My First Great Backyard Bird Count, Part 2: The Count

Debbie Blicher is Senior Producer of Talkin’ Birds.

I registered for the GBBC (Great Backyard Bird Count) in early January. (See previous blog entry to find out how.) My materials arrived in early February, about two weeks ahead of the count. They included a handbook, an identification poster, a tally sheet, a calendar, and instructions. (See photo below.) They also included my registration number.

packet.jpg

I immediately created an account on the Project Feederwatch website with my registration number. That number will remain with me for all future GBBGs. Kind of like a driver’s license, but without the terrible photo.

As the GBBC approached, my family sprang into action. My teenage daughter left the country, my teenage son made plans with friends, and my husband suddenly came up with a work commitment. I’d be on my own. But no matter: I’d have my handy chart with me, plus our household field guides and Merlin Bird ID.

It took me a little while to get used to the protocol for counting. To prevent repeatedly counting the same individual bird, you’re supposed to report the greatest number of birds of the same species that you see at your feeder at the same time. Doing this makes it impossible for you to report the same individual more than once if it keeps flying away and coming back.

So here’s what my tally sheet looked like. The first photo shows my count early on the first day. The second photo shows my count at the end.

Tally sheet early Saturday

Tally sheet early Saturday

You’ll note that, in addition to the species counts, there are places at left to indicate the amount of time I spent and the weather, and at bottom to record any interesting interactions I saw.

Tally sheet late Sunday

Tally sheet late Sunday

On Saturday, I watched the feeders for 20 minutes in the morning and 30 in the afternoon. I sat at the dining room table with a cup of tea and the tally sheet, the chart, the field guides, and Merlin Bird ID. I wished my family were home so I could ignore them for the sake of science.

When I was finished, I logged in to the Project Feederwatch website and logged my data. And I was DONE. Having submitted my data electronically, I did not need to mail in my tally sheet.

So that was it! I had contributed to science by sipping a cup of tea at my dining room table while watching bird feeders. You think I could apply for a grant to do this full time?