Story and Photos by Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Programs Team Leader
February can be boring as an outdoor enthusiast. This year, it is especially true, with winter tightly gripping our region, and at least once a week we get slapped with another winter storm. After a while, I start to lose enthusiasm for hiking on ice-crusted snow with face-numbing wind chills and frozen fingers and toes. I can give you something to look forward to this week, however….the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Starting this Friday, February 14th, and running through Monday, February 17th, the Great Backyard Bird Count wants your bird observations.
The GBBC is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada. The purpose of the count is to take a snapshot of bird populations around the world during mid-winter when birds are not migrating, during the leanest of times. You can enter your sightings from anywhere during the 4-day period, whether it is your backyard, a park, wildlife refuge, the middle of a city, or while you are on vacation in Africa. Anywhere in the world counts.
Participating is fun! At the minimum, take a look at the birds in your yard, local park, neighborhood, or wherever you are for 15 minutes, and report what you see to the Great Backyard Bird Count website or eBird. Either way, the data is going to the same place. Each year, the data is used to track trends in bird populations on a global scale and is one of the biggest citizen science efforts anywhere where YOU provide the data.
The GBBC has been running since 1998 and is always held in February for 4 consecutive days. Last year in Delaware, 134 species were found during the Count. The year with the highest species count was 2009, with 147 species tallied. I would like to challenge you to get out at least once this coming Monday through Friday to get out somewhere, or at least look at your feeders from the warmth of your home, identify the birds you see, and report them to the GBBC. I think we can beat 147 species in Delaware and make a real contribution to science together, resulting in a better understanding of the winter patterns of birds around us, benefiting their conservation.
If you would like to join the Delaware Nature Society on guided field trips during the GBBC, we have them every day this Friday through Monday. Visit the Delaware Nature Society website or call (302) 239-2334 ext. 134 to register.
Friday, February 14:
Abbott’s Mill Nature Center, 8am – noon. Enjoy a pancake breakfast and exploring around the center, Blair’s Pond, and the Issacs-Greene Preserve. Leader: Jason Beale. Member/Non-member: $7/$10
Coverdale Farm Preserve, 8am – 11am. Enjoy a big, hot breakfast and a walk around Coverdale Farm Preserve. Leaders: Sheila Vincent, Joe Sebastiani, Derek Stoner, and Jim White. Member/Non-member: $15/$22.
Saturday, February 15:
Sussex County Tour. Meet at Ashland Nature Center (7am) or Abbott’s Mill Nature Center (8:30am) and travel by van to birding hotspots in Sussex County. We will look for Snowy Owls, and visit places such as Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Henlopen State Park, and Indian River Inlet in search of sea ducks, marsh birds, gulls, and other winter specialties. Leaders: Jason Beale and Joe Sebastiani. If you meet at Ashland – Member/Non-member: $25/$35. If you meet at Abbott’s – Member/Non-member: $15/$25.
Sunday, February 16:
Kent County Tour. Meet at Ashland Nature Center at 8am and travel by van to bayshore locations including Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Little Creek and Ted Harvey Wildlife Areas. Leader: Bill Stewart. Member/Non-member: $20/$30.
Monday, February 17:
New Castle County Tour. Meet at Ashland Nature Center and travel by van to visit areas along the Delaware River from Fox Point State Park to Delaware City to find raptors, rare gulls, ducks, and marsh birds. Leader: Derek Stoner. Member/Non-member: $15/$22.