Beat the Winter Blues

February 2015

Take Action February 11, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend

This month we’re offering tips to cure the winter blues. Just because it’s February, and the dead of winter in most places, doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty for the industrious citizen scientist to do!

Give Mother Nature a valentine this year and show how much you care about birds by counting them for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The 18th annual count is taking place February 13 through 16.

Anyone in the world can count birds at any location for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track changes in bird populations on a massive scale. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.


Photo © Jane Ogilvie

Bird watchers fell in love with the magnificent Snowy Owl during the last count when the birds were reported in unprecedented numbers across southeastern Canada, the Great Lakes states, the Northeast, and down the Atlantic Coast. Expect Snowy Owls to show up in higher numbers during this year’s GBBC, too.

“It’s called an ‘echo flight,'” explains Marshall Iliff, eBird Project Leader at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “After a huge irruption like we had last winter, the following year often yields higher-than-usual numbers as well. The abundance of lemmings that produced last year’s Snowy Owl irruption likely continued or emerged in new areas of eastern Canada, more owls may have stayed east after last year’s irruption, and some of last year’s birds that came south are returning.”


Photo © Helena Garcia

“This may also be a big year for finches,” notes Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham. “GBBC participants in North America should be on the lookout for larger numbers of Pine Siskins and redpolls. These birds also push farther south when pine cone seed crops fail in the far north of Canada.”

Bird watchers from 135 countries participated in the 2014 count, documenting nearly 4,300 species on more than 144,000 bird checklists–that’s about 43% of all the bird species in the world! In addition to the U.S. and Canada, India, Australia, and Mexico led the way with the greatest number of checklists submitted.

“We especially want to encourage people to share their love of birds and bird watching with someone new this year,” says Dick Cannings at Bird Studies Canada. “Take your sweetheart, a child, a neighbor, or a coworker with you while you count birds for the GBBC. Share your passion and you may fledge a brand new bird watcher!”

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with nature and show some love for the birds this Valentine’s Day. Participation is free and easy. To learn more about how to join the count, download instructions, a slide show, web buttons, and other materials, visit While you’re there, get inspired by the winning photos from the 2014 GBBC photo contest.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

This Month’s Articles

Plan Your Plantings!

Slideshow February 25, 2015

Vote for a BirdSpotter Winner!

Slideshow February 19, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend

Take Action February 11, 2015

Watch Your Feeders For Science!

Take Action February 4, 2015


  1. Betsy Duke says:

    2 weeks ago, around October 1st, I saw a bald eagle snatch a great blue heron that was fishing in the reeds along our creek! The eagle grabbed it with its claws and pulled it into the air. They did an aerial battle for several minutes with the heron squawking loudly, and then the eagle downed it in the grass across the creek and behind the trees where I could not see them. A few minutes later the squawking stopped and the eagle flew off, NOT carrying the heron. I watched for several more minutes and the eagle didn’t return. I’m sure the heron was killed.

    My question is — was this a territorial behavior that caused the eagle to kill the heron? The eagles are seen only seldom here and have no really nearby nests. The eagle never returned to take pieces of the heron. I’d really like to know what caused the fight between them.

    Thanks in advance, Betsy


  2. Celine Abbas says:

    Great article – Speaking of which , if your company are wanting to merge PDF files , my business partner came across a tool here .

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