The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, is an annual four day event each February that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event.

When I participated in the GBBC, I anticipated that it would enjoyable. But I was pleasantly surprised at the extra benefits that resulted. It inspired me to assemble the Top 10 Reasons for Participating in the GBBC:

Reason #10 – It was free! Enough said.

Reason #9 – We had to go outside. After months of cold, gray weather, GBBC gave us a push to get outside. It was a chilly, but sunny day when we went out and made me realize how much I need time outdoors every day.

Reason #8 – We saw birds! I am one of those people who never tires of watching the antics of Carolina Chickadees, so the fact that the birds we saw were mostly the species commonly seen at backyard feeders was no disappointment to me.

Reason #7 – We learned things. What we learned was that bird behavior is different in February than it is in spring or summer. For example, in the morning the birds were not around the feeders as you might expect; they were sitting high up in trees taking in the sun’s rays.

Reason #6 – I found birders! Getting my colleagues at work to participate was easy. I used Yammer – an internal instant messaging tool – to ask people to join me. To my delight, several staff members jumped on board and we arranged where to meet and when.

Reason #5 – We had fun together. It is always great to find out that people you work with share your interests. I imagine there will be more birding related gatherings in our future.

Reason #4 – We connected with Columbus Audubon and are already talking about how we could partner so that the GBBC in 2010 is a public education event.

Reason #3 – It was easy! I registered online at I printed off forms to take on our birding forays, then entered data online and submitted it.

Reason #2 – I learned more about my home place. My workplace is uniquely located downtown, which provides a range of habitats from dense shrubs and conifers to the open water of the Scioto River. We watched a pair of House Finches in a stand of White pines, then turned toward the river and counted nearly 100 Ring-billed Gulls facing into the wind. Cool.

Reason #1 – But more than anything else, we knew we were doing citizen science and contributing to a massive data gathering effort that informs conservation planning. What is that saying? No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. That is GBBC in a nutshell.