Last weekend (16–19 February) was the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count (birdcount.org), a worldwide event sponsored by Cornell University and other organizations. The overall results are starting to be assembled, and they are impressive. At the half-way point in the data tabulation more than 80,000 individual bird checklists had been submitted, reporting observations of more than 5000 bird species around the world. “Ranked by number of species, India is outstripping everyone else with 730 species. Brazil follows with 707 species, then Colombia with 676, Mexico has 659, and the United States is next with 617 species” (gbbc.birdcount.org).
One notable observation is that this has been a good Snowy Owl year for observers in the northern United States and even further south. Snowy Owls are an irruptive species, and their winter distribution is affected by the annual population of voles — their main prey — in far northern regions. In years when the vole population is low, Snowy Owls move further south in the winter, and this appears to be just such a year.
One stray owl even appeared on top of a government building in Washington, D.C., well to the south of its usual winter range.
One of our long-term goals for the River Houses network is to have a collection of educational group projects that members can work on together, wherever they may be across the country. As time goes on, we hope that the Great Backyard Bird Count will become one of those projects.
What nature notes have you taken in your homeschool lately?