Join birders across the country on February 16 through 19, and record your birdwatching results to help scientists discover trends and changes in migrations and populations of birds in the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Founded in 1998 by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the count was the first project to use non-biologists to collect massive amounts of data on wild birds and display the results in near real-time. Scientists combine the data from this count with other citizen-based counting projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch and the eBird program to get a big picture of what is happening to bird populations across the nation. It’s an excellent way to be involved in conservation without ever leaving the comfort of your own backyard.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission nature centers also are great locations to enjoy this citizen-scientist activity. Each of the AGFC’s four nature centers has a birdwatching station with maintained feeders near an indoor viewing area. Field guides are available to help identify birds at the feeder, and staff are always nearby to answer questions about the birds you see.
Kirsten Bartlow, watchable wildlife coordinator for the AGFC, says another great way to enjoy nature is through watchable wildlife trails, including the AGFC’s Arkansas Water Trails program.
“Water trails are designated routes people can paddle using a canoe or kayak,” Bartlow said. “It’s a great way to get out and enjoy nature, especially birdwatching. You can glide along silently and get really close to many birds. Some wading birds like herons and egrets also are much easier to find from the water.”
Bartlow says another great way to keep tabs on the species you’ve seen is the AGFC’s Wings Over Arkansas program.
“With Wings Over Arkansas, you record the bird species you see or hear on a checklist,” Bartlow said, “Once you reach certain levels, you are awarded a certificate and pin to show your accomplishment.”
Bartlow says Wings Over Arkansas is very popular with school groups and scouts, but has just as many adult participants who enjoy creating a life list of birds they’ve seen.
“Birding is something that anyone can enjoy, no matter what age they are,” Bartlow said. “And because birds can be attracted to practically any location using feeders, you don’t have to make special plans for a weekend getaway to a far off destination to enjoy the hobby.”
Visit http://gbbc.birdcount.org/ for more information about the Great Backyard Bird Count. To learn more about the Wings Over Arkansas Program or visit one of the AGFC’s four nature centers, visit www.agfc.com.