Sometimes connecting with nature is as easy as opening your back door.
The 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count will be held Friday-Monday around the world — with bird enthusiasts checking their yards, parks, beaches, balconies and favorite trails for birds.
Last year, an estimated 163,763 people from more than 100 countries submitted 162,052 bird checklists, according to event sponsor Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Those checklists included 5,689 species — more than half of the known birds in the world.
The first year, 13,500 checklists were submitted in just two countries, the United States and Canada.
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“The very first GBBC was an experiment,” Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff said in a press release. “We wanted to see if people would use the Internet to send us their bird sightings. Clearly the experiment was a success.”
The information intrigues scientists because of its scope.
“No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds,” Gary Langham, Audubon vice president and chief scientist, said in a press release.
To participate, bird watchers should count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes. Checklists are submitted through birdcount.org or the eBird mobile app. You can count for as long as you want and at as many locations as you like but organizers request you submit a separate checklist for each day, location or time of day.
There’s also a photo contest for bird photos taken during the four-day event. Details are available at gbbc.birdcount.org/photo-contest-rules.
A few birding tips:
▪ A birding guide is handy. The Field Guide to Boise’s Birds is an easy-to-use, photo-filled guide to 99 common birds in Boise. You can buy it for $8 from Boise Parks and Recreation or download it online (more info: parks.cityofboise.org). Or, try Cornell’s Merlin Bird ID app, where you can input some information about the bird you saw and the app will provide possible matches. The app also can use a photo you took of the bird to provide a match.
▪ Good binoculars are key to bird identification. Some birds with distinct, colorful markings look bland from a distance. Or, use a telephoto lens to take photos of the birds so you have a closeup shot to study.
▪ If you want to learn more about birding: There’s an extensive network of enthusiastic birders in the Treasure Valley. Check out goldeneagleaudubon.org, Idaho Birding on Facebook, Facebook.com/SWIdahoBirders or the monthly birding series at the Foothills Learning Center (first Wednesday of the month).