Call for Citizen Scientists: Mass Audubon Invites Public to “Focus on Feeders”
Annual Midwinter Backyard Bird Survey a Fun Way to Support Species
Turn a backyard bird feeder into a Citizen Science project for your family by participating in Mass Audubon’s annual event Focus on Feeders. Held over the weekend of February 1st and 2nd, the event mobilizes armies of Citizen Scientists to observe and record the species of birds that they see at their feeders, on the ground, and in the trees at their home. The information collected this year will add to forty years of data – information that is essential to scientists’ analysis of bird populations and the effect that environmental changes may have on their annual numbers.
In order to participate , families should first learn how to identify some of the bird species commonly seen at feeders and in yards all over Massachusetts. Mass Audubon offers information for inexperienced birders on identifying common winter birds as well as strategies for distinguishing similar species.
Focus on Feeders is a great project for families with kids of all ages to participate in, as the constraints are fairly loose. Families need not keep their eyes on their feeder all weekend; instead, Mass Audubon asks that bird sightings be tracked for as much time as possible and with as much accuracy as families are able. Even if your participation ends up amounting to an hour or less, the information that you gather can (and will!) still be used.
After the weekend has ended, families will be able to submit their information via an online form (available from February 1st-28th) or can hand-write a form to mail directly to Mass Audubon. In addition to learning about birds and helping to play an important role in studies of the local environment, kids can practice data collection skills while bird-counting – they’ll need a system for recording the species and the number of birds present. Try making a graph that you can fill out as the day goes on, or practice correctly using tally marks while you count. If your kids become interested in continuing to count birds throughout the year, create a bird journal where you track numbers or have a place to record the species that you see each month.
Deadline for submission of results is Friday, February 28. Information on how to participate and submit reports can be found at www.massaudubon.org/focus.
[Photo credit: (cc) Lorianne DiSabato]