aw1b_erica_bird_watchingIt is not too early to be thinking about the annual Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The four-day count period is Feb. 17-20.

Here are some interesting statistics from last year’s count: a total of 92,218 checklists were submitted from all over North America, and 594 species were observed, totaling a whopping 11,471,949 individual birds counted!

How does the Great Backyard Bird Count work? Participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report their counts, they fill out an online checklist at

Why is the Great Backyard Bird Count important? Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. The count helps answer many questions, such as: How will this winter’s weather affect bird populations? Where are ‘irruptive’ species occurring this year? How will the timing of bird migration compare with previous years? Are any birds undergoing worrisome declines that point to the need for conservation attention?

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology would appreciate your help this year. Do your part to make sure the birds from our communities are well represented in the count. It doesn’t matter whether you report the 15 species coming to your backyard feeder or the 45 species you see during a day’s outing to Willow and Watson Lakes.

Jay’s Bird Barn will be participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count by sponsoring three free bird walks that weekend. We want to draw attention to the bird count by leading bird walks to homes where individuals are doing a fabulous job attracting wild birds to their yard – after all this IS a backyard bird count!

I am looking for individuals who would be willing to open up their homes and yards for our birding groups to come by for 30 to 45 minutes. It would be nice if each group could visit three or four homes. The backyard bird count field trips are scheduled for Friday the 17th, Saturday the 18th and Monday the 20th. Call the store (443-5900) if you are willing to host birding groups or if you would like to participate as a bird watcher.

On another note, if you are looking to add species to your Centennial Challenge bird list, I have a lead on a rare bird in Yavapai County. A Red-breasted Sapsucker is currently wintering over at the Page Springs Fish Hatchery. The hatchery is about half way between Cottonwood and Sedona, off of Page Springs Road.

I stopped by the hatchery on Tuesday of this week when I went over to the Sedona store, and I was able to quickly locate the sapsucker. In the main visitor’s parking lot there is a large, non-native pine tree that is growing over the parking lot – the sapsucker is hanging out in this tree. I also saw about half a dozen Black-crowned Night Herons and a Belted Kingfisher near the main parking lot. This is a wonderful place to bird watch, and is well worth the trip.

While at the hatchery, be sure to take in a walk around the Bubbling Ponds which are designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society. I am confident you will add a lot of birds to your state list by visiting the hatchery and the Bubbling Ponds.

Information on the Jay’s Bird Barn Centennial Challenge is available online at