>Western Tribune Column February 11, 2009

>Today’s Western Tribune (Bessemer, AL) Column

In February the cold weather often keeps us indoors but there is an activity coming up that can keep you connected to the outdoors without having to step outside.

It’s the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by Cornell University Ornithology Lab and the National Audubon Society.

We can worry about stimulus packages and state budgets during the week, then on the weekend relax by doing a little bird watching.

The instructions say that we can do this in as little as fifteen minutes on one or all three days, but I find it hard to restrict my participation to a quarter of an hour. When I begin watching for birds, they seem to be everywhere, and in more varieties than one would suspect.

And you don’t have to be an expert either. There is plenty of information to help in identification of birds, and those who participate identify their level of expertise, so if you are a complete amateur, that’s OK.

Last year there were 22 reports with 48 species reported from Bessemer, and 8 reports with 47 species from McCalla. Hueytown had 2 reports and 15 species.

The most common bird in each of those areas was the American Goldfinch.

The reports are important because together they present a picture of bird populations that change from year to year due to weather patterns or other natural or manmade factors. Of interest locally, and noted on their website, is the expansion of the range of the Eurasian Collared Dove which was reported from Bessemer last year.

Information and reporting sheets can be found at Birdsource.org/gbbc. Join this effort and let’s double the number of reports from our area. The event takes place in your backyard February 13-16.

Birds in cages don’t count by the way, so the exotic birds that were the focus of a story in last week’s paper can’t be added to the totals for Bessemer.

Also coming up of course is Valentine’s Day which falls on a Saturday this year. That means that for most people who celebrate with their spouse or lover, they will have the whole day to spend together in romantic bliss. Just be sure to take a break for the birds.

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