Friday, February 12, 2010

Great Backyard Bird Count starts today!

It's my favorite part of winter... time for the Great Backyard Bird Count!

We did this for the first time two years ago.  We'd spent the previous five years living overseas in very urban locations, and the kids knew next to nothing about nature.  We had recently moved to a place with lots of birds... a completely new experience!  When we heard about the Backyard Bird Count it sounded like a great way to get to know our backyard neighbors, so we got out our binoculars and started taking notes.

My younger daughter was 6 at the time, and soon she could identify those little creatures better than any of us.  We had heated discussions about whether a certain bird was a song sparrow or a house sparrow... when we got out the guide books and compared notes, by gosh, she was right!  It was so much fun for her - she loved showing off her new identification skills, drawing pictures of new birds, and taking pictures of our crowded feeders.  An interest in nature photography was sparked in a 6 year old!

So, the Great Backyard Bird Count has a special place in our hearts.  It takes as little as 15 minutes per day over 4 days.  You can mail in your results or enter them online (that's the job of my older daughter!) and see what kinds of birds your neighbors are counting. 

The GBBC website has tons of fun activities for kids to get to know the birds they're counting, from puzzles to quizzes to guides.  There are even directions on how to make your own homemade feeders to attract more birds.

Here are the directions from the GBBC site:

How to do the Great Backyard Bird Count

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

tallboy.jpg1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. You can count each day or just some of the days and you can count in different places. Just be sure to keep a separate list of birds for each day and each location.
2. For each type of bird you see, count the most you see at any one time. For example, maybe you see two chickadees when you start watching, then five chickadees a few minutes later. The number you put on your list for chickadees is five. Do not add two plus five. (This way way you don't accidentally count the same bird twice.)
3. Enter your results on the Great Backyard Bird Count website .  Then watch the maps as more and more people enter their reports.
That's it! Now get ready to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count because when it comes to watching birds, kids count!

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