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Valley bird watchers take flight on national count

YOUNGSTOWN — Bird watchers in the tri-county area were watching their bird feeders and other locations over the weekend to record the number of birds they saw for the annual worldwide Great Backyard Bird Count.

The count started Friday and ends today. A group gathered recently at the Ford Nature Center at Mill Creek MetroParks to go over the itinerary for what they need to do to record the data.

Jeff Harvey of Youngstown, past president of the local Audubon Society, said there are 20 feeder birds that people often see in the winter because they do not migrate south.

“People help with the count by recording the greatest number of each bird species at one time at their feeders or in their backyards. They are counting the maximum number of birds of a particular type at one time,” Harvey said.

Among the local birds recorded in the winter are cardinals, chickadees, titmouse, red-breasted nuthatch and gold finches.

Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online participatory-science project to collect data on wild birds and display results in near real time.

Harvey said information will be submitted by the participants to the Cornell Lab via the national bird count website at birdcount.org.

The area’s Audubon Society includes residents from Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties. Harvey said people can stay inside their homes and watch their bird feeders or they can go outside to a particular area and count the birds they see.

“This data is recorded and can be used to see any bird population changes. Cornell looks over the data on resident bird species across the nation,” Harvey said.

Cindy Fernback, education manager at the Ford Nature Center, said the center often offers programs about birds.

She said the center has many bird feeders.

“We do on occasion have bald eagles come here, but usually they stay at Lake Glacier. We see turkeys and hawks in the forest,” Fernback said.

Jason Short, president of the local Audubon Society, started birding four years ago, and said bird watching has made a comeback since the coronavirus pandemic when people were at home and had more time to watch birds.

“It has really taken off again. More and more people are bird watching. It is a multi-million dollar industry with people buying bird seed, bird feeders and other items,” Short said.

Erika Somerville of Newton Falls said she has participated in the bird count before.

“I am a bird person. I always love looking for unusual birds. I enjoy sitting and watching the birds. If I can contribute to a citizen science project while I am watching, why not,” Somerville said.

Siena Larrick of Youngstown said she has not participated in a previous bird count.

“I have always been interested in birds. I plan to be here at the park to watch and help count with other people,” Larrick said.

Gary Davenport of Youngstown said his wife does a lot of the bird counting. He said he helps document the ravens, Carolina chickadees and other birds he has seen at the park.

Short said the Audubon Society will take part in the Mosquito Lake Bird Festival in May and also various presentations in the three counties.

TRUMBULL COUNTY

Jason Lee, park naturalist for Mosquito Lake State Park in Bazetta, led a group of 15 people to record data at the Trumbull Agricultural Center property in Cortland. He said the group included regular birders and new people.

Lee said during the pandemic in 2020, many people had to stay in their homes, so they began watching the birds and helping to record data.

“The pandemic opened up birding to many people who continue today,” he said.

For the data gathering, a minimum of 15 minutes is needed on any day for watching and recording birds.

Steve Craiger of Bristol, a member of the Friends of Mosquito Lake State Park, said he has taken part in many different bird counts, including the Christmas Bird Count in February,

Becky Dobson of Kinsman with the Young Birders Club said she likes to get younger people involved in birding events.

Larry Richardson of North Bloomfield said people taking part are contributing scientific data which help people see what is happening with bird species.

“You are contributing information for science, which helps people better understand things happening with birds,” Richardson said.

Lee is planning a birding weekend event in May.

Organizers said each February, participants from around the world come together for the love of birds. Over the four days, people spend time in their favorite places watching and counting as many birds as they can find and reporting them to the Cornell Lab.

According to Cornell Lab, in 2020, a new website was created to help make the four-day count easy.

Birds Canada joined the project in 2009 to provide an expanded capacity to support participation there. In 2013, a global project began, with researchers entering data into eBird, the world’s largest biodiversity-related participatory science project.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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