Do you like watching birds from your kitchen window, or out on hikes?
You can put your birdwatching skills to good use, or at least give it a try, between Feb. 14 and 17 during the National Audubon Society’s 23rd annual Great Backyard Bird Count.
It doesn’t take too much effort: Those wishing to participate are asked to count birds for a minimum of 15 minutes and report their sightings at birdcount.org. Participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count is free.
Checklists submitted during the bird count will help researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Last year, more than 160,000 participants submitted their bird observations online. For more details, visit www.audubon.org online.
Jim Tomko, president of the Audubon Society of Greater Cleveland, said participants must first sign up for a free account at the website, then find a place to survey.
As its name suggests, one can simply step outside and look around, but that may not be the most effective way to proceed.
"I would advise interested people to visit nature centers that have bird feeding windows," said Twinsburg City Naturalist Stanley Stine. "It’s a good place to practice identifying birds and even doing one’s own count. The Great Backyard Bird Count is something anyone can do from just about anywhere"
Those wanting to participate can also visit the Aurora Audubon Sanctuary, 896 E. Pioneer Train in Aurora, on Feb. 15, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
However, attending an actual event is not necessary, Tomko said.
"You don't have to be an expert," Tomko said. "You don't have to go anywhere spectacular or special. You can sit by their window and watch their bird feeders, and submit their report from there. You can sit, drink your coffee and observe."
This international event aims to help detect bird population patterns, Tomko said.
"Even though it is a citizen scientist, someone in China can see trends that are here," Tomko said. "What is happening to individual species. When you have that many people looking for birds, some unusual things can happen. Sometimes you see species that are not expected. It gives scientists all over the world a ‘snap shot’ in time of the fluctuations in bird populations anywhere in the world. There is no other way to get this enormous amount of data from all over the world in just a few days."
Tomko said that the National Audubon Society has an interactive map; when someone submits a survey, a point comes up on the global map to show where that survey came from.
Although it is cold and snowy, not typically a time of year where people associate as being a good time to watch for wildlife, this is actually an ideal time for birdwatchers, Tomko said.
"This is a good time for new birders, because birds aren't hidden by canopies of leaves," he said. "In the summer, you need to know bird calls."
Climate change has had an impact on bird populations, Tomko said. Some species of birds have increased in population but others have declined.
"Certain species have dropped precipitously," Tomko said. "There are a few who expanding. With climate change, they can expand their range north. But those northern birds, they have no place to go. The biggest risk is loss of habitat, especially in the tropical rain forests. They go down there and they find their habitat is gone. There is no food nor shelter. Their habitat is gone. That's the worst thing, habitat destruction."
Students in kindergarten through sixth grade are invited to the Twinsburg Public Library on Feb. 14 from 2 to 2:30 p.m. Free journals are provided. Visit www.twinsburglibrary.org for details and to register.
The Summit Metro Parks doesn't have any activities directly related to the Great Backyard Bird Count. However, there are bird-related activities the park system is sponsoring.
One series is Coffee with the Birds, which takes place next on Feb. 13, from 10 to 11 a.m. This event will be sp onsored both at the Seiberling Nature Realm at 1828 Smith Road in Akron and at the Liberty Park Nature Center, 9999 Liberty Road in Twinsburg. This event includes morning discussion at the wildlife viewing areas. Those attending should bring a mug; coffee and tea are provided. Other gatherings are on Feb. 20 and 27.
Those who want more tthan a peck at birdwatching could participate in a winter bird hike Feb. 22 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tuscarawas Meadows in Firestone Metro Park, 2620 Harrington Road in Akron.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, email@example.com, or @AprilKHelms_RPC