connection drawn between climate change and the shifting of bird species' ranges over the last forty years. The situation is complex and will need to be addressed on many fronts. Two ways that you can help are listed below.

Tomorrow begins the four days of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)! You can help scientists gain a better understanding of the status of birds by collecting data during this extended weekend. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

Not sure that you know enough about birds? Quickly, name a red bird in your neighborhood. What bird calls, "Caw, caw"? What red-breasted bird is associated with spring's arrival? Right! The Northern Cardinal, an American Crow and the American Robin. Even if you only knew one of the three, that's fine. When combined with all of the other observations across the continent, your observations help paint a more complete picture. Bonus points if you identified the little bird in the image as a Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes). Click here to see how you can participate.

For the teachers or interested parents in the crowd, click here to view lessons associated with the GBBC as well as information on Saturday's GBBC presentation at the SC Geographic Alliance Geofest workshop.

Counting birds at various times of the year helps scientists identify trends and evaluate the overall health of bird populations, but birds need habitat in which to spend the winter and separate habitat in which to bred and raise their young. Habitat loss or degradation are a major threat to a great many plant and animals species and not simply birds. You can help protect critical habitat for birds returning to nest by supporting the Pennies for the Planet. One of the three critical habitats supported by the campaign is the old-growth, cypress-tupelo ecosystem in Four Holes Swamp protected by the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.

No matter where you are, take some time this weekend to stop and take notice of the birds.  You will be amazed at what is out there.  Please don't forget to post your sightings at the GBBC page.

Images by Mark Musselman

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