Valentine’s Day weekend is for the birds.
For the 17th consecutive year, animal enthusiasts, nature lovers and amateur scientists will turn their gaze skyward to do their part in the Great Backyard Bird Count.
From Feb. 14 to 17, the Great Backyard Bird Count encourages all participants to become a citizen scientist by counting birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, according to the Audubon Society.
Counters will then submit their sightings to http://www.birdcount.org. This information helps scientists to track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible.
“Global count events like the Great Backyard Bird Count provide invaluable data to our scientists that help further conservation efforts and a better understanding of birds’ distribution patterns,” said Curtis Smalling, director of land bird conservation for Audubon North Carolina. “During this year’s Christmas bird count, for example, participants recorded a rare phenomenon — more than a dozen snowy owls have migrated to North Carolina for the winter.
“Results from the upcoming count will be able to more clearly show us where species are in the state and how that may have changed from year to year. This information can give us glimpses of how things like climate change and other changes in our world affect our birds.”
Considering the state’s position along the Atlantic Flyway migration path, North Carolina continues to be a top-performing state for the Great Backyard Bird Count.
And the count continues to grow annually.
Last year, participants reported birds from all seven continents, including 111 countries and independent territories. More than 34.5 million birds and 4,351 species were recorded.
“The bird count is easy to do,” said Edi Crosby, owner of WingN'It Wild Bird and Gift Store in Banner Elk, which specializes in bird-watching merchandise. “Pick your favorite place to watch birds. Mine is at home looking out my sliding-glass doors at my porch, with all my birdfeeders full.”
Winter weather is a prime bird watching season, Crosby noted.
“This cold weather really draws the birds to your feeders and birdbaths,” Crosby said. “They stay warm by eating, so they eat more often.”
In support of the bird count, Crosby’s store is sponsoring a promotional contest.
Starting Thursday, customers are invited to come in for a chance to win one of the 150 Squirrel Buster squirrel-proof wild bird feeders.
“Come into WingN’It Thursday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and pick up a coupon with store code on it, sign on to Facebook and register to win,” Crosby said.
To get a coupon, simply walk into the store and ask. No purchase is necessary.
The contest runs now through March 29.
WingN’It is located at 441 Shawneehaw Ave. in downtown Banner Elk.
For more information on the Great Backyard Bird Count, including bird-counting resources, maps and migration data, visit http://gbbc.birdcount.org.