Great Backyard Bird Count aims to help track migratory patterns

Workshop to prepare potential participants slated for Saturday

PORT ANGELES — If you have 15 minutes to spare over Presidents’ Day Weekend, you might consider participating in a global science project whose aim is to better understand birds, their health, population and migratory patterns.

The Great Backyard Bird Count held Feb. 17-20 encourages people to identify, count and share the information they gather about the birds they find in their favorite places: backyards, mountains, shorelines, parks, forests, fields.

“You can go to the same spot day after day after day,” said Bob Boekelheide of the Olympic Audubon Society. “They just ask that you count for at least 15 minutes.”

To help people prepare for the event, the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society is presenting Bird Nesting and the Great Backyard Bird Count from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Dungeness River Nature Center, 1943 W. Hendrickson Road in Sequim.

Boekelheide and Ken Wiersema will discuss when, where and how local birds build their nests; show beginners the basics of bird watching; and provide participants instruction on how to enter the birds they identify into eBird.

“eBird is an incredible resource,” Boekelheide said. “You can keep track of your sightings, and there are other people’s sightings so you can see what other people are seeing. You can search by species and see a map of the sightings.”

The suggested donation for the workshop is $5.

The Great Backyard Bird Count, like the Christmas Bird Count, is a project of the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is much more loosely organized, Boekelheide said, which makes it appealing to some beginners. The project collects the information from contributors across the world to give scientists a snapshot of where birds are around the globe.

“Know in general the birds you’re expecting to see,” Boekelheide said.

If you enter a species into eBird that looks out of place in the area you’re watching, it will get flagged. (Think flamingos in Dungeness Bay.)

“People are monitoring it to make sure that the bird makes sense or isn’t way out of range,” Boekelheide said.

In addition to eBird, Boekelheide recommended the free Merlin app for identifying birds and bird calls.

“It’s very helpful, but it’s not perfect,” Boekelheide said. “If you hear something unique, try to stand as close as you can to identify it. It’s right about 80 percent of the time.”

Experts from Audubon, Birds Canada and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will offer a free webinar on Feb. 15 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. with tips on identifying birds and how to participate in the count. Register at

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