Are you a fully fledged bird nerd? Or simply bird-curious? Are you keen to sharpen your ability to recognize the feathered friends in your backyard or favourite lake, patch of bush, or park? Well – look no further because it’s nearly Aussie Backyard Bird Count time!
Many of you know me as a mad keen birder – out and about with my binoculars and my Birdata app, I love to contribute to the scientific understanding of where birds live, and how they are faring. The Aussie Backyard Bird count and associated smartphone app are a bit different in that they are specifically designed to help beginner birdwatchers “get their eye in” and learn to recognise and record the birds they see.
The count is organised by BirdLife Australia – the nation’s top bird conservation organisation. I had the pleasure of working for BirdLife for a couple of years, and am a long time member – and this year I am proud to be promoting the bird count in print and on the radio.
To complete a Count, you simply spend 20 minutes standing or sitting in one spot and noting down the birds that you see. You will need to count the number of each species you spot within the 20 minute period. For example, you might see 4 Australian Magpies, 2 Rainbow Lorikeets and a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. You then record these sightings in two ways – either via the app of the same name, or via the website if you do not use a smartphone.
And that’s it! Some folks do a count every day for the entire week – eg with their morning coffee, others fit in a few here and there, or even just the one panic count on the last day is OK too!
You can count as an individual, group or pair. One of the loveliest things about managing the social media pages during last year’s count is how many people count with their son, or grandma, or neighbour – it really is a fun activity to do together. But in these COVID times, it is also a 100% COVID-safe activity as you can do it even without leaving your loungeroom – simply by gazing at the fairy-wrens in your bird bath and other birds for 20 min!
The Count is in its eighth year and takes contributions of more than 100,000 citizen scientists to create a snapshot of the state of Australia’s backyard birds and the population of different species.
Speaking of fairy-wrens – the results from previous Aussie Backyard Bird Counts year-on-year have revealed a loss of many of our once common small garden birds, such as the Superb Fairy-wren, Silvereye and Willie Wagtail.
I know this species is still in good numbers locally – but let’s flock together and count them now so we can keep tabs on how they are faring.
The 2021 Aussie Backyard Bird Count will be held from 18-24 October 2021. For information about the count, resources for schools and community groups, and the app – head to https://aussiebirdcount.org.au/
Tanya Loos is a local naturalist, author and environmental consultant who loves to work in the environmental not-for-profit sector. She is the author of “Daylesford Nature Diary” available from her website or from Paradise Books in Vincent Street, Daylesford.