The Great Backyard Bird Count begins this Friday, February 15th and runs until Monday, February 18th, 2013. Don’t let the word “backyard” turn you off, you don’t have to count just in your backyard, but you can if you want. This year, there have been some exciting new developments in the Great Backyard Bird count, or as it’s commonly referred to, the GBBC.
Unlike the Christmas Bird Count and other formal counting and recording programs, the GBBC is totally unstructured and informal. There are no circles or set areas to count, no species to specifically watch or ignore, no specific time frame other than the dates listed above. You can count any place at any time you want. You can even sit by your window and watch the birds come and go from your feeders if you want. The only requirement, other than the dates, is that you count for at least fifteen minutes at a time.
This year, though, the GBBC has gone global. That is, everyone on Earth who can access a computer to enter their data can participate. This should make for an interesting count. The count should give a snapshot of the world’s species during this time. It’s done in February because that is the time when birds are least likely to be migrating. Previous counts have shown what species are irrupting (have a higher than average count or are migrating out of range) and have given hints as to changes in climate and migration. Another new development is that the GBBC is integrating with eBird, a popular bird sighting recording site. However, participants still need to register with GBBC as well as eBird to have their counts recorded by both sites.
Last year, the city of San Diego had the third highest species reported for the United States with 165 species. If more people go out to more locations to count, San Diego might make it to the number one slot with even more species. California was the number one state for counting the most species with 333 species and the fourth highest state for reporting the number of actual individual birds. Some new species to look out for this year include black and white warblers, a Virginia’s warbler, the reddish egret, red-necked grebe, and eastern phoebe. All of those species were not mentioned in last year’s report, though at least one of them was spotted in the county at that time and all of them have been recently spotted this year.
Participants can register on the Great Backyard Bird Count website at www.birdcount.org or www.birdsource.org/gbbc/ beginning this Friday. Registration for eBird can begin at any time at www.ebird.org, but only counts towards the GBBC from the 15th to the 18th.