February 12, 2010

Great Backyard Bird Count

The guaranteed-to-make-you-gasp-out-loud-when-the-sun-hits-him-just-right Costa's Hummingbird. Photo by bcsing on Flickr, taken 1-08-10 on the Lower Colorado River.

Feeders filled — check. Binocs — check. Regional checklist — check. Perfect 74F weather — big giant check. [Sorry, snowpocalypse people.] This weekend it's all about The Great Backyard Bird Count, "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."

Why participate? Aside from the fact that it's hella fun, the GBBC helps birds. And birds, as the great Canadian writer Margaret Atwood explains in this wonderful essay, are not merely beautiful and fascinating. Birds are the canaries of Coal Mine Earth.
[T]imes change, and we're heading back towards an older way of reading the birds. It's Fates of Nations time again, and ill omens seen through birds in flight – or the absence of them - and deadly prices to be paid for getting what you want. The birds have something to tell us again, and the truths are not comfortable ones.

Recording your counts this weekend during the GBBC is one way to help birds. Another way to help is by making birdhouses for them. The most excellent Birdchick shows us what a well-designed birdhouse should look like:

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