Great Backyard Bird Count

All posts tagged Great Backyard Bird Count

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.

Search for wintering ducks like the fish-eating Common Merganser during the GBBC this weekend.  Look for these birds on any body of open water, even small creeks like the Red Clay Creek.

Search for wintering ducks like the fish-eating Common Merganser during the GBBC this weekend. Look for these birds on any body of open water, even small creeks like the Red Clay Creek.

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.

If you are birding in your yard during the GBBC, you probably will have lots of White-throated Sparrows coming to the feeders.

If you are birding in your yard during the GBBC, you probably will have lots of White-throated Sparrows coming to the feeders.

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.

Join the Delaware Nature Society on one of our field trips, this Friday February 14 through Monday February 17.  We will search the state of Delaware for as many species as we can find for the GBBC.

Join the Delaware Nature Society on one of our field trips, this Friday February 14 through Monday February 17. We will search the state of Delaware for as many species as we can find for the GBBC.

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.

Beautiful species such as this Swamp Sparrow await your discovery during the GBBC.  Get outside, make some observations, and report them for science, and the conservation of birds.

Beautiful species such as this Swamp Sparrow await your discovery during the GBBC. Get outside, make some observations, and report them for science, and the conservation of birds.

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.

By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

Hank Davis is a professional photographer, board member for the Delaware Nature Society, and is now a winner of the Great Backyard Bird Count photography contest.  Each year, the Great Backyard Bird Count has an associated photography contest, soliciting photographs from birders that are participating in the count.  Five “overall best photograph” winners are chosen.  In 2013, Hank’s photo of two feeding American Flamingo, pictured below, was chosen for 5th place, out of 7,000 entries.  This is quite an accomplishment!  Congratulations Hank!!

Hank Davis' photo of American Flamingos from the DNS trip to Cuba, February, 2013 won 5th place in the Great Backyard Bird Count contest last year.  It was chosen among 7,000 images entered into the contest.

Hank Davis’ photo of American Flamingos from the Delaware Nature Society trip to Cuba, February, 2013 won 5th place in the Great Backyard Bird Count contest last year. It was chosen among 7,000 images entered into the contest.  American Flamingo is common in many coastal locations in Cuba.

You might say, why flamingos?  Why Cuba?  Last year, the Great Backyard Bird Count went global.  Essentially, during a four-day period each February, birders count birds anywhere on earth, not just the backyard, and submit their sightings to the count at http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc.  The count is run by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in order to get a snapshot of bird populations around the globe in mid-winter.  This citizen science research is generating very important data that will answer questions about bird populations, movements, winter range, and will ultimately help to conserve birds and their habitats.  It just so happened, that during the count period last year, Hank was on the Delaware Nature Society bird survey trip that I was leading to Cuba.  We tried very hard to enter as many bird checklists from Cuba as we could, knowing that we might be the only birders representing the nation for the count.

Hank’s excellent flamingo photo is not his only entry that was recognized.  Below is a great photo of a Cuban Emerald that he captured, also on Cayo Coco, Cuba.  The Cuban Emerald photo was awarded an honorable mention in the “overall best photo” category.

Hank Davis takes some amazing photographs of birds.  This Cuban Emerald was taken on Cayo Coco, Cuba on the Delaware Nature Society trip to the island nation last February.

Hank Davis takes some amazing photographs of birds. This Cuban Emerald was taken on Cayo Coco, Cuba on the Delaware Nature Society trip to the island nation last February.  The Cuban Emerald is a large hummingbird that is very common across the island of Cuba.

If you want to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count in 2014, just go birding anywhere you want and submit your sightings to the website I provided above.  The dates of the count are February 14-17 and you are encouraged to enter as many checklists as you want, whether they are from your backyard, a local park, or while you are visiting another country!  Take a look at the results from the 2013 count, where 4,004 species of birds were reported from around the world, and in Delaware, 144 were reported.

By: Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

Images by Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

Derek Stoner and I led the Delaware Nature Society’s traditional Breakfast and Great Backyard Bird Count program this morning.  The Great Backyard Birdcount is a continent-wide citizen science bird survey run the National Audubon Society where anyone can participate today through Monday, February 20th.   It creates a snapshot of birds in mid-winter useful to science as a way to look at bird trends over the years.  Bottom line for us and you…it is fun!

Here we are birding at Coverdale Farm Preserve near Hockessin for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Image by Derek Stoner

After our group of 10 participants enjoyed a hearty breakfast (that Derek and I cooked) of pancakes, eggs, potatoes, scrapple, bacon, and fruit (for something healthy), we went out to bird.  This year we decided to take a walk at the Nature Society’s Coverdale Farm Preserve with a stop at Hoopes Reservoir.

We found several Eastern Bluebirds, some of which demonstrating territorial rights at nest boxes. Image by Derek Stoner

We tallied common species as well as unusual.  Lots of Eastern Bluebirds were out, and some looked to be claiming bird boxes on this warm February day.  Many House Finches were flocking, and some were singing.  The House Finch song remains one of my favorites in this area.  It was good news to see a small flock of about a dozen Field Sparrows in the overgrown fields.  As we finished, two adult Bald Eagles flew over, as did the surprise of the morning, a Merlin, which is a small, rare falcon.

The surprise of the day was seeing a Merlin fly over very close. This is a rare species in winter in our area. Image by Derek Stoner

At Hoopes Reservoir at the causeway, we found Mallards, Black Ducks, Common Merganser, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Ducks, Pied-billed Grebe, and a male Canvasback, which is a rarity here.

Can you pick out the Canvasback behind the Canada Geese? It is the white duck with the maroon head. This is another rarity in northern New Castle County at any time of year. Image by Derek Stoner

You too can participate through Monday.  Just look for at least 15 minutes somewhere, and enter your checklist at www.birdsource.org/gbbc.  Participate each day if you want, and even multiple times per day.  Identify the location you were birding by zip code or nearest town and enter your birds.  Check out the Results section on the website as well to see what else has been seen in Delaware or other states.  Good luck and have fun!

Photos and post by Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

Are you feeling like you’ve had too much indoor time with the lingering snow on the ground and temperatures below freezing lately?  Here are a few ideas to get you outdoors, even if it is in your own backyard. 

Start keeping track of the birds you see in your yard for the year.  I started doing this on January 1st, and I have found 40 species as of yesterday.  My goal is 100 species identified from the yard this year.  All birds you see or hear while you are in your yard count, even birds flying overhead.  I am maintaining the yard list on my e-bird account, which is where I keep all of my bird records.  This site is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  I urge you to check out www.ebird.org and start an account.  Keep your yard list on this fun on-line database, and go to the “add a yard” button in the data tab to compare them with other birders in the USA and the state you live in.  In Pennsylvania where I live, there is actually a state-wide, year-long yard bird list contest that I am participating in, and you can too if you are a resident. 

Carolina Wrens are a frequent visitor to my feeding station. I am trying to get them to eat the Brown Stinkbugs that are wintering in my house. I put the stinkbugs where they would be an obvious meal, but they haven't been interested so far.

E-bird takes your data and makes it available to the scientific community through the Avian Knowledge Network, so therefore your observations are useful to our understanding of birds.  If you like e-bird, you can add individual bird sightings or whole lists into the database from anywhere on earth!  If you have lists collecting dust from years past, enter those as well to immortalize your observations.  Now it sounds like you have a winter project to get excited about!  If you want some help with e-bird, please contact me. 

This Carolina Chickadee was visiting my feeders over the weekend. Notice the band on the right leg? I live close to the site of the Bird Banding at Bucktoe program that is held every September, which is probably where this bird was banded.

Another chance to force yourself outdoors is a birding event called the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 18-21.  Pick any time, or several times during this four day period to find birds in your backyard, nearby park, or neighborhood.  Enter your sightings into the Great Backyard Bird Count website to help scientists get a mid-winter snapshot of bird populations around the country.  Last year, almost 100,000 checklists were submitted.

This Tufted Titmouse was visiting my feeder this weekend and is also wearing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band. I see these banded birds at my feeders regularly since we've banded lots of Chickadees and Titmice at Bucktoe Creek Preserve over years, and these birds do not migrate.

Join us on these upcoming Delaware Nature Society programs: Breakfast and Backyard Bird Count program, February 18th, 8-11am at Ashland Nature Center.  A diner-style breakfast is included.  Birds of the Marsh and Mini e-bird Workshop at the Dupont Environmental Education Center on March 6, 8-11am.