Are you looking for nature-based science investigations for you, your family or classroom this winter? Project Feeder Watch may be just what you are looking for.
First, if you don’t already know, allow me to introduce you to citizen science. Citizen science carves out a path for us normal every day folks to participate in real scientific investigation. Not just participate but actually contribute to the scientific understanding of the world around us. There is just not enough resources for scientist or researchers to gather the vital information needed to answer the questions they have. This is where YOU step in.
Citizen Science projects are created by scientists, researchers or academics. They create an easy to follow protocol, the resources and training needed and a place, usually a website, for information to be sent once gathered. Then volunteer citizen scientists do the ground work collecting or even analyzing data. Many projects provide the collective results on their websites by way of maps or graphs.
Project Feeder Watch, out of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is one such citizen science project. Essentially this project is a winter long, November through early April, survey of backyard feeder birds. People of all ages and skill levels are invited to participate. The data collected provides information about the weekly changes of bird distribution and abundance across the U.S. and Canada.
The protocol consists of selecting two consecutive count days per week and observing your feeder site, which can be right out your favorite window, as much or as little as you want during those two days. You will be recording the maximum number of each species at your site at any one time. This is the number the project leaders want from your counts days. If you see two blue jays at 8:15 am on Saturday while sipping your morning coffee and but then you see seven blue jays on Sunday at 2:00 pm then you report seven blue jays on your data sheet. If you miss a week or only monitor one week this season, Project Feeder Watch still wants that data.
The website is full of information and I assure you they cover any question you may have. There are detailed instructions from selecting your count site and choosing count days to tricky bird ID and submitting your counts.
Many citizen science projects are free to participate but Project Feeder Watch requires an annual registration fee of $18. The money goes to materials, web design, support staff and other such things. At the end of the year they compile results and publish a ‘Winter Bird Highlights’ report. Find the last seasons report here. When you register you will also receive a research kit containing some really great goodies for bird lovers.
Last season marked the 30 year anniversary of Project Feeder Watch. To celebrate Cornell Lab published three decades of Project Feeder Watch data! Find the article highlights here.
If you want to participate this season it is not too late, go to feederwatch.org. If you would like to contact me about questions or facilitating a Feeder Watch training or other citizen science training in the northeast Nebraska area, email me at Jamie.firstname.lastname@example.org. Or join me Feb 3rd from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at the Plainview Public Library for a Project Feeder Watch community event.
As they say, “Embrace Winter! Count Birds for Science!”