Do you ever wonder where birds go when the weather is bad? I have. Some birds leave town when a bad storm is approaching; moving south or north to remain in a temperate zone. Some birds do not leave. But where do they go? I have never seen birds hunkered down under eaves or anywhere else you might think they would be. A pair of tiny brown wrens have lived in my backyard for some time. They tend to feed in my compost pile and skittle up and down the tree trunks. One year they even nested in some upturned flower pots on my patio. My backyard offers a lot for these little wrens and numerous other birds as well. With the trees and flower beds, mulch and my compost pile, as well as a water source in my front yard, I almost always have birds coming and going.
Recently I got an insight into at least where the wrens in my backyard go. The weather was getting colder fast and the wind had picked up out of the north. We were in for several days of extremely cold weather. I happened to be in my backyard where I saw one little wren scratching about in the leaves. Suddenly it flew up and then flew under the open foundation of my storage shed. Under my shed are numerous wooden supports that have ledges. At one time a feral cat had its kittens underneath my shed and the kittens would lounge and play on these ledges. Fortunately the cats have moved on. I went into my house and observed the wren fly out from under the shed, fly over to the area on the sheltered south side, scratch around in the leaves and compost pile, and then fly directly back under the shed. I felt good knowing the little wrens have a dry, sheltered place to go to in bad weather.
As we humans continue reshaping the Earth, for good or for bad, we have a commitment to birds and other wildlife on our planet. All living things in balance is good for us and good for wildlife. Birds are especially important since they keep a lot of insects, rodents, and other creepy crawlers at bay. The seeds and grains birds eat help plants get distributed in ways they could not otherwise do alone. Researching the habits and migration patterns of birds is a way to determine the health of our planet.
The Audubon Society has been instrumental in bird research for many years. One way they gain knowledge of birds is through the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The Count is done by people all over the world who are interested in the well-being of birds. This year the count takes place from February 14th through February 17th. People of all ages are encouraged to spend as little as 15 minutes a day, or several hours, observing the birds in their area and recording their results.
Everything needed to get started is available at the GBBC web site. There are worksheets available, hints on hard-to-identify birds, such as sparrows and thrushes, as well as loads of information to help birders identify the birds they see. Birders are invited to submit photos they have taken of the birds. This is my favorite part of the whole event. Each year the Audubon Society posts hundreds of photos of birds. I have taken part in the GBBC for several years and have seen the evolution of how the Audubon Society has collected and used this information. Each year it has become easier to be a part of this. It is exciting to go on-line and view the map showing a red dot for each person reporting their bird sightings. Over the four days, the dots continue to increase until most of the map is completely covered in red.
After the data is collected, it is evaluated by researchers. Later in the year their conclusions are posted on-line for all to see. It feels good to be a part of this important research every year. And, it feels good to know I am helping the birds.