Bird lovers in the Brazos River basin soon will have a couple of chances to help scientists track our feathered friends and see how they are faring through the coldest days of the year. First, from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5, thousands of people across the Americas will take time during the holiday season to spot and identify birds during the 115th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.Then from Feb. 14 through 17 amateur bird watchers will get another chance to help out — from the comfort of their homes – during the 2015 Great Back Yard Bird Count.
Billed by organizers as the longest-running citizen survey in the world, the Christmas Bird Count provides the Audubon Society and other organizations with data to help them track trends and changes in bird populations across the hemisphere over a period of time. Participation is free and volunteers join with others in local “counting circles” to cover designated areas.
The second event, the Great Backyard Bird Count is designed to be a snapshot of the various bird populations across a wide area over a short period. It allows vast numbers of participants to record their observations for that moment on a scale that would not be possible for teams of scientists. And the easy part is, it only takes a few minutes and you don’t have to go any farther than your backyard to help.
In 2014, participants made 34.5 million bird observations of 4,296 species worldwide, including a record 644 species in the United States during the Great Backyard Bird Count, according to the Audubon Society.
If you feel like getting out and about for a little bird watching, the rivers and lakes of the Brazos River Authority system are home to many varieties. Bald eagles have been known to build nests at Lake Limestone and Lake Waco among other places. Then there is the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, which has been spotted near the hike and bike trails and other locations around Lake Possum Kingdom. And in recent years a group of endangered whooping cranes have made Lake Granger near Austin their cool-weather home.
To learn more about participating in either of the bird count events, please visit the Audubon site at http://birds.audubon.org/, or the Great Backyard Bird Count page at http://gbbc.birdcount.org/. There, one can look at real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during the count. The site has tips to help identify birds and special materials for educators. It also includes a database where volunteers can see pictures of birds common to their area.