Birders both seasoned and new are getting geared up for the Great Backyard Bird Count, a four-day citizen science event that kicks off Friday.
The premise is simple. Birders watch an area, log what they see and submit the information online for use by researchers, scientists and the public. People can watch for as few as 15 minutes during just one day, and despite the name, birders aren't limited to their backyards.
York County wasn't far behind, with 96 species recorded. The top hot spot was Harwoods Mill Reservoir, followed by Queens Lake and the Colonial Parkway. In Williamsburg, 56 species were noted, with the area around Matoaka Lake proving the top spot.
The project, which is now international, was started in 1998 in a partnership between the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Participation is free and registration is online at birdcount.org. The website provides plenty of information for people with little bird-watching experience, offering instructions, a how-to video, FAQ and bird guides, lists and tips for identifying "tricky birds."
The site also offers a host of features, including a real-time submission map, the ability to compare totals among people in the area, a photo contest and more. Sightings can even be recorded by mobile through an app for either Apple or Android devices.
Recognizing the popularity of the count, the Williamsburg Bird Club is hosting a simultaneous walk, open to the public, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, at York River State Park. A $3 parking fee applies.
Want to count? Visit birdcount.org to register or learn more.