I really don’t spend as much time out in the field actively birding as I would like to, but I like to make time for Cornell’s Great Backyard Bird Count, which is held each February over the Presidents’ Day weekend. I’ve done a couple of Christmas Bird Counts, but the GBBC has some advantages. I’m in control of the when and the where—I can bird anywhere I like, for as little as 15 minutes at a time, any time in the course of the weekend. The Christmas counts have an air of friendly competition, and that’s fine, but the GBBC is more about reconnecting with your local habitat.
There is a half-mile stretch of blacktop trail along The Glade (a tributary of Angelico Branch) that I like to work for the GBBC. It’s mixed hardwoods with some open patches, so it’s usually good for the area’s common winter birds of the suburbs, including (most years) a Red-Shouldered Hawk. I can take a side trip to Lake Audubon to count geese and hope for some ducks. And this is all just a five-minute drive from my house.
Another thing that I like about the GBBC is that it provides a clearer picture of wintering populations. The Christmas counts always pick up a few stray migrants—indeed, that seems to be the big attraction, for some people.
So look for me in the field on the weekend of 15 to 18 Februrary, doing my little sliver of citizen science.