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Gardening & More: Help scientists with the Great Backyard Bird Count

POLLY WANT A SEED? — You can learn how to get a bird to eat out of your hand, during bird feeding 101, on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Jamestown. Jeff Tome, an Audubon senior naturalist, took this photo of a chickadee, eating from his hand.
SPRINGVILLE — You can help scientists learn about bird populations, during the Great Backyard Bird Count, scheduled for Friday – Monday, February 15 – 18. People of all ages and skill levels are needed, to count birds in their yards, neighborhoods and other locations.

Data from the Great Backyard Bird Count can provide an early signal of changes in bird populations. Utilizing data from thousands of people’s reporting what they see, scientists can detect changes in birds’ numbers and locations, from year to year.

This is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, along with partner Bird Studies Canada.

Participation is easy. Simply watch birds for at least 15 minutes, any day of the count. Then, visit www.birdcount.org. Estimate the number of birds you saw, for each species you could identify. Select your location on a map, answer a few questions, enter your tallies and then submit your data, to share your sightings with others around the world.

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 of the Arctic, in record numbers, according to the National Audubon Society.

This year, scientists predicted that United States and Canadian bird watchers will see an influx of red-breasted nuthatches and winter finches such as pine siskin, because of scarce food supplies on their northern wintering grounds.

The site www.birdcount.org also has bird identification tips, instructions and past results. Anyone can watch, as the tallies come in, at that site.

If you would like a little more guidance, check out bird feeding 101 on Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary, located at 1600 Riverside Road, Jamestown.

You can choose one topic, during each of the two time periods:

From 10 – 10:45 a.m.:

– How to identify common backyard birds and learn what to look for in a field guide.

– How to make your own super food (an extra $2 gives you food to take home) and train chickadees to eat out of your hand. If you want to learn to feed chickadees by hand, bring enough clothes to stay warm for 10 minutes, for standing still outside.

From 11 – 11:45 a.m.:

– How to build small bird feeders for your yard, with an extra fee of $8, for the feeders.

– How to identify birds and count them, for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Also learn what type of bird prefers what type of seeds.

The classes will be taught by Audubon Senior Naturalist Jeff Tome and Naturalist Hope Lyon.

Tickets are currently being sold for adults, friends of the nature center and children 9 years old and older. There are extra fees for optional materials ($8 for the bird feeder and $2 for the feed mix).

Class sizes are limited and reservations are required by Thursday, Feb. 14. For ticket prices and to make reservations, call 569-2345, email info@jamestownaudubon.org or visit the Audubon website.

You can also participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary. This is an exciting opportunity for those who would like to try the hobby of bird watching, for the first time.

Winter hours for the nature center are 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Mondays and Saturdays and 1 – 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. Visitors are all invited to use the sanctuary’s more than 5 miles of trails daily, dawn to dusk.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.
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