Platalea ajaja, the Roseate Spoonbill
The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual, joint venture between the Audubon Society and Cornell University's Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Every year, the Great Backyard Bird Count asks participants to observe an area for a minimum of 15 minutes, count the number and quantity of bird species he or she sees and then enter their findings on the GBBC website. This year, the GBBC is taking place from the 13-16 of February. While it's true that it started yesterday, there's still plenty of time to set aside some time for watching the birds in your yard.
Passerina cyanea, the Indigo Bunting
The GBBC's website has a page where you can enter your zip code and then you'll be directed to a species checklist that's specific to your part of the world and this time of year. What's really cool is that each of the species listed is also a hot key that will direct you to a fact and identification sheet for a particular bird. Can't tell the difference between a White-eyed Vireo and Blue-headed Vireo? Have no fear, the GBBC's website will dispel that particular mystery. As the four days of the bird count progress, the GBBC's website will update in real time, so that you can see what people in your town are seeing as well as what species people a continent away have seen.
Dryocopus pileatus, the Pileated Woodpecker
The point of this is to take an informal poll of where different bird species are from year to year. In addition to providing some important information about the populations of various species, it also lets the event's organizers get a feel for migratory patterns and how specific birds are responding to this year's winter temperatures and precipitation. The Cornell Lab and the Audubon Society can take this years' information and compare it to previous years.
Egretta thula, the Snowy Egret
Aside from its scientific value, the Great Backyard Bird Count is a great excuse to pay attention to your surroundings, if only for 15 minutes. Even if you don't participate in the count, why not take a break and stare into the backyard this weekend? It does a body good and you may see something unexpected.
Passerina ciris, the Painted Bunting
By the way, I'm peppering this page today with birds I expect to see this weekend.
Porphyrio martinica, the Purple Gallinule
Eudocimus albus, the American White Ibis
Piranga olivacea, the Scarlet Tanager
Lanius ludovicianus, the Loggerhead Shrike
Rynchops niger, the Black Skimmer