Still time to join the annual Great Backyard Bird Count 2023
Published February 18, 2023 in the McAllen Monitor
Story and photos by Anita Westervelt
I hope the black and white striped, yellow-throated little dude stays around for the count – the National Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count that is, which is active though Monday, February 20.
The GBBC is an easy, fun and important citizen science project. It’s annual, it’s global. Type gbbc 2023 in your search engine, or go to www.birdcount.org for links to instructions on how to participate, information about the project’s importance to researchers, apps to download, bird lists, stories about what has been discovered through this event, how to upload your count data and photos, if you choose to photograph birds, and see results from previous years.
The GBBC event is as simple as counting birds in one place for as little as 15 minutes – whether you choose your backyard, neighborhood, city park, water plant ponds, landfill, utility poles and wires, beach or travel to your favorite nature preserve where experts can help with bird identification.
Years ago, a friend in California e-mailed a brief note with the initials GBBC and said, look it up, do it. I did. My first experience was from a sidewalk along U.S. Highway 281, overlooking an irrigation canal. I watched cormorants taking turns diving into the water.
Bird identification isn’t always easy, especially for a novice but there are free bird identification phone apps and birding websites available. The Rio Grande Valley has a remarkable number of birds all year long. In the winter, hundreds more winter over and many others migrate through.
For the past three years, I would get excited when I’d see a black and white blur with a flash of yellow, flitting through the nearly leafless branches of a mesquite tree close to my kitchen window. I’d think, yes! A blackburnian warbler – only to capture a photo and find it was a yellow-throated warbler. Still, it is always thrilling to have that one visit my winter yard.
Tiny yellow-rumped and orange-crowned warblers sometimes join my usual contingent of doves, green jays, tit mice, sparrows, kiskadees and golden-fronted woodpeckers. I finally researched blackburnian warbler and discovered it would be uncommon in my Rio Grande Valley backyard. They winter in South America, commonly flying across the Gulf of Mexico, using a migratory path through southern states east of Texas.
My favorite, the black-and-white warbler, I’ve yet to see in my trees. They like to hang out around mangroves, I’ve read. I’ve spotted them from the boardwalks at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.
Warblers are fun to discover. Their sizes range from about 4.25 to 5.75 inches in length. They are fast flyers, reaching speeds to 25 miles per hour. Their diet consists mainly of insects; they do not sit for a photo session but perform aerial acrobatics through tangled branches in pursuit of bugs. A colorful pictorial of warblers is at this site:
The GBBC is about all the birds you can count, ducks, waders, seaside and dune birds, perching birds, raptors – common or unusual, regulars and those just passing through.