The Great Backyard Bird Count, or GBBC as it is called, began in 1998. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society were instrumental in launching this first annual online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display the results in near-real time.
This year’s dates were Feb. 15 through Feb. 18. All one had to do to participate was to count and identify birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more of the four days of the count, from anywhere in the world, and report the findings to the GBBC website. The purpose of the count is to get an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.
In 2018, Great Backyard Bird Count participants in more than 100 countries counted more than 6,400 species of birds on more than 180,000 checklists!
Counting and identifying birds for four days can be most exciting. The first day of the count, 24 species were observed on the north end of the Peninsula in just one hour. Little Orphan Annie and her groupies, the greater white-fronted geese were still around. I am sure they were just waiting to be counted. Wilson’s snipe, American wigeon, northern pintail and mallards were the most common ducks seen. Waterfowl in the south end differed somewhat in that bufflehead were the most common ducks along with mallards and Canada geese.
There was one special sighting in two different places on the Peninsula, one in the south-end and one in the north-end. The Eurasian wigeon, a rare visitor from Eurasia, made an appearance. Sibley (2014) indicates that it is generally “found singly among flocks of American wigeon” and true to Sibley’s words they were each seen hanging out with its American relatives! The Eurasian wigeon male has a distinctive dark rufous head and a pale gray body with a buffy forehead. Both birds counted on the GBBC were males in breeding plumage. It always a good idea to scan flocks of American wigeon for an Eurasian wigeon visitor.
During the four-day count the most numerous bird was the American robin. It seemed like spring is here. Robins were everywhere, in trees, on roofs, on lawns, and taking baths in puddles. Those on lawns were going after earthworms for lunch, while others were snatching fruit for a snack. Another bird that generally reminds us that spring is here is the red-wing blackbird. They were also out in full force. Their voices were loud and clear. Spring is definitely almost here!
Our Peninsula shorebirds were also out in force on the beach for the count. The largest numbers were dunlin but many black-bellied plover were among them. Least sandpipers and sanderlings also made an appearance.
Mid-way through the four-day count, the country of Colombia was in the lead for the largest number of species seen, with more than 800. Here are the most recent numbers and the top seven “species superstars” at the time of writing: Colombia 1,059, Ecuador 912, India 812, Brazil 808, Mexico 745, Costa Rica 684, United States 661. The data may change daily until the final tally has been done.
My species count for the four days was 47. It was an excellent count for the few areas I was able to cover. I am already looking forward to next year’s Great Backyard Bird Count. I hope you are too!