By R. Scott Belzer
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count will take place on Friday, Feb. 14 through Monday, Feb. 17.
In other words, bird enthusiasts and all-around nature lovers have less than a month’s time to stock up on binoculars, birdhouses and bird feed.
The four-day event enables bird watchers and lovers to participate in a continent-wide count. The count gives ornithologists throughout North America a yearly snapshot of what birds are in certain areas. This aids them in their study of increase or decrease of certain species, migratory routes and disease.
“Watch and count birds in your backyard, at your school, a local park, or anywhere for that matter,” said Wendi Allen of Burkmann’s Backyard Birds, an all-around bird lover. “A field guide and binoculars are very helpful, but not a must.”
According to Allen, schools, youth and homeschoolers are wholeheartedly encouraged to participate in the event. She, along with other representatives from Burkmann’s Backyard Birds, are open to school visits for seminars on birding, feeding and housing.
“We have had a great response from Clay County Elementary,” said Allen. “The kids have come so far in their studies and we are continually amazed at the level of knowledge these kids have attained. Anything that can encourage our youth to enjoy the nature around them is a win-win situation and we would love to be a part of that.”
Burkmann’s Backyard Birds will be awarding a pizza party to a class in each county that has the largest count of individual birds and species.
The rules for the bird count are as follows:
1) Count birds anywhere you like for AT LEAST 15 minutes — or even longer if you wish. Keep track of the kinds of birds you see and how long you watched.
2) Make your best estimate of how many birds you saw of each species. For example, five Northern Cardinals, three American Crows. Huge flocks may be a challenge, but your best guess is still valuable.
3) Electronically submit your lists online. New lists should be made for each new day, each different location, or for different times during the day at the same location.
A continent wide photography contest also accompanies the Bird Count. Judges from the Cornell Lab or Ornithology, National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada will review and award deserved entries. Categories include overall best picture, birds in habitat, behavior, group shots, composition and people enjoying birds.
Additional instruction for both the count and the photography contest can be found at www.birdsource.org. The website also has games, coloring pages and puzzles available to any educator. In addition, teachers can find a PowerPoint slideshow and video to help them start counting in their classrooms.
Hard copies of count sheets and additional information can be found at Burkmann’s Backyard Birds at 1115 S. Laurel Road in London or by calling (606) 330-0606.