This post is from Hugh Powell, science editor with Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Learn more about him here.
Sometimes I think of this year’s mild winter as a shifty employee—always calling in sick, as if it’s trying to get late fall to cover for it until early spring shows up. But even on these chilly-not-cold, gray-not-snowy days it can help to have some motivation to get outside.
Other times, maybe you want a reason to linger by the bay window a little longer, watching your garden over a cup of coffee or tea, and pondering those little half-ounce sparrows and finches that hop around merrily in the chill.
Either way, we’ve got just the weekend for you: the Great Backyard Bird Count, coming up this Friday through Monday. Have you participated before? If so, we hope you’ll join us again. If not, please sign up—it’s free, open to bird watchers of absolutely any level in the U.S. and Canada, and it helps scientists gather a long-term record of our birds and our environment. Oh, and did I mention there are prizes including binoculars, bird feeders, and books?
In each of the last three years people have submitted more than 90,000 checklists over the weekend, and we are just itching to get over the 100,000 mark. Last year, together we counted more than 11 million birds! Would you help us, and recruit your friends to help too?
You can report birds as many times a day as you wish, provided you watch for at least 15 minutes each time. You don’t even have to be in a backyard—you just have to be somewhere in the United States or Canada (last year I was on assignment in Antarctica and was disappointed to realize there was no place to enter emperor penguin on the checklist).
This year I’m going to be visiting Cape Cod, so I’m eagerly anticipating seeing some eiders and maybe some kittiwakes to go with my cardinals and juncos. And then there’s the bird of the winter—the snowy owl—I wonder how many of them will wind up on people’s checklists? So let me know—do you plan on joining the count, and what bird are you most eager to see?