I have a confession to make.
I don’t have a backyard.
I have never had a backyard. Well, I sort of do. There is a backyard behind some of the houses in my complex, and it actually does get a pretty good variety of birds, some years, in October and May. But I have never had the luxury of having my own, personal, wooded yard, with a birdbath and bird feeder, that many birders do.
So I confess, I was not at all enthusiastic about the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, which runs this year from February 12 to February 15. This is a count, sponsored by the Audubon Society and Cornell Ornithology Lab, in which birders can upload their observations, pictures and drawings of birds, and also enter a sweepstakes to win birding-related prizes, like binoculars.
For some reason (and it may be mainly to my own misunderstanding), I was under the impression that only birds found at backyard feeders would be counted. To be honest, that hurt my feelings a little bit. I thought it was elitist, a bird count for wealthy suburbanites with property around their house and fancy birdbaths with water features. I felt left out.
We are not supposed to feed birds in my complex. One neighbor has gotten away with putting out some suet in a tree in front of my door, but it never attracts more than starlings, house sparrows, and very rarely, a downy woodpecker. A former neighbor once put a deluxe feeder in the wooded part of the complex, and for the first time I saw chickadees and tufted titmice. But another former neighbor complained that the birds were defecating on the laundry she (illegally) dried on the fire escape, so the deluxe feeder was removed in accordance with the landmark Supreme Court ruling “Animal Haters vs. Animal Lovers.” (You know that ruling--the one that says anyone who hates animals has twice as many rights as anyone who feeds, takes care of, houses, or enjoys the company of an animal. If you you’re not familiar with that ruling, consider yourself very lucky).
So even though I was sort of cranky about the Backyard Bird Count, I know many of my readers may be interested. So I did some research and found that the count is not limited to birds in backyards. According to the web site, you can upload info on the five birds in your feeder, or the 75 birds you see on a trip to the nature center.
Now I’m confused. If you can count birds seen on a birding trip, why the “Backyard” in the name? I have no idea. But I have renewed enthusiasm. If it’s reasonable weather next weekend, I will definitely participate. Even if it were only for feeder birds, it is still an important study, yielding valuable data about bird distribution in North America.
The Audubon Society homepage is linked below. It can tell you more about this project than I can. And definitely, check out the pictures sent in by little children across North America. They are truly adorable.