Go bird watching in your own backyard this weekend

In this photo from 2017, Julie Karlson, left, and Doug Overacker use their binoculars to watch birds. Bill Lackey/Staff
In this photo from 2017, Julie Karlson, left, and Doug Overacker use their binoculars to watch birds. Bill Lackey/Staff

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The Great Backyard Bird Hunt will be held Feb. 12-15

Connect, count and celebrate – the Great Backyard Bird Hunt encourages bird enthusiasts across the country and around the world to do just that.

The birding world comes together for four days every February for the love of birds. During the Great Backyard Bird Hunt – held this year from Feb. 12-15 – people are encouraged to actively observe birds around their homes and in their communities, counting as many birds as they see and reporting their findings. Even a small amount of time can make a big difference as the information helps scientists better monitor and protect birds.

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The annual event was launched by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society in 1998 as the first online citizen science project to collect data on wild birds and display results in near real-time. Birds Canada joined the project in 2009 and in 2013, it became a global project with data being entered into eBird, a real-time, online checklist program, which revolutionized the way the birding community reports and accesses information about birds.

A pleated woodpecker makes itself right at home at Amanda Caton's Washington Township home - CONTRIBUTTED
A pleated woodpecker makes itself right at home at Amanda Caton's Washington Township home - CONTRIBUTTED

There are plenty of feathered friends to check out as the Ohio Ornithological Society’s official checklist included 433 species as of 2019, with another 10 species pending confirmation. From the red-throated loon to the yellow-headed blackbird and the white-throated sparrow to the black-tailed gull, not to mention the purple finch, there is a veritable rainbow of birds in the Buckeye State to enjoy.

Data collected as part of the Great Backyard Bird Hunt help scientists understand how bird populations are doing and enable them to better monitor and protect birds around the world. The February observations, in particular, help scientists better understand global bird populations before one of their annual migrations.

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It’s about more than data collection, however, it’s about making a connection with nature.

Whether it’s 15 minutes in the backyard or an afternoon at the park, connecting with nature has both physical and psychological benefits. And what better way to destress after a long week of work or school than spending time in the fresh air with some feathered friends for company?

While the air is brisk and a flurry is still a possibility, the timing couldn’t be better to bundle up and catch a glimpse as the lack of winter foliage is helpful.

“Now is a great time of year, especially for beginners, because you can see them so much more clearly,” said avid birdwatcher Amanda Caton of Washington Township.

Aullwood Garden MetroPark is just one of the many local parks to check out during the Great Backyard Bird Count. CONTRIBUTED
Aullwood Garden MetroPark is just one of the many local parks to check out during the Great Backyard Bird Count. CONTRIBUTED

Want to venture out to a local birding hotspot? Check out the Birding in Ohio page on the OOS website for a list by county or alphabetically by location at birding-in-ohio.com/.

Join the Great Backyard Bird Hunt

Participating is easy and can be done anywhere you find birds. Simply watch birds for 15 minutes or more, at least once between Feb. 12-15 and report what you see. For more information, visit www.birdcount.org/about.

Share your sightings:

Merlin Bird ID app: Ideal for beginners and those new to the count. Merlin covers bird species from seven continents and is available in eight languages. The app is free and easy to use, www.birdcount.org/merlin-bird-id-app/.

eBird Mobile app: If you have participated in the count before, this free app might be the way to go. Creating an eBird account is quick and easy, www.birdcount.org/ebird-mobile-app/.

Contact this contributing writer at djuniewicz@gmail.com.

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