Become a ‘citizen scientist’ in Great Backyard Bird Count

To some folks, the term “citizen scientist” may conjure up an image of someone in a white lab coat peering intently through a microscope.

Citizen scientists, though, are everyday people like you and me who have a great love of nature and helping our community. Becoming a citizen scientist is simple: Just volunteer some of your time outdoors to help collect data for professional scientists in their research.

You’ll have an excellent chance to do that beginning on Thursday (Feb. 17) and continuing through Feb. 20 during the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Everyone — young and old, beginner and veteran birdwatchers — can participate.

Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at birdcount.org. More information about the event also can be found there.

You can do the counting anywhere you like — backyard, school ground, neighborhood park, church yard, apartment balcony.

Each “checklist” submitted during the count period helps researchers learn more about how birds are doing and how to protect them and the environment. Last year, more than 160,000 participants submitted their bird observations online, creating the largest snapshot of global bird populations ever recorded.

BLUEBIRDS: February is bluebird month in Georgia, so, if you haven’t already done so, you should have your bluebird boxes cleaned out and ready for occupancy. The colorful birds already are checking out nesting sites; some will be nesting by the end of this month.

For more information about bluebirds, visit the North American Bluebird Society at www.nabluebirdsociety.org.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon is in full moon phase this weekend and will “shrink“ to last quarter by next weekend. Mercury is low in the east around dawn. Venus and Mars are in the west at dusk and set about two hours later. Venus will be at its brightest on Thursday evening. Jupiter rises out of the east around midnight and will appear near the moon on Tuesday night. Saturn rises out of the east about two hours before sunrise.

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