BERLIN – Dozens of area residents put their eyes to the sky last month to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Each year, volunteers come together for four days in February to count and report bird sightings. The counts help scientists understand bird populations during the winter and increase awareness among the public.
“Citizen science is so important,” said Kim Abplanap, who helped lead a group of birdwatchers through Heron Park on Feb. 20. “One of the goals of this weekend is to understand who the birds are and where the birds are so we can focus our conservation efforts.”
The Great Backyard Bird Count was launched in in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, according to birdcount.org. In 2013, it became a global project and volunteers began entering data into eBird, a biodiversity related citizen science project.
On Monday, Abplanap and Dr. Archer Larned of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program encouraged area residents to join them at Heron Park in Berlin to take part in the bird count, which this year ran from Feb. 17 to Feb. 20. Nuerous volunteers came out, binoculars in hand, to see what species were in the park. They listened to bird calls and used Abplanap’s scope to get glimpses of waterfowl floating on the park’s ponds.
“The birding was great,” Larned said. “We ended up with 24 different bird species identified, with a total of 356 individual birds counted. The highlights were: a small group of American Coots, a pair of Wilson’s Snipe, and a Pied-billed Grebe. We also had a good variety of waterfowl: Northern Shovelers, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and a Gadwall.”
She said the event was a great way to generate community involvement and interest in the environment and at the same time gather data regarding birds and their movements in winter.
“The Backyard Bird Count is great because anyone can contribute to a global citizen science project by counting birds anywhere they see them, even in your own backyard,” she said. “The data gathered is used by scientists to track bird populations during the winter (or summer in the southern hemisphere), prior to their migration. It’s also great from a local perspective to introduce people to birds and other wildlife in the watershed.”