February 15, 2021

I got a call from my mom on Thursday saying she had come across an article in her newspaper about the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).  While mom did not have the direct link, I had found it online while still on our conversation.  The GBBC is designed to engage bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for at least 15 minutes (or longer) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at  Each checklist submitted helps researchers at the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Birds Canada learn more about how birds are doing, and how to protect them and their environments.  The 24th annual GBBC was from Friday through Monday (12th-15th).

I downloaded all the necessary apps to participate in the study and signed up with the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  They each provided an identification app for my phone that I added to the National Geographic identification app I already had.  I had filled my feeders on Friday and sat down in front of our bay window to see what might arrive.  The cold weather meant the birds arrived in masse.  I sat for forty minutes and recorded 31 birds and 9 different species.  Later that day I had a flock of 30 Rusty Blackbirds/Brewers Blackbirds (?) descend on the tree line at the back of my house.  I read that black birds of many species often gather in mixed flocks.  That was what I had seen at the wildlife refuge in January.                  

By midnight Sunday morning the GBBC had received impressive results.  More than 60,000 participants had reported more than 5,200 species on over 133,000 checklists.  Sightings had come in from all over the world, including 157 countries.  That left a lot of birdwatching to be done to match or exceed last year’s total tally of 6,942 species.  While I continued to watch, it did not seem right to stay in one place and just keep recording my own backyard.  My winter birds are hunkered down in the trees and bushes nearby and do not change much from day to day.  Still, they are fun to watch as they battle each other for supremacy.

Thoughts:  We got our expected 4-5 inches of snow on Sunday night.  When I put out seed for the birds on Friday, they had attacked it voraciously.  When I got up Sunday there were few birds, and the squirrel feeder (a Cardinal favorite) was empty.  Since it was snowing and wicked cold, I did not go out to check.  When I got up today, I felt sorry for the birds and filled my feeders.  Within 20 minutes they were full of cardinals, sparrows, larks, and the single Blue Jay that hangs around.  An hour later the blackbirds I had seen the previous day were back and filled the feeders.  They are larger birds and drove off even the Cardinals by their sheer numbers.  Size and numbers are generally dominant when species (or countries?) work together.  Humans could accomplish even more amazing things if we could just decide on a focus.  It is time to work together rather than competing for the same resources.  Follow the science.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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