Bird admirers are in for a treat: The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) takes place February 13-16. Organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, the GBBC is a nationwide project that invites people to identify bird species and report their findings online at birdcount.org. The data will be used to study population and migration patterns.
The key value of this project, as explained by Lee Moldaver of the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, lies in its appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds: One doesn’t need a fancy pair of binoculars or a PhD in ornithology, only a keen set of eyes. A simple field guide (available at the S.B. Public Library or any bookstore) is helpful but optional.
“Anyone who can identify even a few species can contribute to the body of knowledge that is used to inform conservation efforts to protect birds and biodiversity,” said Audubon Education Vice President Judy Braus.
Although many bird watchers are planning to visit sighting hotspots such as the Goleta Slough, Lake Los Carneros, and the Andree Clark Bird Refuge, Moldaver explained that any environment can be conducive to bird watching. Moldaver said that the GBBC “highlights the fact that any setting, whether it’s in the heart of the city or someone’s backyard, can help one notice and appreciate interaction with nature.”
Santa Barbara (specifically in the mid- to late-winter months) is one of the best places in the United States to observe bird wildlife. Its location along the “international flyway”-the informal name given to the route many bird species take in their summer/winter migrations-makes Santa Barbara an ideal stopping point for birds in their semiannual journeys. And thanks to our recent rains, fresh water will be abundant and available for thirsty flocks looking for a place to rest and refuel before they continue their migration.