Now underway is the Great Backyard Bird Count and you’re invited to jump on board and come along for the flight.

The GBBC is a free, fun and easy event that engages bird-watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at birdcount.org. Anyone can take part in the GBBC, from beginning bird-watchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard or anywhere in the world.

Each checklist submitted during the GBBC helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing, and how to protect them and the environment we share.

Last year, more than 160,000 participants submitted their bird observations online, creating the largest instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations ever recorded.

Two Henry Countians who plan to participate again this year are Dottie and Baker Kendall of the Elkhorn community. From their farm where beef cattle roam and Road Island Red chickens cluck a conversation of content are abundant birdhouses that attract scores of feathered friends.

The 23rd annual GBBC begins today and runs through Monday. The Kendalls plan to join a multitude of bird-watchers across America who not only watch but count and record the birds who visit their corner of the world.

For a long time the Kendalls have watched and admired their feathered friends throughout the seasons. In 1983 they started keeping charts on various species of birds that frequented their farm and it turned into quite a hobby.

“We love bird watching and helping improve the habitat for birds on our farm,” said Dottie Kendall as she dug out a detailed listing of species. To date the couple has logged some 91 different species on their detailed chart. “We’re passionate about it,” she says, accented with a smile and appreciation for the wildlife.

In 1993, they began erecting bluebird boxes, monitoring the usage and survival rates of nesting efforts. A lot of different species have passed through their Springville farm and stopped to share weeks and months during the migration.

Rare species have been seen such as a white crow — observed in 2014 — and a yellow-breasted chat that nested there for years but disappeared in 1989.

“We really kicked it up a notch in ’83 and have fallen under the spell of bird watching ever since,” said the Kendalls, pausing to scan the list and look at some notes and dates about various sightings.

 

COUNT PRODUCES IMPORTANT DATA

Bird populations are always shifting and changing. For example, 2014 GBBC data highlighted a large irruption of snowy owls across the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes areas of the United States. The data also showed the effects that warm weather patterns have had on bird movement around the country.

Avid bird-watchers will tell you their feathered friends sort of become part of the family. Their visits display unique behavior, not to mention a parade of colors. Their various calls blend into a choir, helping escort picturesque sunrises that will jumpstart a beautiful day.

Pausing to watch and listen, the various sounds of the species are as unique as their color schemes. God’s paintbrush made some unbelievable blends and nowhere is that more apparent than in the birding world.

Morning coffee never smelled or tasted better as when shared with the birds. Watching feeders lure assorted species shows how busy they can be and also their preference for this or that seed. When eggs hatch and the demands of feeding a young family enter the equation it adds yet another dimension to the already great show as parents dart back to their brood with morsels.

Even a bad day can reverse course if you allow the birds to enter your hectic schedule. A few minutes in their presence will change your attitude and put pep in your step.

When asked if they’d witnessed many changes in their decades of bird-watching, the Kendalls quickly responded by saying the numbers appear to have declined.

Although a multitude of birds are present nowadays to perpetuate the long running movie of bird-watching marvels, some species are in decline with hurdles facing them, ranging from habitat loss to pollution, chemical applications such as herbicides and pesticides and climate change.

Bird populations are good barometers of the environment.

Visit the website of birdcount.org for more information and be sure to check out the latest educational and promotional resources.

Invite the birds into your life and you’ll likely gain a different perspective of life and the countryside around you.

For more on the results of the latest GBBC, take a look at the GBBC summary, and be sure to check out some of the images in the GBBC photo contest gallery.

On the program website, participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during and after the count. Be sure to check out the Explore a Region tool to get an idea of what you can expect to see in your area during the next GBBC.

For questions and comments, contact the National Audubon Society by email at citizenscience@audubon.org or Cornell Lab of Ornithology by calling 800-843-2473 or email gbbc@cornell.edu.

 

STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is stevemc@charter.net.

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