Mike Ezell

It’s the time of year when many of us retreat into our cozy homes and fire up the heat sources. Lots of us will even fill up the bird feeders outside to allow our feathered friends to entertain us through our windows on these short daylight hours of winter.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology can provide you a way to contribute your bird sightings and counts to scientists all across North America. Its called Project Feeder Watch and about 20,000 people in North America are participating. Your bird counts help you keep track of what is happening in your own backyard and help scientists track long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance. People young and old can participate and it’s a great way to kill off those winter blues and learn more about birds, specifically the birds in your own back yard.

Now that I have your attention, here’s how it works. Fire up the computer and go to https://feederwatch.org/.

The Cornell Lab is the foremost authority on birds worldwide. They are a nonprofit so donations are appreciated to pay for things like computers and people to handle the great amounts of data they receive from people like you. To help pay the bills, they offer an $18 kit of identification tools and a newsletter to let you know the trends of songbird populations that have been discovered by your data. However, you can also participate without the kit.

Feeder watch “season” runs from November until April. You will choose a spot, backyard, pond, back 40, whatever you can manage and observe the birds that feed there at the feeders you provide.

You chose the days, actually pairs of days, one week apart that you count your feeder birds by species. You can count for 10 minutes or 8 hours, before work or after work, you choose. They have a data sheet you can download and copy, fill in your species and count numbers and turn into the Lab.

It’s a great project for folks with kids and a great way to learn the methods of science for all ages. For the scientists, it tells them where the birds are, and also importantly, where they are “not.”

Many people put out feeders of many types and enjoy our over 100 species of birds here that utilize them. Project Feeder Watch can add to your enjoyment and allow you to contribute to something larger that all of us. Give it a look see and let me know what you think.

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