A Bird’s Tale

Tallying Up the Great Backyard Bird Count 2020

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 11:30am

If you participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), congratulations! You have contributed to researchers’ understanding of bird distribution and abundance. If you live in Lincoln County, you also helped put the birds of your area on the map—and the county among the top performers in Maine. When we check ed results earlier this morning, Lincoln County was in third place for number of checklists submitted. At screen-grab time, it had dropped to sixth, but this may change again as participants continue to contribute data—participants have until March 1, so if you have bird sightings between Friday and Monday, be sure to get it in.

How did the birds add up? American robin had the highest count, with 30 individuals reported on February 17. Bufflehead were swimming about by the dozens (two dozen, exactly, at least so far), and Canada Goose made their presence known—no surprise there! All in all, a strong showing for Lincoln County, with 82 checklists reporting 55 species. Regardless, every bird counts, so thank you for your participation.

Maine in general had good showing, too, closing in on 1300 checklists as of this writing. Common eiders seemed to want to be counted, and it was nice to see razorbill on the list—an indicator of Maine’s rugged coastline and the great birds you can find there. Evening grosbeaks were reported from Aroostook County, making us jealous but happy to see this species making a statement for the GBBC despite the species’ serious population decline in recent decades.  

As for us, we enjoyed keeping an eye out at our feeders for the song sparrow that has been visiting throughout the winter, but alas, the timing wasn’t never quite right. We were delighted to see robins as we were out and about to purchase a new printer in Augusta; we enjoyed putting those into the database. Perhaps our favorite observation was when we did our usual loop through South Gardiner, Richmond, and Dresden. We were hoping a rough-legged hawk or northern shrike might make an appearance, but no such luck. We watched as a young bald eagle sat on a tree limb tearing into something that had presumably been discarded by the farm nearby. Soon after, we saw five eagles muscling in for a piece of the same meal. It was quite a sight, these powerful birds jockeying for position, their dark, massive bodies making a distinctive impression against the white snow blanketing the vast fields.

Whether you participated or not, we hope that you will take some time to explore the data at the GBBC site at https://gbbc.birdcount.org/. It is gratifying to know that so much of that information was provided by people from all walks of life and all skill levels. Hopefully you will find it intriguing enough that you will want to continue to contribute. Thanks to eBird, you can, year-round! Check it out at https://ebird.org/home.

A big thank you to all who put Lincoln County, the State of Maine, and so many birds on the Great Backyard Bird Count map. Mark your calendars for the same weekend next year. Meanwhile, see you on eBird!

Jeffrey V. Wells, Ph.D., is a Fellow of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Vice President of Boreal Conservation for National Audubon. Dr. Wells is one of the nation's leading bird experts and conservation biologists and author of the “Birder’s Conservation Handbook.” His grandfather, the late John Chase, was a columnist for the Boothbay Register for many years. Allison Childs Wells, formerly of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is a senior director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, a nonprofit membership organization working statewide to protect the nature of Maine. Both are widely published natural history writers and are the authors of the popular book, “Maine’s Favorite Birds” (Tilbury House) and “Birds of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao: A Site and Field Guide,” (Cornell University Press).