Great Backyard Bird Count 2009

For the first time ever, I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count, going on through tomorrow, Feb. 16. Here are the instructions from the website:

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, February 13–16, 2009. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like—one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.

2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out your regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you’re likely to see in your area in February. You could take note of the highest number of each species you see on this checklist.

3. When you’re finished, enter your results through our web page. You’ll see a button marked “Enter Your Checklists!” on the website home page beginning on the first day of the count (February 13, 2009). It will remain active until the deadline for data submission on March 1, 2009.

Sitting at breakfast in my jammies and slippers, I noticed a lot of activity at the sunflower seed feeder just outside the window and began to count. The morning was sunny, the snow from two days ago not yet melted.

Soon peering through window glass wasn’t good enough, so I grabbed my long down coat, gloves, and shoes and joined the birds on the deck. They hurried away, of course, as soon as I opened the door.

I brushed light snow off a seat on the deck and photographed a few sweet bird tracks on the picnic table in front of me.
After a while the birds began trickling back to the yard. You have to sit quietly in one place for some time for them to show up again. When you become part of the landscape, if they don’t quite forget about your presence, at least they resume more normal activity.

My visitors this morning included all the usual suspects. Here, copied straight from the email sent to me after I submitted an online report:

  • Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) – 1
  • Black-billed Magpie – 1
  • Black-capped Chickadee – 3
  • American Robin – 1
  • Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) – 1
  • Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) – 4
  • House Finch – 3
  • Pine Siskin – 2


  • 1 black-rumped runner headed up the hill on the trail beside our house.

7 Responses to Great Backyard Bird Count 2009

  1. Sue Campbell says:February 15, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    New member of BlogBabes here. this sounds like fun. I just refilled my bird feeders after a couple of months of neglect, my bad. I guess I may have to wait a while for them to find out the goodies are here again. I did see a pair of goldfinches on the thistle sock again though… Sounds like fun I may try it anyway. Nice to find another bird enthusiast amongst the babes.

  2. Claire Walter says:February 15, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    I’ve read about this every year but by the time I did, it was already in progress. Our bird feeder stocked w/ sunflower chips and our heated birdbath get a lot of winter traffic. Oh well, there’s always 2010.

  3. Rosemary Carstens says:February 16, 2009 at 7:24 am

    I have friends who have done the Christmas bird count for years and years, but I never have because I’m not good at identifying them. I enjoy seeing them and hearing them, but when it comes to identifying them, it’s more like “Oh, there’s an LBJ, or another BBJ.” Translation: Oh there’s another little brown job, or another big brown job.” I’m an indiscriminate appreciator–

    • Priscilla says:February 17, 2009 at 5:11 pm

      This email alert just came in from the Audubon Society:



      We’ve received an overwhelming response to our recently released

      report on birds and climate change. Thank you for taking part.

      The idea that global warming is not just about polar bears in

      the Arctic, but also about American Robins in our own backyards

      has captured people’s attention. And we want to be sure that you

      — as a member of our Audubon Action Community — are the first

      to know about a special, live webcast with the author of the

      report, Dr. Greg Butcher, Audubon’s Director of Bird


      ***SIGN UP*** Register for the webcast online here:

      WHAT: A live webcast with Dr. Greg Butcher as he gives you an

      inside look into his groundbreaking report “Birds and Climate

      Change: Ecological Disruption in Motion.” The webcast will

      feature an interactive slideshow and presentation, followed by

      questions and answers.

      WHEN: Friday, February 20 at 1 PM EST/10 AM PST


      We wish we could send Dr. Butcher to communities across the

      country, but since we can’t, we wanted to offer the next best

      thing. The webcast will be a live event that you watch and

      listen to on your computer. All you need is an internet

      connection and computer speakers — there’s no special software

      to install. This is your chance to hear from — and ask

      questions of — one of Audubon’s top bird scientists. Can’t make

      the webcast? Don’t worry! An archive of the event will be

      available on our website.


      After you register, please forward this message to 3 friends,

      family members, or colleagues who might be interested in joining

      us on our webcast. Thank you for helping us get the word out

      about what birds are telling us about global warming.

  4. Melanie Mulhall says:February 18, 2009 at 6:36 pm


    I haven’t counted birds at my feeder (or heated birdbath) but I count myself a lucky woman to have been born to parents who cared about the junco, thrilled over the Bohemian Waxwing, and never failed to appeciate the cardinal. Living in Colorado, I fantasize the day that the cardinal will have migrated as far west as Denver. It will happen. In the meantime, I enjoy my finches and sparrows, my flickers and jays, my robins and, yes, even my starlings and pigeons and grackles. They’re all welcome in my backyard.


  5. Andrea Meyer says:February 19, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Although I haven’t participated in one locally, I did have the opportunity to help with research on bird migration patterns in Australia. The scientists I worked with were amazing. One, nicknamed Harro, could identify birds not only by sight but by their songs! He kept a little notebook with him at all times and jotted the time & place where he saw each type of bird.

  6. Stephanie Chasteen says:February 21, 2009 at 11:47 am

    You can also do more Citizen Science (eg., projects where citizens give real data for scientific research) using some of the bird stuff at Cornell Lab of Ornithology at They’ve got the links to the results of the backyard bird count too.

    They have an ongoing bird counting project at Ebird -

    And one more link! Here’s a podcast on using Ebird with kids if you’re an educator. (Somewhat shameless promotion, since I helped write and produce that episode). Fun stuff.