Backyard bird count this weekend

The Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Important Bird Areas Program, and Lahontan Audubon Society invite bird watchers of all ages in the Carson Valley, Carson City, and Dayton Valley to join the 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count from Friday though Feb. 15. Participants in the free event will join tens of thousands of volunteers counting birds across the country in their own backyards, local parks or wildlife refuges.

"This is a fun and easy way for the entire family to explore the natural world right around us," said Duane Petite, Carson River Project Director for The Nature Conservancy, "and the more information we have about bird communities along the Carson River, the more effective our conservation work will be."

Each checklist submitted by these "citizen scientists" helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada learn more about how the birds are doing-and how to protect them. Last year, participants turned in more than 93,600 checklists online and reported 9.8 million birds, creating the continent's largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.

Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from novice bird watchers to experts. Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the event and report their sightings online at www.birdcount.org.

Citizen scientists' participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count is very helpful to scientists who can't be everywhere at once to monitor birds and build long-term records to see where birds are and if their ranges are shifting. Scientists learn about the abundance and distribution of certain species, patterns of migration, and if certain threats such as urbanization, climate change, or disease are affecting the bird populations. "The Great Backyard Bird Count data is extremely helpful in my work with Nevada's Important Bird Areas," said Robin Powell, Nevada Director of Bird Conservation for the Audubon Society. "This information will help me determine shifts in migration and movement patterns, or if a particular bird population is decreasing or increasing in the Carson River watershed over the long term."

On the www.birdcount.org website, participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during the count. The site also has tips to help identify birds, activities for kids and information on how to enter the Great Backyard Bird Count photo contest by uploading images taken during the count. All participants are entered in a drawing for prizes that include bird feeders, binoculars, books, CDs, and many other great birding products. For more information, visit the website at www.birdcount.org or contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473, gbbc@cornell.edu.

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