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The 2010 Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up next weekend, February 12-15. This is a wonderful opportunity for children to participate in a science project where the data they collect really "counts." 🙂image_preview

Even if you don't know a house sparrow from a chickadee, the site has some good information about birds, checklists of birds found in your area, and instructions about data collecting. There is also a list of related backyard activities you can do. Best of all, it's free!

Our family will be participating, because my son is an avid birder. He is also a bird photographer, so he may take part in the photo contest. Note:  photos must be taken during the count weekend.



Aren't burrowing owls cute? (Now, why can't I take photos like that? :-))

If you and your family take part in the bird count, we'd love to hear about your experiences.

For more information, try these books:

Over the last two weeks we've had a birding bonanza, with a flurry of novel bird sightings in our yard. First we spotted a black-throated gray warbler.

That didn't stay long, but a few days later we had a sweet little orange-crowned warbler who decided our back patio was a good place to find food. Its yellow belly and olive-green back really stood out. It would hop about between the flower pots catching insects.

Yesterday a female black-headed grosbeak came to visit our feeder. She has a striking black and white-striped head and a large beak, strangely out of proportion for the rest of the bird.

A few days ago my son noticed a pale bird visiting the feeder. With a string of new birds showing up, we excitedly pulled out the bird books. Nothing really seemed to fit, and the bird did look familiar. Very familiar. In fact it looked like all the house finch females that have come to our feeder for years.

pale house finch female

You decide. The pale bird is on the right, a regular female house finch on the left.

We think she is an example of leucism, a bird or mammal with abnormally pale coloration.

Project Feeder watch has an article on Plumage Variations: Albinism or Leucism?

Stokes birding blog also has an article on leucistic birds.

Weekend science fun will be short this week because a few things are getting in the way. (Sick cat, sick computer, etc.)

To continue beach science, let's take a look at some other common visitors to the seashore. Grab an identification guide and some binoculars, and a camera if you want, and let's investigate.

sea gull

You may have seen sea gulls dozens of times, but have you really looked at one? Check out those pink webbed feet.

Investigation 1. How do the beaks and feet of shore birds differ from those of the song birds in your community? How are they similar? Ever seen a pelican at the beach?

shore birds

Shore birds always seem busy.

Investigation 2. What do shore birds eat?

Investigation 3. Do shore birds drink? Where do they get their water?

shore birds

Shore birds are often in big groups, like these cormorants.

Investigation 4. Why are shore birds often seen in flocks?

Investigation 5. Where do different types of shore birds nest?

(Hint for 4 and 5: think about bird movement or migration).

shore birds

Now lie down on the beach, close your eyes and listen.

Investigation 6. What sounds do shore birds make?

Hope you have fun discovering shore birds.

Drop us a note in the comments and let us know what you find out.

Edit: To check the rest of the posts on beach science, follow these links:

Sea Horses and Other Fish

Tide Pool Invertebrates

Beach Science- Boats

Beach Science Algae

Beach Science-Sand

Beach Science-Seawater