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February 6, 2008

Great Backyard Bird Count combines fun of bird watching, conservation Feb. 15-18

What mid-winter activity is fun, easy, free, and helps bird conservation? What can parents and teachers do with children that connect them to a whole new world of natural wonders? From Feb. 15-18, the 11th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, will give everyone a chance to discover the birds in their neighborhood and "Count for the Record."

During President’s Day weekend, from Sunday to Monday, Feb. 15-18, people of all ages, from beginners to experts, are invited to join this event, which spans all of the United States and Canada. Participants can take part wherever they are—at home, in schoolyards, at local parks or wildlife refuges. Observers simply count the highest number of each species they see during an outing or a sitting, and enter their tally on the Great Backyard Bird Count Web site. Visitors to the Web site can also compare their sightings with results from other participants, as checklists pour in from throughout the United States and Canada. Together, these counts offer a real-time snapshot of the numbers and kinds of birds that people are finding, from boreal chickadees in Alaska to wood storks in South Carolina.

"The Great Backyard Bird Count is a community celebration of birds, birding, and nature," said Laurel Barnhill, bird conservation coordinator for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "We often fail to notice how rich our surroundings are, but counting birds, even for just 15 minutes, is not only educational—it can provide a lasting source of enjoyment, turning a daily walk into a treasure hunt. By submitting their counts online, birdwatchers can quickly see how the dots they put on the map form new patterns that tell new stories about the birds that share the world in which we live, including our own backyards and parks."

This year marks the 11th anniversary of the Great Backyard Bird Count, and Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and state conservation agencies like the S.C. Department of Natural Resources are challenging people everywhere to "Count for the Record," by participating in greater numbers than ever before. Greater participation, with more checklists submitted, provides more information about bird population trends, and helps to better inform conservation efforts.

Last year, participants submitted more than 80,744 checklists—and reported more than 11 million birds overall and 629 different species. The count helped chronicle the early spring migratory routes of sandhill cranes, documented lingering migrants such as orange-crowned warblers and tree swallows, revealed the ongoing range expansion of introduced Eurasian collared-doves, and recorded declining numbers of American crows.

Participants who want to hone their bird watching skills can learn more from the Great Backyard Bird Count Web site, which offers identification tips and access to photos, sounds, maps, and natural history information on more than 500 bird species. People can also submit photos to an online gallery showcasing the dazzling array of winter birds found during the Great Backyard Bird Count. Competitions add another element of fun, including a photo contest, rankings for most numerous birds, and the coveted "checklist champ" title for towns, states, and provinces with the highest participation. About 4,000 images were received for the 2007 photo contest.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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