September 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm (Citizen Scientist)
Tags: citizen science project, Citizen Scientist, Conservation, google maps, habitat, Mapping, Ornithology, Yardmap
Get a Bird’s Eye View of Your Habitat
YardMap is a citizen science project offered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The goal of YardMap is to support the lab scientists’ work in understanding bird populations. Families participate by creating maps of the habitat provided within their yard (whether it’s native or not) using Google maps, which are then submitted to the lab…
The average American lawn is filled with lush green grass and some landscaped trees and shrubs. Here in western Massachusetts, we’re lucky enough to be able to live amongst natural and beautiful surroundings like forests, fields, mountains, and water of all types. Even if we have grassy yards, many homes are surrounded by natural habitat that has existed since long before our homes were built. Of course, we do have an impact on the environment around us, but our small communities leave us with the opportunity to work to blend in with nature, rather than set ourselves apart from it.
Natural habitat is incredibly important for supporting the many different kinds of creatures who share your surroundings. Plant and animal populations exist within a delicately balanced system that can easily be influenced by eliminating or drastically changing habitats. One way to ensure that your effect on your surroundings isn’t negative is by planting native species of trees, shrubs, and even flowers in your yard, but with the growing season rapidly coming to an end, what should families do in order to support natural critter habitat? Participate in YardMap!
June 3, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Citizen Scientist, Hampden County, Hampshire County, Video)
Tags: band birds, Bird Banding, Birds, citizen science project, Citizen Scientist, Citizen Scientists, Neighborhood Nestwatch, Ornithology, pioneer valley area, Smithsonian Institution, western massachusetts
Citizen Scientists Wanted to Monitor Backyard Birds:
Neighborhood Nestwatch Citizen Scientist Opportunity for Families in the Pioneer Valley
Ever wonder if the robins nesting in your backyard are the same birds that nested there last year? If they were color banded then you would know. Amazingly, many birds nest in the same place year after year. By joining the Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch Citizen Science project, you can help scientists answer important questions about the birds in your own backyard.
The Smithsonian Institution partnered with the US Forest Service in 2012 to expand their Washington DC based Neighborhood Nestwatch project to the Springfield, MA area.
Susannah Lerman from the Dept. of Environmental Conservation at UMass writes, “We are recruiting participants for the 2013 season. Participation includes a mentored experience in which scientists visit your backyard once every summer to band birds and help you find nests. We will teach you how to keep track of “your” banded birds, collect nesting data and monitor year-to-year survival for scientific study.
January 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm (Citizen Scientist)
Tags: bird enthusiasts, Birds, Citizen Scientist, Environment, Mass Audubon, Nature, Ornithology, Science
Focus on Feeders
Mass Audubon Winter Bird Count
February 2nd & 3rd, 2013
People can help their feathered friends in the coldest season by joining Mass Audubon’s annual Focus on Feeders winter bird count on the weekend of February 2-3. The volunteer survey invites participants to list individual bird species and the greatest number of each seen at one time at their feeders and in their yards during that Saturday and Sunday. Anyone can participate—including families, first timers, and veteran bird enthusiasts. Participants will be able to learn and share information about the birds that visit their yards and feeders in winter. They will also be contributing knowledge to more than 40 years of winter bird feeder sighting information.
Does your family enjoy watching birds at your feeder during the winter? Backyard feeders provide a consistent, easily accessible source of food for a wide variety of bird species during the winter, and feeder-watching is a great way for families to learn about the many different species who live in their neighborhood.
This weekend, Mass Audubon is offering a chance for families to put feeder-watching to good use! Focus on Feeders – the great winter bird count – will take place on Saturday, February 2nd and Sunday, February 3rd, and is an annual event held to collect data on bird species and populations. All that families need to do to participate is to keep a list of the types of birds seen at the feeder during the weekend, as well as the number of each type of bird seen at a time. Then, families can submit their data for use in an actual scientific study by either entering it in online or completing a form and mailing it. The data collected will be used to assess bird populations and habits across the state – information that can be analyzed in order to understand the effects of changes in climate and landscape.
In order to identify birds, families will need to use a good field guide. Using a field guide to identify species allows kids to develop and practice reference skills while discovering bird characteristics of different species needed to properly identify them. Learning about the species living in their backyard will help students nurture a sense of place while drawing closer to the natural world around them!
Deadline for submissions is Thursday, February 28, 2013. More information at www.massaudubon.org/focus.
[Photo credit: (ccl) senoracak]
January 9, 2013 at 10:15 am (Animals, Art, Homeschooling)
Tags: arts curriculum, Conservation, duck stamp program, ducks, Ecology, Environment, Federal Fish and Wildlife Services, habitat conservation, Junior Duck Stamp Program, Nature, nature science, Ornithology, place-based education, Research, Science, Science Curriculum, STEM, western massachusetts
Supplement Habitat Studies with the Junior Duck Stamp Program
The Junior Duck Stamp Program offers an educational arts and science curriculum which educators can use for incorporating science, art, math and technology into habitat conservation studies. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
Western Massachusetts is home to a wide variety of duck species. These beautiful birds make their homes in wetland areas, a habitat in need of conservation. Students can learn about duck species and help to promote wetland conservation by participating in the Federal Fish and Wildlife Services’ Junior Duck Stamp Program! This contest calls for students to create their own stamps, featuring a specific duck species portrayed in its habitat. Students should learn about their species of choice, so as to make the best and most accurate depiction possible! Their design should reflect the group’s goal in creating the stamp – to share the beauty and importance of the species of the duck depicted.
Students should learn to understand the relationship between the duck and its specific environment, and should understand why the duck has such specific habitat requirements. Students can also study other stamp designs to learn what makes a good stamp!
Entries in the contest will be judged in four different age groups, and the winning entry will be made into a stamp and released in June. The contest is an opportunity for students to learn about local biodiversity, and to work on their understanding of the interrelatedness of species and their habitat. Students can also work on their art skills, working carefully to clearly portray their duck. The contest deadline is March 15th. For more information visit www.fws.gov/juniorduck.
Online resources for educators:
December 26, 2012 at 10:00 am (Suggested Activity)
Tags: american goldfinch, Baltimore Oriole, chipping sparrow, gray squirrels, Mass Audubon, Nature, Ornithology, Outdoor Adventures, outdoors, tracking, Wildlife, winter activities
Stalking Winter Nests & Wildlife Tracks
Family Outdoor Adventures
“Because robin nests are fairly large, and so well built, they are one of the easiest to spot after the nesting season. Look for them in shrubs and on horizontal branches in the lower halves of trees.”
During the cold months of winter, many of the creatures often seen during the rest of the year have migrated south, are tucked away in burrows for most of the winter, or have become even better at hiding so as not to be easily spotted against the snow. But their signs are still there and a lot of fun searching for! Looking for signs like tracks, scat, dens, and nests is a fun and educational way to learn about the habits of wildlife living near you.
To inspire families into winter tracking expeditions, Mass Audubon offers an online list of the Top 5 Nests to Spot in Winter! The list includes information on the American Goldfinch, American Robin, Baltimore Oriole, and Chipping Sparrow, as well as Eastern Gray Squirrels, who builds nests high up in trees as well. The nest list not only shares information on spotting and identifying five different nests, it also includes facts about the nest’s structure, specific reasons for why each nest is created the way that it is, and interesting facts.
Identifying nests together with your family can teach them a lot about the habits of each bird species, and can help them develop a greater awareness of the many animal signs present around them. Mass Audubon also has Winter Walk Bingo Cards families can download and print that would make for fun this winter while searching for nests and other signs of wildlife.
Maybe even take Kurt’s advise and after a week of constant ten degree weather, head to the wetlands and explore an area otherwise not easily accessible outside of winter. Read more in his post, “The Ripple: Winter Wetlands.”
Looking for organized activities to do together while looking for nests and other animal tracks, here are some upcoming events in January worth checking out:
[Photo credit: (ccl) carfull...Wyoming]
November 27, 2012 at 7:00 am (Citizen Scientist, Volunteer Opportunity)
Tags: Berkshires, Birds, Christmas Bird Count, Citizen Scientists, Environment, Mass Audubon Society, Nature, Ornithology, Pioneer Valley, Science, western massachusetts
Christmas Bird Count: An Annual Citizen Scientist
24 Hour Hunt for Bird Species
This beautiful Cedar Waxwing is a year-round resident and a commonly seen during the Christmas Bird Count. (Photo credit: Leslie Reed-Evans)
Leslie Reed-Evans writes:
Imagine standing at the edge of a frosty field on a chill December morning. Out of the corner of your eye you see an electric flash of blue- a male Eastern Bluebird flying to a wild rose bush to munch on its fruit1 – This is a scene played out all over New England, and indeed the country, as bird enthusiasts get out to find, identify and count as many individual birds and species as possible as members of the annual Christmas Bird Count.
According to the National Audubon, prior to the turn of the century people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt.” They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won. Conservation was in its beginning stages around the turn of the 20th century, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition -a “Christmas Bird Census”-that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them. One hundred and thirteen years later, hundreds of citizen scientists head for the woodlands, fields, ponds and rivers to compete with fellow participants and find the most number of birds, building on the tradition started so long ago. Everyone is looking for the most exciting and unusual species, but every bird sighted is a special one.
Counts may take place anytime between December 14 and January 5, and each count area is a circle extending from a center point with a 15-mile diameter, taking in as many habitats as possible. The count period is 24 hours. The north Berkshire count averages between 45 and 55 species, depending on the weather of the day, and the weather leading up to the count day. This year there have been many reports of winter finches, such as Pine Grosbeaks and crossbills, which in some years come from the north when cones or other food is in short supply.
Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action. Everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition — and with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation.
If you are interested in finding a Christmas Bird Count to take part in, visit birds.audubon.org (or contact the organizers below).
You will be participating in a tradition that you just might adopt as your own!
Western MA Area Christmas Bird Count Dates & Organizers:
- Springfield Area Christmas Count: Saturday, December 15th, 2012. Contact: George Kingston. 413-525-6742. email@example.com
- North Berkshire Christmas Bird Count: Saturday, December 15th, 2012. Contact: Leslie Reed-Evans. 413-458-5150. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Central Berkshire Christmas Bird Count: Saturday, December 15th, 2012. Contact: Tom Collins. email@example.com.
- Westfield Area Christmas Count: Saturday, December 22nd, 2012. Contact: Seth Kellogg. 413-569-3335. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- South Berkshire Christmas Bird Count: Tuesday, January 1st, 2013. Contact: Rene Laubach. email@example.com.
February 15, 2012 at 10:30 am (Citizen Scientist, Hilltown Families, Suggested Activity, Take Action)
Tags: Animal Studies, backyard bird count, Citizen Scientist, Citizen Scientists, Great Backyard Bird Count, Ornithology
Great Backyard Bird Count Perfect for Families
(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
Get out your bird books- this year’s 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) takes place from February 17th-20th!
The GBBC helps researchers gather an accurate count of bird populations, as well as determine the location of bird species. Sponsored by Audubon and Cornell University, the event requires citizen scientists to watch and count birds in their backyard for at least 15 minutes on at least one of the days during the bird count.
After you’ve collected your data, you can submit your information online. Tallies on the data site will grow as the count continues- check back to see how populations in your area look and to see how many other people are participating!
Although it’s called the Great “Backyard” Bird Count, the count extends well beyond backyards. Lots of participants choose to head for national parks, nature centers, urban parks, nature trails, or nearby sanctuaries. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
The GBBC is essential to ornithology research because without the help of volunteer citizen scientists, researchers wouldn’t be able to gather accurate data about populations and locations of birds. The event is incredibly easy for families to take part in, and also offers ample learning opportunities!
While counting birds, families can practice identifying the different species they see, discussing with your kids why each bird looks (color, shape, and size) the way that it does, and talk about what the bird’s natural food sources are during winter. Kids can also learn about habitat by thinking about where they saw each bird and what kinds of birds they didn’t see because they’ve migrated south. For more information on the event, visit www.birdsource.org. Happy counting!
January 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm (Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Berkshires, Birding, Citizen Scientist, Citizen Scientists, Mass Audubon, Ornithology, Pittsfield, western massachusetts
Bird Count at Canoe Meadows in Pittsfield
(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
There have been lots of opportunities lately to become a Citizen Scientist and assist with bird population counts! Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count and Bald Eagle Count both took place recently, but there’s another bird count that you can do any time of year! Mass Audubon offers a checklist of birds that visitors to Canoe Meadows (located in Pittsfield) can print and take along on their excursion.
After visiting, you can submit your bird observations to Audubon’s website to assist with the Oriole Project, Whip-poor-will Survey, Breeding Bird Atlas, and other projects. In participating, you’ll not only get to have a great outdoor adventure (go for an afternoon hike or strap on some show shoes once the flakes come down!), but you’ll learn more about their behaviors and habitat while contributing to an important study! Citizen scientists’ contributions to Audubon’s studies are very important, as the organization’s observation capabilities are limited. Along with this ongoing opportunity at Canoe Meadows, Audubon is hosting numerous birding events over the course of the next few months:
Arcadia in Easthmapton, MA:
February 18, 2011 at 5:30 pm (Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Berkshires, Birds, Citizen Scientists, Families, GBBC, Great Backyard Bird Count, Hilltowns, Kids, Massachusetts, Ornithology, Pioneer Valley, Science
Western MA Families Can Participate as Citizen Scientists During the 14th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend
“Whether people notice birds in backyards, parks, or wilderness areas, we ask that they share their counts at http://www.birdcount.org,” said Judy Braus, Audubon’s senior vice president of Education and Centers. “It’s fun and rewarding for people of all ages and skill levels.” (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
The 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count began today Friday, February 18th, and extends through the holiday weekend until February 21st. Parents and kids of all ages and skill levels are needed to count birds in their yards, neighborhoods, or other places they may be traveling to during school vacation. Simply tally birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count, then go to www.birdcount.org and enter the highest number of each species seen at any one time.
Coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada, the count provides an instantaneous snapshot of birdlife across the continent for all to see. Anyone can watch as the tallies come in at http://www.birdcount.org. Organizers hope to receive more than 100,000 checklists during the event, with tallies of more than 600 birds species in all.
Last year’s participants reported more than 1.8 million American Robins, as well as rarities such as the first Red-billed Tropicbird in the count’s history. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
“When thousands of people all tell us what they’re seeing, we can detect changes in birds’ numbers and locations from year to year,” said Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Data from the Great Backyard Bird Count can provide an early signal of changes in bird populations. Past counts showed a drop in reports of American Crows after outbreaks of West Nile virus in 2003, a finding consistent with studies showing crow populations declined by 50–75% in some states. Maps from the count have also captured the paths of migrating Sandhill Cranes and recorded the dramatic spread Eurasian Collared-Doves. Introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s, the species was reported in just 8 states during the 1999 GBBC. A decade later, it was reported in 39 states and Canadian provinces.
For more information, including bird-ID tips, instructions, and past results, visit www.birdcount.org.
January 20, 2011 at 8:00 am (Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Birds, Citizen Scientists, Focus on Feeders Weekend, Mass Audubon, Massachusetts, Ornithology
Citizen Scientists Wanted to Participate in
Mass Audubon’s Focus on Feeders Weekend
February 5th & 6th, 2011
Stringing bird seed pine cones, orange slices and toast cut into shapes onto your trees for attracting birds is a fun hands-on activity to do with the family - and a great way to opportunity to participate in the annual Focus on Feeders Weekend. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
Families in western MA are invited to take part in the Mass Audubon’s free annual Focus on Feeders Weekend. During the first weekend of February, take note of the diversity of bird species visiting your bird feeders. Kids will have fun identifying cardinals and blue jays as their bright colors enliven your backyard, and bird enthusiasts can record the different species of winter birds in the region on a simple report form to to be submitted to Mass Audubon. All participants will be entered in a random drawing to win one of several prizes.
“The data collected each year during the Focus on Feeders Weekend adds to an impressive legacy of research on bird population trends and distributions in Massachusetts,” says Mass Audubon President Laura Johnson. “Receiving reports from across the state helps to prioritize conservation efforts. Plus it’s fun!”
For over 40 years families have been participating as citizen scientists by counting and recording the diversity of our fine feathered friends visiting backyard feeders for one winter weekend. According to Mass Audubon, Focus on Feeders helps to raise conservation awareness and to further their efforts to protect wildlife and habitat in Massachusetts.
Suet cakes are great for attracting woodpeckers and nuthatches. And they are easy to make. Click on the photo to find out how you can make these with your kids. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
Last year over 1,000 citizen scientists from 259 of the 351 towns and cities in the state of Massachusetts participated by submitted their observations. Get the complete rules here.
Report forms are available online or request a form at firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, submit your completed report online or mail it to Mass Audubon/Focus on Feeders, 208 South Great Road, Lincoln, MA 01773. Encourage your friends and neighbors to also join the fun as the value of the data collected increases with the number of participants.
Amateur photographers are invited to participate too by photographing visitors to your birdfeeders. Prizes will also be awarded in several categories for those who submit wildlife photos of any species along with their bird count results. Report observations and submit photos by February 28.
For more information visit www.massaudubon.org.
March 30, 2010 at 1:00 pm (Animals, Ecology)
Tags: Hummingbird, Live Cam, Ornithology, Video Cam
Channel Island Allen Hummingbird
Many families have expressed how much they enjoyed Jamie’s recommendation for Molly the Barn Owl live cam, we thought we’d share with our avid birders and budding nature scientist another live cam. This time it’s a Channel Island Allen Hummingbird’s nest in Orange County, CA.
March 19, 2010 at 5:56 pm (Ecology, Homeschooling)
Tags: Ornithology, Owl, Video Cam
Jamie Bishop of Plainfield, MA writes:
The link below will take you to a live streaming camera inside the nest box of Molly the Barn Owl. Her eggs are due to begin hatching any moment now. It’s so exciting!
February 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm (Ecology, Homeschooling, Outdoor Activities, Suggested Activity, Take Action, Volunteer Opportunity)
Tags: Birds, Citizen Science, GBBC, Great Backyard Bird Count, Nature, Ornithology
Join the Great Backyard Bird Count
February 12-15, 2010
Heading south for some sand and surf during the February school break? Bring along a tally sheet and count the sea gulls, sand pipers and pelicans at a nearby beach or wildlife refuge. Click on the image above for a printable tally sheet. Use your postal code, town or name of National Park to generate a custom tally sheet. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
Bird watchers coast to coast are invited to take part in the 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, Friday, February 12, through Monday, February 15, 2010. Participants in the free event will join tens of thousands of volunteers counting birds in their own backyards, local parks or wildlife refuges.
Each checklist submitted by these “citizen scientists” helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,the National Audubon Society , and Bird Studies Canada learn more about how the birds are doing—and how to protect them. Last year, participants turned in more than 93,600 checklists online, creating the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.
Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from novice bird watchers to experts. Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the event and report their sightings online at www.birdcount.org. One 2009 participant said, “Thank you for the opportunity to participate in citizen science. I have had my eyes opened to a whole new interest and I love it!”
On the www.birdcount.org website, participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during the count. The site has tips to help identify birds and special materials for educators. Participants may also enter the GBBC photo contest by uploading images taken during the count. Many images will be featured in the GBBC website’s photo gallery. All participants are entered in a drawing for prizes that include bird feeders, binoculars, books, CDs, and many other great birding products.
Participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest each year. Participants are also invited to upload their bird videos to YouTube tagged “GBBC.” – Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 (outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473), or Audubon at email@example.com or (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.
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February 12, 2009 at 6:00 am (Homeschooling, Suggested Activity, Take Action, Volunteer Opportunity)
Tags: Birds, Great Backyard Bird Count, Nature, Ornithology
Count for Fun, Count for the Future
February 13-16, 2009
Chickadees along the Westfield River. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
Bird and nature fans throughout North America are invited to join tens of thousands of bird watchers for the 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 13-16, 2009.
A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation.
“Anyone who can identify even a few species can contribute to the body of knowledge that is used to inform conservation efforts to protect birds and biodiversity,” said Audubon Education Vice-President, Judy Braus.
Volunteers take part by counting birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the event and reporting their sightings online at www.birdcount.org. The data help researchers understand bird population trends across the continent, information that is critical for effective conservation. In 2008, participants submitted more than 85,000 checklists, a new record.
“The GBBC has become a vital link in the arsenal of continent wide bird-monitoring projects,” said Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick. “With more than a decade of data now in hand, the GBBC has documented striking changes in late-winter bird distributions.”
Morning Dove in West Chesterfield, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
Participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest each year. Last year’s winners have been chosen and are now posted on the web site. Participants are also invited to upload their bird videos to YouTube tagged “GBBC.” Some of them will also be featured on the GBBC web site. All participants will be entered in a drawing to win dozens of birding items, including stuffed birds, clocks, books, feeders, and more.
Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 (outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473), or Audubon at firstname.lastname@example.org or (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible, in part, by support from Wild Birds Unlimited.