Updated: Nov 26, 2022
What is the Great Backyard Bird Count?
Every year, I get the pleasure of attending the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) walk and meeting with the Bighorn Audubon Society in Big Horn, Wyoming. And while it is a 2.5-hour drive to attend, I have not missed a single count, minus COVID years, since 2016! Why do I consider this event such a treat? The people... and the birds. The annual count in Big Horn is part of a national effort led by Cornell, Audubon, and Birds Canada. It is a global count that Cornell describes as:
Each February, for four days, the world comes together for the love of birds. Over these four days we invite people to spend time in their favorite places watching and counting as many birds as they can find and reporting them to us. These observations help scientists better understand global bird populations before one of their annual migrations.
It is a count that typically has:
7000+ species observed
200+ participating countries
50,000+ photos submitted
While these numbers may not mean much to everyone, they mean a lot to those who love and count birds for science. These global snapshots provide data to scientists that are used to help us understand how we are impacting the world that we share with birds. In fact, bird count data was instrumental in helping to understand how bird populations have fared since 1970. What did it tell us? Many birds' populations are crashing. The sliver of hope from the report, though, was that some birds are recovering due to conservation efforts!
When arriving at the count meeting location at the Brinton Museum, faces are lit up with smiles and anticipation to see some of the fantastic birds found during the Great Backyard Bird Count. The Brinton Museum property can hold thousands of Bohemian Waxwings, tens of Brown Creepers, American Dippers, Pine Grosbeaks, chickadees, finches, and more. This recognized Important Bird Area is managed to protect the native habitat needed by breeding, migrating, and wintering species. It is truly a gem of the Rockies.
The walk is gentle and allows for persons of almost all physical abilities to participate. The group moves slowly and discusses each bird species seen, working to help everyone see every bird and understand how to identify it. It is a welcoming and fun atmosphere that anyone new to birds could genuinely appreciate.
However, two of my favorite people actually host this throng of bird lovers. After the walk has finished, the group gathers and carpools to the first host, Vistara. Vistara has her feeders full, coffee made, and a homemade popcorn mix that visits me in my dreams in the evenings leading up to the GBBC! Then, Vistara allows the group to take up spots throughout her house or on her deck to wait for the pink and brown hordes of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches storming down onto the awaiting black oil sunflower seed! This year (2022), the group was even more fortunate to watch flocks of redpolls also visit, enjoying the treats provided by the accommodating Vistara. It is truly a magical time with amazing people!
After the group has had a few rounds of rosy-finches, many of them often depart. But that is not where my GBBC adventure ends! I take a short ride down to the domicile of another marvelous, bird-loving human named Jenny. While Jenny was out of town for this GBBC, in past GBBCs and CBCs, I have enjoyed the spectacle of several hundred redpolls visiting her feeders. In fact, I saw my first Hoary Redpolls visiting amongst these flocks, and I even had the pleasure of watching a Nothern Goshawk cruise over the aspens here. While the main photo above is from Vistara's feeders, many of the photos I use at Flocking Around are from Jenny's home! Like the one below.
A Hairy Woodpecker female sits above Jenny's feeders. They often use the crack in the branch to hold the sunflower seeds that they then split open with a swing of their head!
The Feeders of the Great Backyard Bird Count
One thing I love about visiting the feeders of Jenny and Vistara is their ingenuity. Both use several custom-made bird feeders that all the birds, big and small, seem to truly love! They both provide black oil sunflower seed to the masses, but additionally, I know Jenny also uses ample Nyjer seed for the small finches. If you want to learn more about attracting birds to your backyard, I provide ample information in the links you just passed. For recommendations on feeders specifically for finches, check out this article. For general feeder recommendations, this is the place for you!
Feeders are a great way to supplement a healthy backyard habitat for birds and other wildlife. We encourage everyone to make a better space around their house for birds, mammals, pollinators, and all manner of animals!
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