Count the birds and enjoy the spring migration

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez
The goal of Saturday’s Global Big Day Bird Count is to tally the greatest number of bird species seen in a single day.

By Becky Herman
Special to The SUN

Double enjoyment, double fun, double chances to have an impact on wildlife conservation and citizen science — what could be better? Yeah, of course, you can think of better things like winning the lottery. But why not just look at the bright side and what this upcoming Saturday, May 9, has to offer. The Weminuche Audubon Society has some ideas for you to plan a fun and interesting day.

The first one is the annual Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Global Big Day Bird Count. Tens of thousands of people, including groups of expert birders from the Cornell Lab, will take part in a massive effort to set a world record. 

The goal: Tally the greatest number of bird species seen in a single day. Anyone is welcome to take part; all you need to do is to count as many birds as possible in 24 hours. 

The Cornell contingent, split into several groups, will count from midnight to midnight. You can do the same by counting observed bird species and report the sightings on eBird using your phone or tablet or computer. By the way, eBird is a collaboration between the Cornell Lab and the National Audubon Society. You can observe and count for as little as 10 minutes or as long as you can hang in there. Last year, 35,209 eBirders from 174 countries collected an astounding 92,284 checklists in a single day. 

Will you join in? Remember, every bird counts.

Here are some hints for getting ready to participate:

• If you don’t already have one, go online ( to sign up for an eBird account — it’s quick and easy. And/or if you have a smartphone, download the eBird Mobile app. This program gives you the easiest way to keep a list of birds sighted, how long you were looking and where you were looking.

• Install the Merlin Bird ID app on your phone to help with identifying birds which are unfamiliar to you. Be sure to download the appropriate bird pack; your phone will know which one to download if your location info is turned on. Merlin Bird ID helps you solve a bird mystery in five questions or with a photo of a bird. First, Merlin asks you a few simple questions. Then, almost like magic, it reveals the list of birds that best match your description. Pick your bird, then delve into more photos, sounds and ID tips about your bird.

• Use your camera — taking pictures of birds is helpful with troublesome IDs and for reporting sightings in eBird.

This a fun and productive way to make a contribution to science in spite of the current stay-at-home directives. Recently, there were reports in the New York Times that people were counting birds by looking out of their apartment windows. So be creative (and careful) about where and how you do your counting. We are lucky to live in a place where there are usable outdoor spaces where we can be safe.

The second opportunity on May 9 for fun and participation is the celebration of World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD). As a result of the long and persistent efforts of multiple conservation and education organizations, WMBD was created, a single, global bird conservation education program. Since 2007, WMBD has been coordinated by Environment for the Americas (EFTA), a nonprofit organization that strives to connect people to bird conservation.

In 2018, EFTA joined the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) to create a single, global bird conservation education campaign. WMBD celebrates and brings attention to one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas — bird migration.

While this new alliance furthers migratory bird conservation around the globe by creating a worldwide campaign organized around the planet’s major migratory bird corridors, the EFTA will continue to focus its efforts on the flyways here in North, Central and South America and, through education, to highlight the need to conserve migratory birds and protect their habitat. The EFTA coordinates events, programs and activities in the Americas at protected areas, refuges, parks, museums, schools, zoos and more. As many as 700 events and programs are hosted annually to introduce the public to migratory birds and ways to conserve them.

Learning about these events and programs on WMBD’s website,, can offer you a wide range of things to do on May 9. There are items under the resources tab, including fact sheets and promotional materials, and educational items including bird flash cards, coloring pages, posters, buttons and stickers. Of particular interest now is the very useful information about the plastic pollution problem and how it affects birds. Also, sprinkled into the website pages are tips on how to make sure our efforts to ensure that the safety of migrating bird populations across North and South America are successful.


This story was posted on May 8, 2020.