Great Backyard Bird Count Feb. 15-18, 2013

claireplymouth z6b coastal MAFebruary 14, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count is being held this weekend, Friday through Monday.

They're going global this year so even if you're hunkered down on a beach in the Caribbean you can still participate (I hope you got a local bird guide to go with the nifty drinks).


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I was all set to partake this year. Bought new thistle seed. Had replaced my suet earlier in the week. But then woke up yesterday, sat down with my coffee, pen and notepad in hand. And I got so stressed out about the prospect of counting the birds. There were hundreds of birds around. Cardinals. Blue Jays. Juncos. Nuthatches - both red and white. Titmice. Chickadees. Sparrows. Woodpeckers. Instead I took a couple hundred pictures!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 2:21PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

pixie_lou: The easiest for me is to just concentrate on one species at a time and ignore the rest so you don't go crazy.

Now count the Blue Jays, check, now count the woodpeckers, check, and keep going until you've gotten all of the birds. Do the easy ones first and just estimate the bigger flock size in multiples of 10 or 20 or whatever works. Whether you have 40 or 50 starlings doesn't matter; the point is that you have a lot of them, not four.

Make the count time short, like fifteen or thirty minutes so you don't have to recount the ones you did first.

Also, you can post pictures with the GBBC count.

There are two days left so you can still do it.


    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 4:13PM
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terrene(5b MA)

How nice that you have so many birds Pixie lou! I rarely get more than 6 or so of any species. Even with fewer numbers, counting birds accurately is a lot harder than it looks. :)

I'm not doing PFW this year, but have done Focus on Feeders and am doing GBBC.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 5:04PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

pixie_lou: You have to make a decision about what's good enough for the Citizen Science purpose of learning what birds are where and how many there are. If you get too hung up on a perfect count and end up not posting at all, you didn't do anybody any good.

And you probably disappointed yourself as well.

When you post on GBBC there's plenty of space for comments, both over all and at the individual species detail level. You can always qualify your numbers - saying this is an estimate, but reasonable.

I submitted a count for 400 Common Eiders at one location in the Cape Cod Canal, saying that it was a very rough estimate but probably in the ball park, and could have been more. What this tells people is that there were a whole lot of birds there. Which is probably as much as they need to know (and would trust from an amateur). Eiders are known to congregate in huge rafts so this wouldn't be too surprising.

eBird has some nice tutorials on how to count birds. I need to reread these myself.

Bird Counting 101
Bird Counting 201


This post was edited by claire on Sat, Feb 16, 13 at 18:37

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 6:32PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Rather than re-edit my last post, I'll copy part of the first tutorial here:

"What if my numbers are way off the mark," you say? Think of it this way: what do counts of birds mean biologically? Biologically, there is a huge difference between zero and one. The species was either not present, or only one was detected. Either way, this tells us that the species in question is not particularly "common" in the area you sampled at the time of your observation, or at least you didn't detect it commonly. There is an almost equally significant difference between one and two. A record of one Painted Bunting in New Jersey could well be chalked up to a vagrant outlier, but two would be an event! But between three and ten biologically, we are essentially learning the same thing--that the species in question was found in relatively low numbers. Between 50 and 100 a species can be considered common, and between 1000 and 5000, there is not much biological significance; the bird in question was found in abundance! Essentially, by estimating numbers you're telling us there was one, two, quite a few, a lot, or tons!!!


    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 6:43PM
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So who participated? And can we get a summary of your counts?

In the end I chose not to count. I do spend a lot of time watching the birds, and I'm really intrigued by how they all coexist in my yard. I put up a new feeder about a month ago, and it took the birds a couple weeks to find it. But now I get a lot of activity there, and i am having fun watching the behavior at the feeder. For instance, the blue jays come over and knock the feeder around, seed falls on the ground, which then Attracts the cardinals and juncos and song sparrows. Titmice will scare the nuthatches and chickadees off the feeders. Of course I could have probably read all this in some bird book, but it's fun to observe and figure it out.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 9:10AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I received a GBBC newsletter this morning and they state that so far:

The numbers tell the story. With its new global reach, the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count becomes the largest worldwide bird count ever! As of today:

4 Days
103 Countries
120,000+ Checklists
3,144 Species
25.6+ Million birds

That species total represents nearly one-third of the bird species in the entire world. Bird watchers in the U.S. and Canada set new national records for tallies submitted. Reports have come in from as far away as Antarctica and Afghanistan. So far, 30 states and 3 provinces have set new records for checklist entries. Here are the top ten countries by checklists submitted so far:

United States 107,538

Canada 10,970

India 391
Mexico 263
Australia 143
United Kingdom 84
Peru 83
Puerto Rico 79

Iceland 78
Portugal 72

and they show a picture of a Japanese Green Woodpecker that is beautiful!

Japanese Green Woodpecker by Masami Yoshimura, 2013 GBBC

I submitted a number of checklists: one each day from my yard, two looking out at the bay to count shorebirds, and five from various spots nearby.

Highlights for me were seeing the Green-winged Teal again at the Ellisville Harbor State Park and a huge raft of Common Eider in the Cape Cod Canal.

It took me four days of counting before the turkeys decided to show up but I did manage to get them in (not that they're rare here but it wouldn't be a count without them).


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 5:57PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I was just exploring the data and I saw this checklist submitted by Gil Ewing in Haleakala NP--Hosmer Grove, Maui County, Hawaii, US

Look at the pictures and read the names of the birds (and note the common birds we get here too)!


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 6:17PM
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