swallowbarntinneyIn last week’s column, I asked the question “Why do you feed the birds?” I also briefly touched on Droll Yankees “Just Feed Birds and Make a World of Difference” campaign. Feeding birds can have a positive impact on the environment.

Here is a quote from Droll Yankees: “Wild birds are essential to biodiversity – our planet’s way of maintaining its own health. By wreaking havoc on wildlife habitats with our roads and buildings and suburban lawns, we’ve thrown biodiversity out of balance. Like canaries in a coal mine, our declining bird populations are warning us that our environmental health is in jeopardy. Feeding backyard birds is a simple yet effective way to favorably affect bird populations and encourage and sustain biodiversity.”

“It’s a natural sequence: the more you feed the birds in winter, the greater number of birds will survive to raise their young. The more you feed the birds during nesting season, the less time the parents will need to stay away from the nest foraging for food. The better the baby birds are fed, the higher their survival rate. The more baby birds that survive, the more insects they consume. The fewer insects you have, the fewer chemicals you’ll have to use. The fewer chemicals you use, the faster your immediate environment will be brought back into balance.”

For those of you who love to watch, and maybe even identify and keep track of the different bird species in your yard, here is an opportunity for you to be a citizen scientist. This weekend is the annual Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.

The count period starts Friday and runs through Monday, Feb. 21. Interested in participating? Download instructions from the Great Backyard Bird Count website at http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/howto.html. It is as easy as 1,2,3 to participate. Here are the basic guidelines:

1. Count birds for at least 15 minutes (you can count longer) on one or more days of the count. Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like – one day, two days or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each day and for each location. You can submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.

2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out a regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you’re likely to see in your area in February.

3. When you’re finished, enter your results through the Great Backyard Bird Count webpage. You’ll see a button marked “Enter Your Checklists!” on the home page beginning on the first day of the count. It will remain active until the deadline for data submission March 1.

If you have any questions about the instructions, or if you want to pick up a copy of the bird checklist for our area, please drop by the store and we can help you. We would also be happy to submit your lists for you if you are not comfortable going online and doing it yourself.

My goal is to have as many people as possible participate in the quad-city area. If only a handful of people submit checklists the information will not accurately reflect our winter bird population numbers.