Welcome to this presentation about the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count! This year’s count will be held February 15th through the 18th, 2013. Anyone of any age or skill level can participate by counting birds and entering their tallies online. The GBBC is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with Canadian partner, Bird Studies Canada. We’ll tell you why your help is needed, what scientists can learn from the count, and how to participate.
The big news is that, starting in 2013, anyone with an Internet connection, anywhere in the world can take part in the GBBC! That’s because the GBBC is being integrated with eBird. eBird is a global online checklist program that allows users to keep track of their own sightings and explore what is being reported by others, using maps, charts, and graphs.
The GBBC integration with eBird brings many advantages. It means GBBC reports can be submitted from any location in the world, and in four different languages.
You’ll have access to all your bird records and bird lists submitted either through eBird or the GBBC websites and can go back into your reports anytime to edit them or make corrections.
And even though the GBBC lasts just four days, if you want to do more, you can submit bird sightings year round using your account through eBird.
Because of the integration with eBird, your bird life list, yard list, and other lists will be automatically stored and updated. If you are new to the GBBC, your records will start with the 2013 count. If you already use eBird, 2013 GBBC sightings will now be included in your personal data.
Though it may be called the Great BACKYARD Bird Count--you can count birds anywhere—at a nearby park, your schoolyard, a nature center, even the local landfill—anywhere there are birds! And you don’t have to be a bird expert. If you see a species you can’t identify, you do NOT have to report that species. Only report the ones you DO know.
Your observations are important because no single scientist or team of scientists could hope to capture so much information about birds around the world in only four days. The more people who participate, the better the snapshot we will have of where the birds are and how their populations may be changing from year to year.
During the 2012 GBBC participants reported 623 species on more than 104,000 lists—counting more than 17 million birds for the event. That set a new record for checklists submitted from the United States and Canada. Now that people anywhere in the world can take part, we expect that number to grow even more!
It is very important that GBBC participants count their birds in the same way. Please count birds at any location for at LEAST 15 minutes—but you can certainly count for much longer if you like. The longer you watch, the better the information you will have about the species present in your area. Keep track of the total amount of time you spent watching too.
During the period of time you’re watching birds, please make your best estimate of the number of individuals of each species you saw. We understand that birds may move rapidly and may occur in large flocks, but your best estimate is still very valuable. If you feel uncomfortable giving an estimate, you can enter an “x” to indicate that the species was present.
Create a separate bird checklist for each day you participate in the count, even if you count at the same location for each day. Submit a new checklist for each new location. For example, on Saturday you may count at your home, then at a nearby park, and later at a nature center. That’s three checklists for three locations on the same day.
You can also submit a new checklist on the same day from the same location if the two counts were at different times—perhaps you counted birds at your feeders for an hour in the morning, and then again at the same location for two hours in late afternoon. You will submit those as two separate checklists.
When you’re ready to report your results, go to the Great Backyard Bird Count website at www-dot- birdcount –dot- org and click on the “Submit your checklists” button at the top. You won’t see this button until the morning the count begins, at 7:00 a.m. Eastern time in the U.S. when data entry begins.
Now here’s one of the big differences from previous counts. If you haven’t already done so, you will first have to create a GBBC account, even if you have participated in the GBBC before. If you already have an account with the eBird project, Project FeederWatch, or NestWatch, just use that same login information. Existing eBird users should enter their lists on the eBird website.
When you create your new GBBC account and are ready to enter your checklists, you’ll select the exact location where you did your count by zooming in and marking it with a pin on a Google map. These much-more-precise locations are part of what will make your information more valuable. You can name and save the location and go back to it again anytime without having to map it again. The red markers you see are birding “hotspots” set up by other birdwatchers. You can also choose one of those if that’s where you did your count. Don’t worry about memorizing all this…the GBBC website will walk you through the setup process and and it will seem very self-explanatory when it’s time to set up your account.
After you’ve created your birding location, fill in the date for the checklist you are submitting and indicate the type of count you did. Check off “traveling” if you covered a specific distance—such as walking a trail or driving around a refuge loop. Check off “stationary” if you stayed in one place for your count, perhaps watching your feeders from a window. You’ll check “incidental” if you took note of a bird while you were doing something else and watching birds was not your primary activity.
After you choose the type of count you did, you’ll see additional spaces to mark the time you started birding, how much total time you spent counting birds, how many people contributed to the checklist, and distance covered, if it was a traveling count. There’s space to add comments for your own reference later.
Now you’re on the bird-list page, listing species likely to be seen in your area in February. There are several tools and options in the right-hand column. For example you can change the species list from taxonomic to alphabetical order and show or hide rare species and subspecies.
Here’s another important question to answer. In the right column you’re asked if you are submitting a complete checklist of all the birds you were able to identify. The only time you’ll select “no” is if you are deliberately excluding some species from your list and only providing some highlights of your count. Otherwise, click “yes” to indicate you are including everything you could identify---click “yes” even if your saw some birds you could not identify.Observations made when birding was not your primary purpose, or when you have bird records but no effort information. Examples include a fly-over Osprey seen while driving to work or inputting historical data with no effort information.
You can enter species numbers by scrolling through the list or by typing all or part of the species’ name in “Jump to Species.” If your bird’s name does not appear on the main checklist for your area, first click the "show rare species" option in the right column. If the species is still not there, go to “Add a Species” to type the species’ name and add it to the list.
As soon as you enter a number next to a species, you’ll see an “Add Details” button where you can put in more information about the sighting if you wish. This is especially important if you are reporting something rare or in unusually high numbers. You can also use this section to can add notes on how you identified the bird and can even embed a digital image with your checklist if you have one. This is VERY helpful in confirming a sighting.
If you enter a species or a number of birds that is unusual for your area in February you will get a message asking you to fix the items. If you’re sure about the sighting, click the green “complete” button and your report will go to a GBBC data reviewer for your area. This is a normal part of the process. You may even be contacted by a reviewer to confirm the sighting.
Just hit “Submit” on the lower-right when you’re done with your list. You’ll see a confirmation web page showing the list you submitted. If you want an emailed copy of your report, click “Email Yourself” at the top-right. If you were birding with a friend and want them to be able to add the list to their GBBC account (or eBird account) click “Share with Others in Your Party.” DO NOT use this to send them a list to look at if they were not there (you can forward the emailed report if you want). Birds shared on your lists at the same location will not be counted more than once.
Every sighting reported in the Great Backyard Bird Count becomes part of a permanent record that anyone with Internet access can explore. You can use the information to track year-to-year changes in the abundance and distribution of birds and learn about the complex patterns of winter bird movements. Look for trends that indicate how well birds are faring in the face of environmental changes such as urbanization, global climate change, and disease.
In the weeks leading up to the Great Backyard Bird Count—spread the word to your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and your local media outlets…we have suggestions on how to do that on the website—just click the “Get Involved” button for ideas and guidance. And please join in the conversation on the GBBC Facebook group page, share your photos and ID questions or “Tweet” all you like about getting ready for the count
If you still have questions about how to participate in the GBBC, here are email contacts for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada.
So, brush up on your winter birds and save the dates—we want you to be a part of this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count, February 15th through the 18th, 2013.
All the great photos you’ve seen in this presentation were taken by these participants in the 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count. Thanks for watching—enjoy the birds! And we’ll see you for the next Great Backyard Bird Count…