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Making birds count

Photo courtesy Wild Birds Unlimited

Chickadees and other birds enjoy the holiday spirit. Photo courtesy Wild Birds Unlimited

On Facebook the last few days, local birders have been crowing about spotting two female harlequin ducks, described as “a rare inland record for Indiana.” They were observed on a pond in a heavily developed retail and residential area of the city.

Most of us don’t trek to lakes or ponds to view birds. Rather, we’re content to watch them from the comforts of our cozy indoors or on the occasional walk outdoors.

Christmas Bird Count

Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 marks the 115th Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Audubon Society. Following a strict methodology, groups of amateur and expert birders gather at Eagle Creek Park, Goose Pond and other defined areas to identify and count birds.

This citizen science project provides ornithologists and other scientists with detailed information about which birds are where. Consider it a snapshot of what’s going on in nature.

Great Backyard Bird Count

I haven’t been involved in this project, but the last two years, I have participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This citizen science project, Feb. 13-16, 2015, is a partnership of Audubon, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is easy because you can do it standing at your kitchen window. If you are more ambitious, the project presents a great opportunity to teach children about their environment. If you have a bird feeder, pick a time of day and identify and count the number of birds at the feeder during a 15-minute period.

This count is done all over the world. In 2014, U.S. participants filed at least 36,000 checklists and identified 591 species of birds.

Water key to attracting birds

One of the ways to attract birds to your yard is to supply a source of water. A couple of years ago, my son gave me a birdbath heater, which works great at keeping the water from freezing.

Bird seed, suet, mealy worms and peanuts feed the winter birds as do the seed heads of perennials we left standing and the fruits on hollies, viburnums and crabapples.

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