Asheville – Communities across the state are grabbing their binoculars to get ready for the North Carolina Bird Count this week—from February 18 through 21. Anyone in NC can participate in the 21st annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), but they must register and sign up with www.ebird.org. They will need to get a free eBird account from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to become a community scientist for the weekend.
Mountains To Sea
This collaboration of 32 organizations from the mountains to the sea is an exciting time for anyone and everyone to help scientists gather information on our avian friends. It is a time to count the birds all around you, the ones at your feeder—the Carolina Chickadees, the Northern Cardinals, the many varieties of woodpeckers. Perhaps you prefer to find a good viewing spot to watch for at least 15 minutes—on one or more of the days of the count—and make a checklist of any species you see and hear. Check the online sites, contribute to eBird and become a citizen scientist. For more information on how to participate in the North Carolina Bird Count, just visit www.scienceacrossnc.org.
“Sometimes people feel intimidated about jumping into the world of birds if they have no previous experience,” said Patrick Nadeau, president of Birds Canada. “The Great Backyard Bird Count is a wonderful way to get your feet wet, feel the warmth of the community, and start to realize the wonders in your own neighborhood. The tools and resources are free. And you are helping birds when you get involved.”
“The information we collect during the bird count is a big help in the study of bird habitats, migration patterns and other data that helps the conservation of birds, and we want as many people to participate as we can get,” said Jonathan Marchal, one of the event organizers and Director of Education at the North Carolina Arboretum. “The North Carolina Bird Count is an amazing way for people to experience the natural world happening in their own neighborhood.”
A record number of participants joined the 2021 count. According to the Audubon Society website, an estimated 300,000 people worldwide submitted checklists reporting 6,436 species. In North Carolina, both Buncombe and Henderson counties were in the top 15 for number of species counted: Buncombe had 90, and Henderson, 86. Dare County in northeastern North Carolina along the Atlantic Ocean had the most with 143 species.
Activities Surrounding the Birdwatching Event
On Wednesday, February 16, from 2:00 to 3:00pm, the Cornell Lab Facebook Lifestream is holding a free webinar to help you make birdwatching easier and more fun. The Cornell Lab experts will brush you up on bird identification, unlock the mystery of bird songs and practice counting birds no matter how large the flock or busy the feeder. This webinar is designed for birders of all ages and experience—you’ll leave confident and ready to be part of the GBBC!
On February 19th, The North Carolina Arboretum, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, North Carolina Zoo and Halyburton Park will also host a live virtual “Birds Across NC” presentation on Facebook (@thenorthcarolinaarboretum) from 10 am to 12 pm.
The bird celebration continues with more educational programs at the North Carolina Arboretum all month. It starts with the free onsite “Beginning Birding Program” on February 19th from 1:00 to 2:30 pm. Alas, this program is now at capacity. Upcoming Adult Educational classes also include a “Birding Basics Field Experience” with instructor Simon Thompson of Ventures Birding Tours on February 22nd from 9-11:00am. If you want to get started in birding, this is the in-person class to take at the Arboretum, $45 for non-members with a 10% discount for members.
“Meet the Barn Owl” will also be onsite on February 26th from 1:00-3:00 pm. Owls of all types are often considered to be strange and mysterious birds but the Barn Owl is in a class all by itself. Join Carlton Burke to meet and learn about this most unusual owl that has a heart-shaped face, is an owl species that doesn’t hoot, is found on nearly every continent worldwide, nests primarily in barns and other buildings, and is becoming increasingly uncommon in many parts of its range including North Carolina.
Online the Arboretum is offering a six part Birding Basics series, starting Thursday, February 17. The sessions are on Thursdays from 4-5:00pm. You don’t have to be a beginner to enjoy these lively presentations by expert birders Simon Thompson, Kevin Burke and Clifton Avery of Ventures Birding Tours.
Online classes given by the NC Arboretum migrate into March, with programs about bird song, nests, hummingbirds and more. Find out about all these avian educational opportunities at www.ncarboretum.org/lovebirds.
Young birders ages 5 – 12 are encouraged to join ecoEXPLORE. This family-focused community science program invites participants to post their own photos of birds and other wildlife while earning prizes and badges. ecoEXPLORE delves into different focuses throughout the year and we are excited to start botany season in March. Find out more at www.ecoexplore.net.
An International Birding and Nature Tour Company
Ventures Birding Tours offers a full schedule of international tours to explore the incredible world of birds and nature. Amongst many other, they go to Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle, North Dakota, as well as England, Hungary and the Dominican Republic. If you go to their website, you will see these exhilarating tours fill up rapidly.
Owner and operator of Ventures Birding Tours, Simon Thompson has lived in North Carolina for over 20 years. He is originally from Suffolk, England. Prior to moving to the US he lived in Lebanon, Kenya, Yemen, and Ghana, where his interest in birds and natural history began. In addition to traveling extensively in the United States, Simon spent six months in China studying the crane and bird of prey migration as a member of the British “China Crane Watch” expedition. He has been on the board of the Blue Ridge Audubon Society (formerly the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society) in Asheville, NC. Simon has led many birding trips all over the world.
In addition Ventures Birding offers many local day trips with knowledgeable guides for a fee of $60.00. Two will be coming up shortly. One will be at the Lake Conestee Nature Preserve led by Kevin Burke on February 18th and another at the Green River Gamelands and Lake Adger on February 26th led by Clifton Avery. On both trips there will undoubtedly be some unexpected viewings, perhaps of a Sandhill Crane or a Bald Eagle. For more information on these and to sign up, go to www.https://www.birdventures.com/day-trips.html
Online virtual programs with Ventures Birding are planned. A minimal fee for these presentation is $5 per person. On Tuesday, February 22 at 6:00pm is Sweden, Bird Migration in South Sweden, and on Tuesday, March 8 at 6:00 pm on Zoom, South Asia, a Birding Adventure in India Nepal and Sri Lanka. Both are presented by Michael Werndly, a lifetime birder who has had the chance to work with the BBC on various filming projects. He is organizing a Naturalist’s Tour to Scotland in July and August, which will feature Grey Seals. This Ventures Tour trip is limited to 10 participants.
Birding is an activity with which many are already familiar, but perhaps new to others. The upcoming North Carolina Bird Count offers a good beginning for newcomers and is an easy way to participate—and fun—for people of all skill levels. Be brave and take a plunge into a new adventure.