Great Backyard Bird Count not just for the birds

By Donna Ritchie, Editor, The Friday Flyer


The white-crowned sparrow can be seen in Canyon Lake during the winter months.

Credit: Linda Freeman

Linda Freeman photographed this black-headed grosbeak when it paid a visit to her yard.

Credit: Linda Freeman

Canyon Lake Sandy Kan captured this hungry bird enjoying a meal.

Credit: Sandy Kan

This egret was photographed wading in the water near the North Causeway.

Credit: Donna Ritchie

Flocks of pelicans can usually be seen on the lake during the winter months, often times surrounded by egrets.

Credit: Bill Corbin

Turkey vultures in Canyon Lake.

Credit: Linda Freeman

These turkey vultures are constant visitors to a tree near the corner of Canyon Lake Drive South and Vacation Dr.

Credit: Donna Ritchie

Hooded Oriole

Credit: Linda Freeman

Article

Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, Ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition ? a “Christmas Bird Census” that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them. So began the Christmas Bird Count.

Each year from December 14 through January 5 tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave snow, wind, or rain, and take part in the effort of counting birds. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this long-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide conservation action.

The Lake Elsinore bird count ceased in 1942. Julie Szabo restarted the count with a trial count in 2009 and has kept it going since then.

On December 31, 2016, 19 observers fanned out over the Lake Elsinore area, Canyon Lake and part of Menifee to conduct the annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Linda and Lee Freeman, 28-year residents of Canyon Lake, covered the count in Canyon Lake for the eighth consecutive year.

Despite the rain, the teams and organizer Julie Szabo were able to count 120 species and 7404 birds within a 15-mile radius of Lake Elsinore. In Canyon Lake, 462 birds and 26 species were counted.

The next opportunity for a family bird activity will be the Audubon Society's 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend from Friday, February 17, to Monday, February 20. It's one birding activity that can be done from anywhere on the planet. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a free, fun and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. This is especially fun for Canyon Lakers as so many birds migrate through the area.

Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and birds can be counted in backyards, local parks, nearby wildlife reserves, on a walking trial, from a window, etc.

All participants have to do is spend a minimum of 15 minutes watching and tallying the number and types of birds they see on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at birdcount.org.

According to the Audubon Society, last year more than 160,000 participants submitted their bird observations online, creating the largest instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations ever recorded.

The count helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing, and how to protect them and the environment we share.

One resident who will be participating again this year is Linda Freeman. Linda and her husband Lee are avid bird watchers. "When we travel, we make sure to set aside one or two days for bird watching. We've watched birds in Tahiti, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and many of the states in the U.S.

The Freemans started bird watching many years ago at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve located at the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains near Murrieta. It's been called a hidden gem that offers a fascinating glimpse into the history and ecosystems of the area.

When Linda saw a call for help for the Christmas Bird Count in a local publication, she answered it and has been counting birds in Canyon Lake ever since.

Linda has transformed her backyard into a haven for birds by providing the essentials; food, water and shelter. She enjoys bird watching daily from her window and yard.

Linda's favorite bird that visits her yard is the Hooded Oriole. "Every spring for the past 10 years they return and make a nest in my palm tree. After they raise their family, they head off to Mexico until the next spring. They love palm and citrus trees. If you have that combination in your yard, there's a good chance you'll see a Hooded Oriole in the spring," she says.

When it comes to the bird counting, her favorite bird is the Cedar Waxwing. "It doesn't come through the area every year, so it's fun to try to find it each year," she says.

Linda is trying to enlist other residents to help count birds for both the Christmas Bird Count in December and the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count. "As far as I know, we are the only counters in Canyon Lake for the Christmas Bird Count," she says. "It would be nice to have more in our area."

Those interested in participating in the Christmas Bird Count in Canyon Lake may contact Linda at 951- 244-5512.

For more information on the annual Christmas Bird Count, visit audubon.org.

For more information about this weekend's Great Backyard Bird Count, visit the official website at birdcount.org. Be sure to check out the latest educational and promotional resources.

On the website participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during and after the count. Explore the Region tool to get and idea of what you can expect to see in this area during the next Great Backyard Bird Count.