with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Count a Bird, Plant a Tree: Rebuilding Nature After Hurricane Katrina

Red-bellied WoodpeckerThis year’s Great Backyard Bird Count from the and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology will be bigger, better, and more exciting than ever.

People all over the United States will go out into their backyards, parks, and nearby nature areas to count the birds on February 17-20, 2006. Parents will help children, bird watchers will gather, and serious bird enthusiasts and groups will help others learn how to count and identify birds all over the country. In 2005, more than 52,000 checklists were submitted, with a record-breaking 613 species and more than 6 million birds counted.

The reason that this Great Backyard Bird Count is so important and “big” is due to the impact of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. Massive habitats were destroyed along the Gulf Coast, a major bird migratory route. Researchers are very interested in learning about how the hurricane impacts bird migration, from the path they take as well as where they are wintering this year.

In conjunction with the Audubon Society and the Great Backyard Bird Count, many organizations are working together to help promote wildlife and natural habitat restoration. Among many local, state, and federal agencies, Arbor Day Organization has announced the Trees for Katrina Program where people can donate money to buy trees which will be given away throughout the Gulf Shores area in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama for people to plant in their years, parks, and elsewhere. This helps to restore forests and natural areas, as well as helps to provide habitat for birds.

To participate, you can count birds at one period of time each day from one location and then report on the count and birds you find through the forms at Great Backyard Bird Count. If you want to report on more location counts, just head down the street to the nearest park, neighbor’s backyard, or elsewhere and report again. You are allowed one report per day from each location for each day of the count weekend.

You can even submit your backyard bird count photographs to the Great Backyard Bird Count Gallery during the bird count weekend.

There are also Great Backyard Bird Count Contests for a variety of competitions including top ten states, top three provinces, top 5 communities in the United States, top 5 communites in Canada, and top community within each state.

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