Letter to the editor

Published 6:02 pm Wednesday, February 16, 2005

By Staff
It's that time again. During the weekend of Feb. 18-21, people across the North American continent are encouraged to count the birds in their backyards and report the results on the Internet as part of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).
The GBBC, sponsored annually by the Cornell Lab or Ornithology and the Audubon Society, is now in its eighth year. People are encouraged to participate any or all days by keeping track of the highest number of each species they see. Sightings are then reported over the Internet at http://www.birdsource.org/gbbs
There is no fee or registration. Instructions may be found http://www.birdsource.org/gbbs.howTo.html
Basically, you print a checklist for your state from the site. Then you watch birds for at least 15 minutes, (although 30 minutes is recommended). If you record only the highest number of individual birds you see at one time, you are sure never to count the same bird more than once.
Last year, bird enthusiasts submitted almost 50,000 checklists totaling more than four million birds of 512 species. One change this year is that observers are also encouraged to go to nearby public lands like national forests, parks, etc. to observe birds there as well. This nationwide science project is a great family activity.
Why is the month of February selected for the bird count? February is traditionally a quiet time before the spring migrations begin in March. Watching wintering birds is a wonderful diversion for anyone but is particularly enjoyable for those who may be housebound during the winter months.
Why is GBBC important? The count helps scientists document the distributions and numbers of birds and identifies issues and trends during their winter survival time.
For those who continually inquire, yes Brewton is still home to rare winter hummingbirds. For the third year, Pat and Charles McArthur in East Brewton have a return Buff-Bellied Hummingbird. Pat's brother, Allen Settle in East Brewton, has a Rufous Hummer and a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.
The Bryants in Brewton have had return winter hummers and Vivian Jackson and daughter Faye out in the Roberts Community have had birds banded as well. Although our Buff-Bellied in Alco hasn't returned, we did have a striking pair of Northern Orioles that drank from our hummingbird feeder in January.
By the way, "return bird," means the same bird that visited Brewton and East Brewton last winter and was banded, managed to find its way back to the same home this winter, despite the damage of Hurricane Ivan. Is that a miracle or what?
Ann Biggs-Williams