Tomorrow begins the 2015 Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Audubon Society. The way it works is you follow the link to the GBBC’s website and register as a participant with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Then you simply put out a feeder and watch it for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. This year the count takes place February 13-16. Count the birds that come to your feeder and submit your results on the website. The full instructions and lots of other info, like a link to an online bird guide, are on their site. There’s even a photo contest if you’d like to participate!
The Great Backyard Bird Count is an ideal time to begin a spring nature study after a long winter of (perhaps) dreading going outdoors in the cold to observe nature. What better way to kick off this year’s nature study than helping to track the number of avian friends we have in our world and where they are? It’s a good opportunity to discuss bird migration and moving populations. It teaches not only about bird behaviors and habits, but about our responsibility to the environment and ways we can help.
If you don’t have a backyard birdfeeder already, making one is easy. There are several suggestions for kid-friendly birdfeeders at Apartment Therapy, including milk carton feeders, craft stick feeders, and even toilet paper roll feeders. Happy Hooligans has even more options, including a soda bottle feeder, pine cone feeder, and orange rind and bagel feeders. My favorite on both sites is the teacup feeders and I will be adding those to my flower garden as soon as I can get to Goodwill or Antique Alley and pick up some interesting teacups and saucers!
Making their own feeders is a great way to add crafting to such a fun study.
We have so many bird guides around the house-national, regional, state, etc.- and during warm weather we are always watching our feeders for new species. But I have to admit, we kind of fall off in winter. We keep seed in the feeders, but looking outside on a really frigid day sometimes feels as cold as Being outside. The GBBC gives us a reason to overcome our hesitation and we enjoy it every year. But guide books aren’t the only books about birds. If you want to add a bit of literature to this fabulous study, check your local library for books like The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies and Melissa Sweet–a wonderful way to introduce Mr. Audubon and his love of nature, especially birds. For the very young, Birds by Kevin Henkes is a great introduction to the variety of birds. For older kids, Hoot by Carl Hiaasen is not only a great book about owls, but about the impact young people can have on their environment if they are brave and strong-willed.
The Great Backyard Bird Count provides so many opportunities for learning. Join me and the Littles in this very important study and have tons of fun while you’re at it.