Join 2014’s Great Backyard Bird Count

Grab your binoculars and start spotting

Cardinals devouring holly berries; nuthatches scooting down sweet gums; tundra swans hooting on the Bay. Get ready to count them all during the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, February 14 through 17.
    Citizen scientists all over the world count birds for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in conjunction with the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada. Developed over the four-day period is an annual snapshot of bird population trends.
    Did the polar vortex affect East Coast Carolina wrens, a species notoriously susceptible to freezing temperatures? How many snowy owls were seen in Maryland during this year’s irruption from the Arctic? Is climate change influencing global migration patterns?
    Beginners and experts welcome! Simply tally the total numbers of bird species you’ve seen in each counting period of 15 minutes or longer. To record tallies, go to www.BirdCount.org. There you’ll learn how to set up a free account and enter your checklists.
    If you are new to birdwatching, the website’s Learn About Birds page offers an online bird guide, tips for distinguishing between similar-looking birds (is that a ring-billed gull or a herring gull?) and how to use, and choose, binoculars. Special links for kids and educators let everyone join the fun, and if you take pictures, enter them in the photo contest.
    Last year, the first year the Bird Count went global, Cornell noted that “more than 34.5 million birds and 3,610 species were recorded — nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species documented in just four days.”