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For Immediate Release: January 23, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited

Carol Casey
Director of Marketing
Huntsville Botanical Garden
256.830.4447, ext. 290
256.655-6888 (cell)

The Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited
Huntsville Botanical Garden
February 15 – February 18, 2013

As a certified National Wildlife Federation habitat, Huntsville Botanical Garden will again participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) February 15 – 18, 2013. The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s fun and easy—and it helps the bird population.

In 2012 Huntsville Botanical Garden became a Certified Wildlife Habitat® by the National Wildlife Federation. The 2nd year of participation will assist scientist in making some determinations on bird populations traveling through the Garden and Madison County. Visitors will be provided data sheets, Birding trail map of the Garden, pencils, local bird checklists, and self-guided instructions for each day of participation. Someone will be available to answer questions and collect data sheets. Bookmarks with a bird suet recipe on one side and suet feeder instructions on the other will be available. We also will have bird identification listings, make and take activities for children, and everything a family will need to spend the morning or afternoon observing and counting birds in the Garden. (Bring your own Binoculars)

On Saturday, February 16, there will be a special birding workshop conducted by Herb Lewis entitled “Experiencing Bird Migration- A Gardening Perspective” including the techniques for creating your own backyard bird habitat and many bird photos illustrating benefits and rewards of ‘Gardening for the Birds’. Also, Herb will introduce the new Garden Birding Trail, discuss the GBBC Event, and lead a birding tour.

After 15 years of success in North America, the GBBC now includes the entire world for the first time in 2013. Anyone, from anywhere on earth, can participate by visiting www.birdcount.org and reporting the kinds and numbers of birds they see during the 16th annual count. A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with partner Bird Studies Canada, the four-day count typically receives sightings from tens of thousands of people reporting more than 600 bird species in the United States and Canada alone.

Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time. Scientists use the GBBC information, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to get the “big picture” about what is happening to bird populations. The longer these data are collected, the more meaningful they become in helping scientists investigate far-reaching questions, like these:
  • How will the weather influence bird populations?
  • Where are winter finches and other “irruptive” species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?
  • How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
  • How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
  • What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
During the 2012 count, participants reported 17.4 million bird observations on 104,000 checklists. Snowy Owls thrilled many participants when these striking birds-of-prey ventured south from the Arctic in record numbers. In 2013, scientists predict that U.S. and Canadian bird watchers will see an influx of Red-breasted Nuthatches and winter finches (such as Pine Siskins) because of scarce food supplies on their northern wintering grounds.

“This year’s count will give us a whole new perspective as sightings pour in from around the globe in real time,” said Marshall Iliff at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Millions of people encounter birds every day all over the world. Imagine what scientists will learn if each one of us shares observations from our own area!”

“The GBBC is an ideal opportunity for young and old to connect with nature by discovering birds and to participate in a huge science project,” said Gary Langham, Audubon’s Chief Scientist. “This year, we hope people on all seven continents, oceans, and islands, will head out into their neighborhoods, rural areas, parks, and wilderness to further our understanding of birds across the hemispheres.”

Participating is easy. Simply watch birds for at least 15 minutes at the location of your choice on one or more of the count days. Estimate the number of birds you see for each species you can identify. You’ll select your location on a map, answer a few questions on your datasheet and then turn it over to the Huntsville Botanical Garden Staff for input.

The global capacity for the count will be powered by eBird, an online checklist program for all of the world’s 10,240 bird species. Participants will be able to view what others are seeing on interactive maps, keep their own records, and have their tallies recorded for perpetuity.

Winter days provide pleasant opportunities for viewing migrating birds in the Garden. Many bird species, some in large flocks of 30 to 200 birds, enter the Garden’s natural environment along the Birding Trail throughout the day. Species that have found refuge in the Garden for feeding and watering include Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, House Finches, European Starlings, Red-wing Blackbirds, American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Mourning Doves, and Common Grackles. Other avian visitors in smaller groups included Eastern Bluebirds, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Carolina Chickadees, a Belted Kingfisher, and Ring-necked Ducks. The Garden provides a serene winter birding experience. The Great Backyard Bird Count is sponsored in part by Wild Birds Unlimited.

Winter Garden hours are Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Enjoy a special $2 off winter discount during January and February. Rates are free for members and for non-members the rates are $10 for adults, $6 for children. For more information on  Huntsville Botanical Garden, visit hsvbg.org or call Carol Casey at 256.830.4447 ext. 290.  Huntsville Botanical Garden is located at 4747 Bob Wallace Avenue in Huntsville.

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