I Am Becoming a Birder
Over the last few years, my interest in birds has increased exponentially. I began ‘birding’ in my backyard sort of on purpose and sort of not. In the very beginning I was simply planting trees that produced berries for their aesthetic value. Over the years, I noticed how they were always filled with birds, chirping away and enjoying a berry feast.
Today, I plant purposefully for the birds. About three years ago, I put in two elderberry trees which have grown quicker than I imagined they would. Each year they produce numerous clusters of small dark purple berries and each year I see the trees swarmed by birds looking for a treat. Cardinals, blue jays, cedar waxwings, bluebirds, and the list goes on.
Speaking of bluebirds, it has taken seven years for them to make a home of the nestboxes I set up in my meadow. They are picky, I suppose.
Bird Studies Canada
In the last year or so I have become closely involved with Bird Studies Canada. I attended the Baillie Bird-a-thon last year and learned just how little I know about birds (seriously, those guys seem to know everything!).
I have been working with them to develop feeders, seed blends, and nesting boxes. And I have been learning a lot. The world is birds is a fascinating one and I highly encourage you to delve into it. It can be as simple as putting up one feeder and seeing what happens. Or you can be more methodical about it: strategically placing different feeders with different seed around your yard, finding a good bird ID guide, and sitting down with the intention of identifying what comes to your feeders.
Whether you are an avid bird watcher or a casual one, Project FeederWatch is a great way to learn about birds and help out the scientific birding community. When you join, you become a citizen scientist. Because birds span our great country from ocean to ocean to ocean, and Bird Studies Canada doesn’t have eyes and ears to match that distance, they rely on citizens, like you and me, to help them out.
Becoming a Citizen Scientist
When you become a citizen scientist (detailed instructions found here), you get a bird watching kit that comes with a bird ID poster, bird-feeding information, lots of helpful instructions, a bird watching calendar, tally sheet, quarterly Bird Studies magazine, and access information for entering your data online.
It’s easy! You select your own times to count birds (regular intervals between November and April), choose the place you wish to sit, and keep a tally of the birds that you see at your feeders. You enter your data online using the access information provided and that’s it! You have become a citizen scientist and your data will help bird scientists understand patterns in bird communities across the country.
It works! Since its inception in 1987, Project FeederWatch has been engaging citizens to help collect scientific data. With over 20,000 participants in North America, bird science has been able to advance in ways it would have never been able to do if it had to rely solely on bird scientists.
It’s cheap (cheep? Sorry, had to go there). It costs only $35. What other family friendly activity can you do for that price these days? Your money goes partly towards the kit you receive but also helps pay for website upkeep, and database updates. More detailed fee information can be found here but I can assure you, the money is going to the right place. Bird Studies Canada is a non-profit organization as is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (their partner in the project).
Next week: feeding the birds in your yard.