Counting birds is not just for ornithologists and tree huggers, but is an opportunity for anyone who enjoys watching feathered friends, says Evergreen Audubon member Chuck Aid.
Aid and other local Audubon members spent the better part of Saturday at the Hiwan Homestead Museum talking about avian species and the Great Backyard Bird Count that takes place Feb. 15-18.
“We’re trying to raise awareness of that count,” said John Sears, Audubon member and owner of the Evergreen Wild Bird Store. “The more people do that, the better the data.”
A sharp eye and basic binoculars can go a long way toward helping the first global count of birds be as comprehensive as possible. A nodding acquaintance with a few of the resident birds also helps, of course.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are,” said Aid. “Only report the birds you’re sure of,” he cautioned.
While at Hiwan, Aid took the time to show a couple of youngsters how to adjust binoculars.
“Try closing one eye,” he said to Gianna Sauvageau as she focused on a magpie hopping around in the museum’s front yard.
To optimize bird identification with binoculars, people don’t have to spend a lot, said Sears. However, he does recommend nature-viewing binoculars for bird watching, which he said are different than the generic kind. Binoculars with the capability to zoom from 6X to 10X are optimal, he says.
Saturday’s program was designed to help youngsters focus on birds. A scavenger hunt for seeds and other natural items led them to the mercantile building, where museum administrator John Steinle gave them birdseed in exchange. Evergreen Nature Center director Vanessa Hayes helped the kids make bird feeders outdoors, using empty soda bottles.
Youngsters also traveled up the hill to the museum playhouse, where they created pinecone owlets and rocking robins from construction paper.
Inside the main museum building, Sears gave people information about food for winter bird feeders, which he said needs to be high in fat and protein to help them recover quickly from cold nights. Sunflower, safflower, peanuts, suet and dried mealworms are good choices, he said. And dark-eyed juncos like millet.
Installing a heated birdbath is another way to attract winter birds, including robins and bluebirds, Sears advised.
Sears also said that, according to a recent three-year study at the University of Wisconsin, feeding wild birds does not create dependency but rather supplements their natural diet.
When asked what birds Evergreen residents who join in this year’s count might see, Sears’ answer was varied.
While many of the fair-weather birds have headed south, mountain and black-capped chickadees, evening grosbeak, rosy finch, dark-eyed juncos, varieties of nuthatch, Northern flicker, Stellar’s jay with its brilliant plumage — and even wild turkey are available for viewing. A few owls are still hanging out in local trees, including the great-horned and saw-whet owl.
Counting via eBird
The 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count has two unique elements. This year’s count is worldwide, and entries can be submitted on the eBird website, where participants create a free account to enter bird checklists for the GBBC.
Participants are asked to watch birds at any location for at least 15 minutes, tally the numbers of each species, and report them online at www.BirdCount.org or http://ebird.org.
Those who are already eBird users can use the same user name and log-in information to participate in the GBBC.
“People can do as many checklists as they want,” said Aid.
The GBBC is a joint project of Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.
Contact Sandy Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-350-1042.