Friday, February 17, 2017

Join the 20th Great Backyard Bird Count

News Release

Join the 20th Great Backyard Bird Count

Bird watchers around the world take part, February 17-20 
For release:  February 2, 2017

Bird watchers from around the world enjoy counting their birds and entering the GBBC photo contest. Photo by Ann Foster, Florida, 2016 GBBC. Download larger image.
New York, NY, Ithaca, NY, and Port Rowan, ON—A lot has changed since the first Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was held in 1998. Each year brings unwavering enthusiasm from the growing number of participants in this now-global event. The 20th annual GBBC is taking place February 17-20 in backyards, parks, nature centers, on hiking trails, school grounds, balconies, and beaches—anywhere you find birds.
Bird watchers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at All the data contribute to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the past 20 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!” eBird collects bird observations globally every day of the year and is the online platform used by the GBBC.
That first year, bird watchers submitted about 13,500 checklists from the United States and Canada. Fast-forward to the most recent event in 2016. Over the four days of the count, an estimated 163,763 bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted 162,052 bird checklists reporting 5,689 species–more than half the known bird species in the world.
“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in citizen science,” says Audubon vice president and chief scientist Gary Langham. “No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds.”
Varying weather conditions so far this winter are producing a few trends that GBBC participants can watch for during the count. eBird reports show many more waterfowl and kingfishers remaining further north than usual because they are finding open water. If that changes, these birds could move southward.

Bohemian Waxwing by A. Blomquist, 2016 GBBC. Download larger image.
Also noted are higher than usual numbers of Bohemian Waxwings in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains. And while some winter finches have been spotted in the East, such as Red Crossbills, Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks, and a few Pine Grosbeaks, there seem to be no big irruptions so far. A few eye-catching Snowy Owls have been reported in the northern half of the United States.
Jon McCracken, Bird Studies Canada’s National Program Director, reminds participants in Canada and the U.S. to keep watch for snowies. He says, “The GBBC has done a terrific job of tracking irruptions of Snowy Owls southward over the past several years. We can’t predict what winter 2017 will bring, because Snowy Owl populations are so closely tied to unpredictable ‘cycles’ of lemmings in the Arctic. These cycles occur at intervals between two and six years.  Nevertheless, there are already reports of Snowy Owls as far south as Virginia.”
In addition to counting birds, the GBBC photo contest has also been a hit with participants since it was introduced in 2006. Since then, tens of thousands of stunning images have been submitted. For the 20th anniversary of the GBBC, the public is invited to vote for their favorite top photo from each of the past 11 years in a special album they will find on the GBBC website home page. Voting takes place during the four days of the GBBC.
Learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count at where downloadable instructions and an explanatory PowerPoint are available. 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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Saturday, February 4, 2017


Wilson's Snipe

Well, once again we have survived January. Time for things to brighten up a bit. Before you know it; honey bees will be crawling over the Pussy willow catkins and crocus will pop from the snow. Yes, soon. Not quite yet; but soon. It will not be long before some trout will be going from near freezing water and in to the freezer. Yep, it will not be long. At least not as long as it has been.
We all know that it definitely isn’t a good idea to wander through life without any purpose. On the other hand it can be a good thing to do just a little bit every day. Our structured world doesn’t usually give us much free time. We need to take advantage of the time we are given. Wandering around a little bit every day without any worries can be very productive. We just need to allow ourselves to do it when the opportunity arises.
Have you ever taken time to notice that brown clump over there in the grass that seems to be out of place? Hmm, it seemed to move a little. Maybe you are just seeing things. The wind blows and it doesn’t move when the leaves around it does. Oh, it’s just a brown clump of something. Ever think about taking a closer look? Nah, too much trouble. Wonder why that blade of grass is moving back and forth while the ones surrounding it aren’t. Take a few aimless moments and go see. Its OK nobody will care. What is making those ripples in the water? You will never know unless you go look. It might be something good.
Some people work very hard all year so they can go to the store and buy food. Others work very hard all year long so they don’t have to go to the store and buy food. Neither are wrong; they just have different views about life. We are all in this together and we need to get along. Neither group will ever change. Nor is there any need to do so. None of us are ever going to be rich and we are all going to die. We need to take those precious aimless moments to make our lives more enjoyable. You’ll be glad you did; in the end.
Take the time to ride down that road you have never been down before. You might just find something good or you might just tear your fender off; like I did. But, you will never know unless you go. Find a quiet spot on your break and just sit and stare (not a your phone) you never know. You might just see something good. Learn to look and actually see, learn to listen and actually hear you will feel some fulfillment creeping in. You will become more aware of the real world. You will feel better and be happier, too. I can guarantee that.

The next time you have nothing to do try doing nothing but staring at your surroundings. You will see things that you didn’t know existed. You will find things that you would never have found if you take the time to do a little wandering without a purpose. I know I have.

This is my article for the February 2017 edition of Two-Lane Livin
(c) 2017 High Virginia Outdoors Photo (c) High Virginia Images ALL RIGHTS RESERVED