By Jeff Osmundson
I hope this message for December finds you well and safe. The election is over but Covid is not. We continue to see our numbers go up and threat increase for some of our at-risk populations. I’ll not dwell on the Covid part of where we are but move on to how we can help entertain ourselves and participate in community science at the same time.
As the days grow short and it is cooler outside it is easy to think that bird watching is over. But, we have some great winter bird populations here in western Washington and I’ll bet several are in your back yard (or deck or patio).
Project Feeder Watch is a Cornell Lab offering that lets you keep track of your backyard birds and enter them into the database for Cornell Lab. It does cost a small amount but in return you get bird identification sheets and instructions. See Project Feeder Watch at https://feederwatch.org/join-or-renew/. Skagit Audubon member Pam Pritzl has been doing this project for over 28 years and finds it very enjoyable. Pam was one of the winners of the Big Sit backyard contest by identifying a fox sparrow in her yard.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up in February. Anyone can participate in this Audubon sponsored event. From the Audubon website:
The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a free, fun, and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at birdcount.org. Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world.
You can also create an eBird hotspot in your own backyard to keep track of what you see. It is called a “Yard List” and can be found on the eBird page marked “Explore”. It is a fun way to log the species you see and keep track of anything unusual. Last year Skagit Audubon member Tim Manns found a mountain chickadee in Mount Vernon by simply looking out his window. What can you find?
The summer edition of Living Bird, the Cornell Lab’s magazine, had some tips for birding from home. One great one included taking a dedicated 15 minute birding break. This is a great idea if you are working from home, binge watching a series or just reading your favorite novel. Take a break and look outside to see what may be in the yard or at the feeder. It will be refreshing for you and help community science if you enter it into eBird.
Until next month, stay safe and wash your hands.