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Special to The Record
The Great Backyard Bird Count celebrates its 25th anniversary this we
ekend. Why not join the party? All you need is a pair of binoculars, pen and paper, and an Internet connection.
Did I mention that it’s free?
The GBBC runs from tomorrow (Friday) through Monday, and you can participate for as long and as often as you like. You can watch and tally bird species for as little as 15 minutes and still be part of the count, but I’m guessing you’ll want to take your time.
For newbies, the event is a great introduction to a pastime that has become increasingly popular during the pandemic. Last year, more than 5,000 bird lovers in New Jersey entered the event and recorded 181 species – from a tiny ruby-throated hummingbird in Cape May to a sandhill crane in Sussex.
Worldwide, more than 300,000 people participated, an increase of more than 10 percent from pre-covid 2020. This weekend is the perfect time to see what you’re missing.
That birding’s popularity has taken off during the COVID mess should not come as a surprise. How can you fret about vaccines and N95 masks when you’re watching a Carolina wren zipping around a suet feeder?
One of the great aspects of the event is that you can sit anywhere with a view, sip a cup of coffee, and chill. You can even listen to music, play with your pets, or chat on the phone while you’re at it.
If a youngster in the house wants to know what you’re looking at, you may have a new recruit -- and that’s a nice bonus.
For occasional birders, the event is a great reason to fill up those feeders, dust off the binoculars and warm up for the upcoming birding season.
The first step is to sign up for the event at birdcount.org.
Next, download Merlin, the free birding app that helps you identify birds by their sounds and appearance..
Here are a few other tips to get started.
*If you want birds to come to your backyard this weekend, fill any empty bird feeders as soon as possible. Birds have to find your buffet before they can eat from it. A suet feeder will attract woodpeckers -- always a crowd-pleaser.
* Look beyond your feeders (and the ground underneath). Scan barren tree branches. Keep an eye on the sky for a fly-over crow or two. If you can I.D. birds by ear, crack open your window if the weather’s not too cold.
*The early birder often sees the most species.
All birds matter, and they all count one way or another, especially if you’re keeping score in the GBBC. Canada geese and house sparrows are not my feathered favorites, but they’ll count the same as bald eagles and snowy owls this weekend.
Got a bird you can’t identify during the GBBC? Email me at [email protected].
The Bird Watcher column appears every other Thursday.