Friday, 2/12/21, Begins the Great Backyard Bird Count Nationwide

by Duane Nichols on February 11, 2021

Adult northern cardinal (female)

Great Backyard Bird Count begins February 12th

From the Cornell Lab. of Ornithology, Cornell Chronicle, Ithaca, NY, February 4, 2021

Plenty of people turned to birdwatching during the past year, seeking enjoyment and relaxation. Chickadees, cardinals, finches and other birds are doing their part to lift human spirits.

The 24th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), Feb. 12-15, is a great opportunity for budding birdwatchers and bird-count veterans to use their skills. People from around the world count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, and then enter their checklists online.

“The GBBC is a simple, welcoming project that both new and veteran birdwatchers enjoy,” said David Bonter, co-director of the Center for Engagement in Science and Nature at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Birds are everywhere and can be counted in backyards, neighborhoods, suburban parks, wild areas and cities. Scientists need the eyes of the world to collect information about where the birds are.”

During the 2020 GBBC, birdwatchers set new records for the event, turning in nearly 250,000 lists of birds seen, from more than 100 countries, identifying nearly 7,000 of the world’s estimated 10,000 bird species. Data gathered by the GBBC and other survey projects highlight changes in the numbers and distribution of wild birds over time.

This year there is a new way to send in an observation – through the Cornell Lab’s free Merlin Bird ID app. If you use the app during the GBBC and save a bird you’ve identified, it is also counted for the GBBC. As in the past, using the eBird platform on your mobile app and computer are still great ways to enter your data. Visit the How to Participate page to learn more about entering your bird sightings.

All participants are urged to watch birds safely in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That means following the health and safety protocols for your area, not gathering in large groups, and wearing masks if you’re unable to remain at least 6 feet apart from others.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society and Birds Canada and is made possible in part by founding sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.


See also: Feds: Expect More Bird Deaths and Endangered Species Under New Rule, Andy McGlashen, Audubon Magazine, June 12, 2020

A Fish and Wildlife Service report on rolling back protections for migratory birds implies there would be benefits to having fewer of them around.


See also: Rollback of Migratory Bird Protections Delayed by New Administration, National Audubon Society, Audubon Press Release, February 4, 2021

The decision to delay implementation of this rule change offers an opportunity to reinstate and strengthen the 100-year-old law.

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Concerned Citizen February 11, 2021 at 9:52 am

Fracking Threatens California’s Wildlife

Fracking in California poses serious risks to the state’s wildlife. Endangered species like California condors, San Joaquin kit foxes and blunt-nosed leopard lizards live in places where fracking is likely to expand, and these animals face direct and indirect harm.

Fracking comes with intense industrial development, including multi-well pads and massive truck traffic. That’s because, unlike a pool of oil that can be accessed by a single well, shale formations are typically fractured in many places to extract fossil fuels, requiring multiple routes for trucks, adding habitat disturbance for wildlife and more pollution.

Fracking is already common in other parts of the country. Research and reports from those areas suggest links between fracking and a wide range of threats to wildlife and domestic animals like horses, cats and dogs. Among the most serious:

>> Fish kills in Pennsylvania have been associated with the contamination of streams, creeks and wetlands by fracking fluid.

>> Farmers, pet owners and veterinarians in five states — Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have reported deaths, serious illnesses and reproductive problems among wildlife, as well as horses, cattle, cats and dogs exposed to fracking infrastructure or wastewater.

>> Withdrawing water from streams and rivers for fracking can threaten fisheries.

>> Birds and other wildlife have been poisoned by chemical-laced water in wastewater ponds and tanks used to dispose of fracking fluids.

>> Equipment used to withdraw water for fracking activity has been implicated in the introduction of invasive species into creeks and rivers, causing fish kills.

>> Sensitive bird species and other wildlife can be affected by drilling noise, truck trips and other effects from gas drilling pads — one study found that a single drilling station can affect 30 acres of forest.

>> Effects on wildlife include degradation of habitat and interference with migration and reproduction.

>> The diversity of species in streams close to fracking activity in Pennsylvania was found to be reduced, even though drilling was done in accordance with all current state rules.

>> Wastewater ponds resulting from gas extraction provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes that can transmit diseases such as the deadly West Nile Virus to wild birds.

>> In California, oil and gas companies are fracking in several counties with West Nile virus activity, including Kern County, which has had a human case.

The six California counties in which fracking is likely to expand are home to about 100 plants and animals on the endangered species list. These species are already struggling against extinction — fracking would only compound their troubles.


Andrew Sporrer February 11, 2021 at 9:05 pm

Count Birds for Science: The Great Backyard Bird Count

From Andrew Sporrer, Virginia State Parks, January 25, 2021

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is an annual volunteer citizen science project that draws hundreds of thousands of birders to observe, record, and compile their data supporting the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society who monitor species health and location.

This year, from February 12-15, 2021, you too can join the count!

1. Visit the Great Backyard Bird Count to create a free account (it took me 3 minutes)
2. Count birds for least 15 minutes on one or more days of the GBBC
3. Then submit your observations on the GBBC

Many parks have bird guides and binoculars for you to borrow for your visit free of charge.

Where to Bird Watch in Virginia?

Our parks are prime habitat for hundreds of species of birds. Many have bird guide brochures to help you get started, so we like to suggest you grab your field guide and get to a Virginia State Park near you, but you can count birds anywhere in the world — even from the comfort of your own back yard!

Kiptopeke State Park is a superhighway for birds. Southbound migratory species get bottlenecked into the Delmarva Peninsula’s tip — where Kiptopeke is located — before making the long journey across the Chesapeake Bay. The location is so highly trafficked that the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory built a viewing platform specifically for collecting data on 14 different hawk species. Kiptopeke is also famous for its owl prowl programs, which take guests out past dark and utilize digital owl calls and red lights to observe the birds when they are most active.

PHOTO — A Red Tailed Hawk jumps from its perch at Lake Anna State Park, Virginia.

Red-tail hawks are common raptors in Virginia. Known for their excellent eyesight, you’ll often find them perched over fields or soaring above clearings looking for their next meal.

Bald Eagles can be seen daily at our Potomac River parks. Mason Neck is home to one of the densest populations of our nation’s bird on the eastern half of the country. Caledon, Leesylvania, and Widewater are also excellent eagle viewing locations as the birds perch along the river banks and fish the shallow waters of the Potomac.

Thanks to conservation efforts by several organizations, bald eagle populations have been on the rebound for years in the Potomac region. Visit any of our parks along the Potomac River for a chance encounter with one of these majestic birds.

Hungry Mother State Park, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains just at the edge of the Jefferson National Forest, is known for its woodpecker populations. On any given day, after a short walk into the woods, more than five different species can be spotted – and often heard. Guests will also enjoy the guided paddling programs that take participants around the scenic 108-acre lake to spot birds from a different perspective.

Wherever your weekend takes you, take a break to join the count! If you do make it to a Virginia State Park this weekend, be sure to check out your park’s birding info here and tag us in your best bird photos on Instagram @vastateparks.

Red-bellied woodpeckers can be seen on high alert. The red crown and black and white mantle are a dead giveaway for this misleadingly named bird.


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