Longtime Queens birders and newcomers to the hobby will have a chance next week to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count.
The 17th annual four-day event will run Friday, Feb. 14 through Monday, Feb. 17 and is sponsored by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. No experience is required and participants can count for as little as 15 minutes on one or more days of the event and report the sightings at birdcount.org.
Participants can just look in their backyard for birds or go to a park or other public place to find them. Submit a separate checklist for each day or for each location.
Each list helps researchers learn more about how our feathered friends are doing and how to protect them and the environment. Last year, there were 134,000 participants who submitted 34.5 million sightings The top reported birds were the northern cardinal, dark-eyed junco, mourning dove, downy woodpecker and house finch.
According to the Audubon Society, bird populations are always shifting and changing. Last year, a large irruption or sudden sharp increase of winter finches were spotted across the country. Scientists believe these movements were caused by lack of tree seed crops.
This year, starting around Thanksgiving, an irruption of snowy owls from the Arctic has been seen in great numbers along the East Coast and Midwest. Experts say it’s the largest irruption in 50 years and is due to more birds being born last year. They are expected to return to the Arctic in March.
For those new to birding there’s a video on the website that will get you started. There are also some prizes for a lucky few for entering.
If you prefer to work in groups, the Queens Botanical Garden at 43-50 Main St. in Flushing is offering a bird walk on Saturday, Feb. 15 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., led by Shari Romar, QBG staffer and birder. To register send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mary Normandia, vice president of the Queens County Bird Club, is a veteran bird watcher. Sometimes she sits on a ladder to get the best view of birds in her yard for the count.
“It’s a fun way to get people involved,” Normandia said of the bird count. “It also tests your own ability to identify birds.”
She suggests good locations for sightings include Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston, Crocheron Park in Bayside and along the Douglaston marsh for water birds.
Recently, she noted, sightings of a snowy owl were reported at Fort Totten Park in Bayside. Previously, the species has been seen at JFK Airport. “Everyone is thrilled to see them,” Normandia said.
The bird club meets the third Wednesday of every month at 8 p.m. at APEC, located at 228-06 Northern Blvd. Meetings are open to all and this month’s topic is insects.