Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Birdwatching & The Great Backyard Bird Count

For the past several years, I have become increasingly intrigued with the feathered visitors to our backyard.
Now that I am home full-time with a growing toddler, bird watching has become a passion of ours. We like to sit and watch the birds on the back deck while we have breakfast. We are working on identifying birds, like the "daddy Carm-in-al" above, as well as counting how many birds we see. Our daughter enjoys when we see a morning "bird party." If they aren't at the feeder when she is ready for them to be, she asks, "more birds, please?"
sparrows & house finches

Last year, I attending a bird banding event at the Burroughs Audubon Nature Center & Bird Sanctuary and wrote about it here, along with the instructions for a birdseed wreath. I was lucky enough to hold a dark-eyed Junco (commonly called snow birds in our area) and release him.

I learned about the Great Backyard Bird Count, or GBBC, through the Audubon Society, and participated last year. We have had so many newcomers to our feeder in the past year, that I am excited to watch & log the birds. The 2013 Great Backyard Bird Count will take place Feb 15th - Feb 18th.
tufted titmouse
Participation in the GBBC is free. All you have to do is create an account, then watch & count the birds in your yard for 15 minutes on at least one day during the weekend. There is even a wonderful tool for helping you identify the birds you see.

The GBBC is helpful for many reasons."Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time."

Chick-a-dee & Sparrow
As far as bird watching for merely a hobby, there isn't a lot you have to do. Put out seed, and you'll see some birds. We have switched now to a mix that is mostly sunflower seeds, and it is attracting many new birds. I was so excited to see two Eastern Bluebirds in our yard 2 weeks ago. I had not seen one in years.
Eastern Bluebird
 After some trial and error, we realized that no matter where we hung the feeder, the ground below would saturate with seeds & shells and killed off most of the grass. My husband, crafty as he is, found an old storm window screen laying around. He has attached it to the top of the deck rail, so now when the birds throw the seed out, it gathers on the screen. This is a common gathering place for the Cardinals and many other birds. As you can see below, the red-bellied woodpecker & house finch were making use of the catch screen.
With winter weather, we put out some suet cakes, which always guarantees a large gathering. Unfortunately, the squirrels have to get in on the action and scavenge for what seeds & suet they can find. I caught this little guy in mid-jump as he made his way to the feeder. With 3 big dogs, he usually doesn't get very far!
I keep my camera near the backdoor at most times now. I shoot as many photos as I can since so many of the birds are pretty quick. I hope to have more photos to post soon following the Great Backyard Bird Count. I encourage you to take a look & see what birds are in your area.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is happening now! I love this shirt on Cafepress by Retro Rocket Graphic Design which is perfect for bird nerds like me.



  1. Lovely post. This brings back memories of when we used to live in the mountains. My daughter and I would watch birds all morning and she too would say "where did all the birds go?" when there were none.

    Thanks for visiting. Im your follower, now.


  2. What a great concept! We love to watch the birds too! My husband builds amazing birdhouses and the birds actually fight over them! They are fun to watch!

    1. Thanks! My husband built a birdhouse for me for Valentine's Day, I can't wait to get it put up!

  3. Wow. You have some beautiful birds in you backyard. I guess I will have to pay more attention to the birds in our area. My daughter would enjoy bird watching too.


    1. We have a lot of fun bird watching. We have found the better quality seed brings more colorful birds.


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