Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

The Great Backyard Bird Count, held last weekend, helps researchers determine long-term trends in bird populations by having thousands of people across the country record what birds they are seeing.

Together, it can help determine bird population trends.

I think it can also help people appreciate the surprising wildlife that can be found right in their backyards.

Yesterday, I joined 63,000 other bird counters and sat quietly in my own backyards, city parks and open spaces.

I didn't see any rare species. I saw 8 species, most of them birds I regularly see around the yard--house finches, American goldfinches, robins, juncos, valley quail, house sparrows, mourning dove and a Coopers hawk.

But I did have a surprising experience.

At one point I was amazed to count 66 American goldfinches were at our feeders.

I was more amazed when two of those goldfinches landed on my head. They fluttered and pecked around up there for about a minute, and then flew to a feeder. I've never had a bird mistake me for a roost before.

You never know what wildlife experiences are out there. The backyard bird count is over for the year, but make it a point to sit quietly out in nature--even if it is just in your backyard or a local vacant lot. --Matt Miller

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