One of the fun things about my job at Audubon is that I get to help with the Great Backyard Bird Count every February. The count is geared towards birders and birdwatchers of all levels. All you have to do, is count the birds you see any day between February 17-20, and report them online here. Despite its name, you don't have to limit yourself to counting birds in your yard. If you are a birder, you can go anywhere in North America and report the birds you see.
In fact, one of my missions is to try and drum up reports of every bird found in North America this weekend. I'm hitting the state email lists, and emailing contacts around the country to encourage them to go find and report the less commonly observed species. Last year we got reports of 612 species--including, at the last minute, a Greater Sage Grouse sighting by a researcher in Wyoming that took me a long time to scrounge up. There were some very rare birds reported last year, including quite a few Mexican species that had wandered north into the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. This year, we'll see if we can top our total species number, and increase the number of people reporting.
So, by all means, report your birds this weekend! Especially if you see the Pink-footed Geese in CT, the Slaty-backed Gull in NY, or a Lesser Prairie Chicken, or Gunnison Sage Grouse, or any other local and hard-to see species. But perhaps even more important than finding good birds, is to have a good time. Take a friend birding, especially someone new to the adventure. Then, go online, report your sightings, and see how they fit into the larger picture of bird sightings all across the country--in real time.
And when you're out birding, think of me holed up in my office, answering emails, reviewing unusual sightings, and keeping my finger on the pulse of bird populations across the country. Check in here, and I'll have daily postings with behind the scenes details from the belly of the bird count. Its going to be a lot of fun this weekend, so see you there!