Thursday, February 15, 2007

GBBC This Weekend

The Great Backyard Bird Count starts tomorrow, Friday the 16th, and runs through Monday the 19th. The GBBC is an annual survey that covers all of the United States and Canada. The goal of the event is to determine the mid-winter distribution of each bird species.

For such a large project to succeed, the GBBC needs the help of as many birders as possible. All birders, at any skill level, are invited to participate. You can spend as much or as little time counting as you wish. Watch birds in your backyard, a local park, or another favorite birding location. Keep a list of what you see and enter the data at the GBBC website. Detailed instructions are available here. (If you have not done the GBBC before, I recommend reading the instructions on the site before going out.) Note that you need not count birds at the same location every day, or even participate every day of the count period.

Reports from individual birders are gathered into a large database, which can be used for many projects. You can see some examples of how the data can be used in the results section of the website. One thing that the site can do is produce range maps for each species that has been reported in a given year. For example, here is last year's range map for black vultures.

Last year, birders in Washington, D.C., submitted a total of 39 checklists, identified 55 species, and counted 2,766 individuals. The reports from last year's count included peregrine falcon, gray catbird, fox sparrow, and purple finch. As you can see from the distribution map below, reports were concentrated in the northwest quadrant of the District.

Can we improve on those results this year? Let's try to get some reports from the eastern and southern parts of the city. Places like the National Arboretum, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, and Kingman Island are all fair game. How about the flocks of waterbirds down by Hains Point and the Tidal Basin?