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.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

#GreatBackyardBirdCount (#GBBC) Is Just Around the Corner

Join the 21st Great Backyard Bird Count

Bird watchers around the world take part, February 16-19
News Release: A lot has changed since the first Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The 21st annual GBBC is taking place February 16-19 in backyards, parks, schools, offices and anywhere else you find birds.

Anyone can participate in this massive global citizen science project. All it takes is a 15 minute break. Count the birds you see and then enter that checklists at birdcount.org. All the data contributes to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the years.

“The very first GBBC was an experiment,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program. “We wanted to see if people would use the Internet to send us their bird sightings. Clearly the experiment was a success!”

One of the most obvious changes observed in bird populations is due to the varying weather conditions. eBird reports show many more birds are remaining further north than usual because of warmer winters. In mid-Michigan sightings of Carolina Wrens, Northern Flickers and Eastern Bluebirds are becoming commonplace when ten years ago it was very rare for them not to migrate further south. Participants also noted that they were seeing fewer birds at their feeders, compared to other years during the GBBC. That may also have something to do with milder weather. The birds may be finding more natural sources of food and visiting feeders less as a result.

Last year the warm weather in February also kicked off early migration that started around GBBC time. Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles are well-known to arrive in early March in mid-Michigan. In 2017 however blackbirds were even more widespread than normal and their returning numbers continued to build through February’s final week. Comparing the 2017 GBBC map to the January 2017 map from eBird shows how much migration was already underway by mid-February. 

If the warm weather continues, we could see the earliest spring ever for bird migration in the eastern United States: watch for waves of Tree Swallows, Eastern Phoebes, Pine Warblers, and Chipping Sparrows next!

Learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count at birdcount.org. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

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