February 17th through the 18th was an important time for the ornithological community. This was the date of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This was a time for anyone and everyone who enjoys birding to literally go out into their backyards to help scientists further their understanding of birds by recording which species they observed and what they were doing at the time of observation. Our Tweetspeak class did just this by birding in Westminster College’s backyard at the Field Station.
The Field Station allows access to a series of trials that lead us through several different types of habitats. Through our travels we were able observe birds in a variety of habitats such as:
- Thick areas of brush
Our experience began in a rather unordinary way in the sense that it was an exceptionally warm and sunny day for late February. The air echoed with the songs of a variety of bird species. As our search began we found ourselves surrounded by thick brush. This type of habitat provides sufficient shelter for birds like the Northern Cardinal and the Black-capped Chickadee, which we saw hopping from branch to branch foraging for what precious food they could find.
Once we moved farther down the trail the environment opened up into a vast field. To our delight we spotted some Eastern Bluebirds perched on top of their nesting boxes. We watched them for some time observing their behavior when we heard a distinct drumming of a woodpecker. The group followed the drumming into the woodland area where we stumbled onto three different species of woodpecker: a Red-bellied, a Hairy and multiple Downy woodpeckers. The trail led us to a wetland environment comprised of a relatively large body of water. Not surprisingly we observed some waterfowl like Canada Geese, but one unfamiliar face at that time of year caught our eyes and that was a Red-winged Blackbird.
Witnessing this early arrival of a spring migrant allowed to grasp the importance of citizen science programs like the GBBC. Observations like these give scientists data they would not have otherwise been able to collect and enables them to study and have a greater understanding of changes like early migration.