About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

#GBBC 2014 Halftime Report

Thanks to all of you who have been out counting birds! The checklists are rolling in from around the globe and are on pace to surpass last year’s record Great Backyard Bird Count. Please continue to submit your checklists to help create a more complete picture of bird populations in your area.

As of mid-morning on Sunday, February 16, (eastern U.S. time zone) we have received checklists from 103 countries, including Australia, China, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Iceland, India, Kenya, and so many more. A sampler of some species and checklist tallies:
 
Country  Number of Species   Number of Checklists 
United States 591 36,000
Canada 216 4,000
Mexico 523 141
Costa Rica 324 31
Argentina 184 27
Kuwait 99 43
Portugal 140 44
Iceland 45 34
Puerto Rico 80 45

Last year participants tallied more than 40% of the world’s bird species! Will we reach 50% this year? That may depend on participation in three crucial areas: the forests of Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. These regions harbor most of the world's bird species and we need reports from those locations. If you have friends or know guides that work in those areas, please get in touch and encourage them to enter their weekend birding tallies to the GBBC!

Although the data are still pouring in, read on to learn about some of the trends we’ve noted so far.

Fewer winter finches across North America
What a difference a year makes. Last year the GBBC documented a finch “superflight,” driven by food shortages in Canada. Ten species of irruptive species (mostly finches) staged a record invasion in areas where they don't usually show up. Compare the White-winged Crossbill reports from last year’s GBBC with what we see so far this year:
  
2013 GBBC
White-winged Crossbill Reports
  2014 GBBC
White-winged Crossbill Reports
 

These two maps highlight how dramatically bird populations can fluctuate naturally from year to year—and we could never see the change so clearly defined over the vastness of a continent without your data. We’re seeing a similar pattern with Red Crossbills, Common and Hoary redpolls, Pine and Evening grosbeaks, Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Bohemian Waxwing, birds that were more numerous farther south last year as well.

 
Snowy Owl by Kathy Ferrara,
Massachusetts, 2014 GBBC
The Snowy Owl invasion continues
A massive irruption of Snowy Owls into the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes states of the U.S. has been producing headlines for the past several months. Even though we’re only halfway through the GBBC, we’ve already tallied 327 checklists reporting a total of 476 Snowy Owls in 20 states and provinces of the U.S. and Canada. Compare this to 392 owls from 8 provinces and 14 states during all four days of 2013. As an illustration of how the owls have moved, in 2013 Canada had 46% of the Snowy Owl reports, but this year that number has dropped to 32%. Despite this year's impressive numbers, snowies can still be hard to find. We recommend checking seashores and lakeshores, farm fields, and even cities, where the owls often choose a prominent perch with a good view, such as a utility pole or even the roof of a city building.

The polar vortex effect
In much of North America, we’re shivering through bone-chilling blasts of arctic air also called the “polar vortex.” The impact of this frigid cold on birds is most apparent in areas such as the Great Lakes which are almost completely frozen. Only Lake Ontario has any significant open water now and that has resulted in major movements of waterfowl and grebes. The GBBC is capturing these patterns well.

For example, the White-winged Scoter is not usually found inland in February, but has been widely reported from interior locations over the past few days as has the Long-tailed Duck. This trend is apparent in the maps below showing reports for these two species so far during the GBBC.
 
2014 GBBC
White-winged Scoter Reports
  2014 GBBC
Long-tailed Duck Reports
 

Exciting rare birds
One of the more exciting rare birds reported in this year's GBBC is from across the pond. A Yellow-rumped Warbler has been visiting a feeder in central England! This is the first New World warbler ever recorded for the GBBC from the Eastern Hemisphere!
 
Sinaloa Wren by Donald Sutherland,
Arizona, 2014 GBBC
Some Mexican species have been moving north, with Sinaloa Wren reported during the GBBC for only the second time, along with other species like Rufous-capped Warbler. Climate change is driving movement of Mexican species into the desert Southwest. The GBBC helps to monitor these types of movements from their very first appearance in the country. Will the Sinaloa Wren be a common bird in Arizona 10 years from now? Or will their expansion fizzle out?

India has been a lot of fun to watch during the GBBC! Indian birders have been abuzz on Facebook and other social media to promote the count and their great efforts are showing. Some 500 species and a whopping 1,184 checklists have already been collected with more coming in every hour. With the weekend just half over, India has already found 40% of the regularly occurring species in the country! This includes data from the southern tip of the country to the Himalayas (23 states). Southern India has been most active with Tamil Nadu state reporting half the total species (231) so far and Kerala in the lead for total participation with 535 checklists, thanks to their Common Bird Monitoring initiatives.

Australia’s bird watchers are doing their country proud, especially since the merger of Eremaea Birds with eBird. Of 772 species recorded all-time for Australia, 445 have been found in just these past 2 days, nearly 60% of the total. By the end of the GBBC, Australia may post the highest percentage of its country's avifauna.

If you haven’t already, try some of these activities:
  • Explore what’s being reported with our new “Explore a Location” tool. You can see what species are being reported and how many checklists are being turned in at the county, state/province, and country levels. Just click “Explore Data” on the GBBC or eBird websites and you’ll see the “Explore a Location” tool at the top of the list.
  • Submit photos for the GBBC photo contest or just explore some of the fantastic images that are coming in!
  • Sign up for the GBBC eNewsletter on the website homepage. This is the best way to stay on top of any updates and to get word of the 2014 count summary when it’s ready.
Thanks for counting with us—let’s keep a good thing going!

No comments: