Backyard bird count takes wing again

What's that chirping I hear outside my window?  The Great Backyard Bird Count is under way again.  The four-day annual event, which begins today (Friday, Feb. 17) offers even the most casual bird-watcher a chance to help scientists check up on the health of our winged neighbors.

From the observations made by novice and expert alike, biologists may learn about how the weather this winter has affected bird populations here and elsewhere, whether migration patterns are changing and whether particular species are trending up or down because of disease or some other factor. The count is a joint project of the Cornell University ornithology lab and Audubon.

In these parts, ace birder Kevin Graff tells me these are among the birds we're likely to see:

-Sharp-shinned Hawk

-Mourning Dove

-Red-bellied Woodpecker

-Carolina Chickadee (Black-capped Chickadees in western Maryland)

-Tufted Titmice

-White-breasted Nuthatch

-Carolina Wrens

-White-throated Sparrow

-Dark-eyed Junco

And of course, don't overlook our familiar feathered friends, the Northern Cardinal, House Finch & American Goldfinch.

If out on the water, in woods or open fields, Kevin suggests keeping an eye out for Canada geese, vultures, other hawks, ospreys and eagles, gulls, other woodpecker species, bluebirds, sparrows and blackbird flocks.

Anyone can participate, no prior experience necessary. Go for as little as 15 minutes one day, or do it all day long if you've got the time and interest.  Then report what birds you saw on the bird-count web site here.  And it doesn't have to be just birds at your backyard feeder, but wherever you want to go. 

For those who'd like some company while bird-watching, there's a free Bird Extravaganza this weekend, Feb. 18 & 19 at Robert E. Lee Park, 1000 Lakeside Drive.  From 8 a.m. to noon each day, there'll be live birds on display, guided birding hikes, crafts, games and hot drinks.

The weather may be a bit drippy Sunday, but it looks to be great for bird-watching today and tomorrow.

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