Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cornell Urban Bird Count

Annika Looks for Birds

We went outside to count birds today. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a program going on right now where anyone can watch birds and submit the data for what they see. The project is accessible to just about anyone, and is easy enough for children and beginning birders.

First, download the information off their website, and order a Celebrate Urban Birds packet if you'd like. You will find a simple data form telling you how to determine your study area. We decided to go into the greenbelt behind our house, and we picked a spot with a bench and lots of bushes around. Then we measured out 25 feet in each direction. That would be our study area.

Measuring Out Our Study Plot

We reviewed the birds we were to look for. There are 16 birds the study is interested in, so that narrows things down considerably, and some we knew we wouldn't see in our particular environment. The we timed our observations for 10 minutes. That was it! The data form requires a yes or no answer - did you see this bird or not. A few questions about the study area, and we were ready to turn the information in. That's it! We have the option of doing another day or two before turning our results in. We will try to fit that in this week, because... we didn't see any birds.

It's Peaceful Waiting for Birds

One of the things about scientific studies is they need to be standardized to be statistically useful. There were birds all around us in the forest, but they didn't come in our study circle. We saw and heard other birds around us, but not the ones on our list. We saw and heard birds on our list both before and after the 10 minute study period, but not during. It was so ironic for me, because I know that half the birds on the list use our greenbelt. But the answer we will turn in is that we didn't see any of them! The website makes a point of saying that even zero is a good answer, it still tells researchers valuable information. But it's not quite accurate in our case. I'd like to go out in the morning and see if that makes a difference in our results.

Annika has a stick to encourage the birds to land on her branches

The results were only part of the reason why I wanted to do this. I wanted to also use it as a way to force us to get outside and into nature. I have had the hardest time getting us out this spring. We are officially in the midst of the worst spring on record, and I find I have so many other things vying for my attention. I've been struggling with a vicious cold/bacterial infection since we got back from vacation, and that put me behind in getting Annika's birthday gifts made. There are so many other things that keep us in the house. It helps sometimes to have a specific project to force us to switch gears, if only for a few moments.

A Rare Bit of Blue Sky Up There

I was glad we made the effort to get outside today. It was cold, but the air was fresh. The birds were fun to see, and it was good to stretch our legs a bit. Hopefully we can get through this dreary spring and get to some warmer weather soon, but until then, I will keep trying to find ways to get us outside.

1 comment:

Caren said...

Jennifer, I love this post about birding, and especially Annika's stick. Kids are the best. I hope you saw some birds later in the week. We too have had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad spring, all the way across the country in NH. I'm grouchy, but I'm hoping May will be different. It's already been sunny the same # of days in May as in April: 2.