Thursday, February 17, 2011

Get Ready for the Great Backyard Bird Count!

This week-end, Friday through Monday, marks the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. You can contribute by watching birds in your backyard for as little as 15 minutes during one day of the count.

Last year, birdwatchers in Canada and the United States submitted more than 97,200 checklists and saw more than 602 different species of birds. The collected data is used by scientists to track migration patterns and spot trends in bird populations. In 2010, the American Robin was the bird most commonly sighted; the Red-billed Tropicbird made it onto the list for the first time.

Here's everything you need to know about how to participate. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an online bird guide with descriptions of 585 birds - including pictures and bird calls. If you are new to birding, you might want to start with the 51 most common bird species sighted in North America. You can also search for a birding walk or workshop in your area.

Happy birdwatching!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


One of my dearest friends and I don't exactly see eye to eye. In fact, we have opposing opinions on a number of topics. We have a running joke that if it was up to her the world would be encased in concrete whereas if it was up to me, we'd all be living in mud huts wishing for fire. Suffice to say, our views on environmental topics differ greatly.

I am an unabashed tree-hugger. I get worked up at the thought of trees being cut down, at the wanton and often unchallenged assumption that natural habitat is only here to serve mankind, that land only has value if man can use it for something. The idea of imprisoning an ecosystem behind a chain-link fence can move me to tears.

However, I have to accept that my view isn't quite standard, that most folks don't feel so quite passionately about the topic of habitat destruction (or, as others might say, land use changes). Despite my fervent feelings, life is about compromise.

The Serenity Prayer, so often evoked as a 12-step maxim, applies here: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

My passion to educate others about green topics ends when they understand my viewpoint. I have to accept that what they do with that information is up to them.

Which is as it should be. Otherwise, I would be very cold in my mud hut.

Photo credit: Rachel Davies, via flickr // CC BY 2.0