February 13th-February 16th is not only Valentine’s Day weekend, but also the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)! When many people think about February 14th, they envision pink hearts, chocolate, romantic dates, and Hallmark cards; but I dream of all the birds I hope to see smack dab in the middle of the GBBC weekend during TLC’s birding tour of Horton Grove Nature Preserve. Held once a year, the GBBC marshals birders from across the country and across the world to go and bird anywhere and everywhere, at least for one weekend. As long as you bird for at least fifteen minutes, at least one day, you can participate!
Why hold an event like the GBBC? As the event’s website explains, “Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are… No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.” To solve this conundrum, ornithologists have called on citizen scientists to be their eyes and ears, and in 2014, birders from 135 countries submitted 144,000 checklists with observations of almost 4,300 species. That is a monumental amount of data, and can be used to track bird responses to global warming, conservation priorities, and so much more.
Anyone can participate in the GBBC if they follow three simple steps:
1. Create an account on the website to register your observations. Already have an eBird account? You can use that too!
2. For at least one of the GBBC days, bird for 15 minutes and record your observations. In addition to writing down which species you see, try to estimate how many birds you see of each species. You can submit as many checklists as you want.
You don’t have to be an experienced birder to participate. If you are interested, look for local walks led by expert guides. TLC is hosting our own GBBC bird walk, led by Tom Driscoll, President of the New Hope Audubon Society, at Horton Grove Nature Preserve. With the preserve’s mix of forest and grassland habitats, the walk is sure to turn up some amazing species!
TLC’s bird walk will begin at 8 a.m. and last until 12 p.m. (though you can leave earlier if needed). The event is free, but registration is required and limited. Register today at: http://www.triangleland.org/news-and-events/event/great-backyard-bird-count-2015-horton-grove.
Horton Grove Nature Preserve Address: 7360 Jock Road, Bahama, NC 27503