Citizen Science Discoveries!

Hi everyone! 

Our guest blogger, Alexandria, has been participating in the Cornell Lab's citizen-science Project FeederWatch with her family this winter. From my experience, participating in citizen science is a great way for kids and adults to really get to know their backyard birds and habitat.  Plus, the data that Alexandria and her mom send to Cornell Lab helps our scientists understand where birds are and what's affecting them. I urge you to participate--Project FeederWatch continues each year until April.  And don't forget, we have the Science Investigator's Kit for Homeschoolers that provides additional resources to make participating even more educational! 

See Alexandria's post, below...

Happy birding,
Education Program
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Case of the Disappearing Birds

One new bird at my feeder site; how exciting! I really enjoy when different species appear at my feeder site. However, the presence of this one species immediately changed everything. It was heartbreaking and thrilling at the same time. How so, you ask?

In the early afternoon of the second counting day for the week, Eastern Meadowlarks and Vesper Sparrows peacefully enjoyed the feast of seeds and grain I had provided. Their constant hopping about nibbling here and pecking there was fun to observe. My counts had been increasing each week. I had even added a few “new” species.

Northern Harrier, courtesy Dan Pancamo
Suddenly the mood changed: in swooped a Northern Harrier. I was excited to add him to my count. I had often observed him about one-half mile from my home perched on the utility poles. I guess he decided there was more action at my feeder site.

I enjoy watching raptors hunt for food, but not this time. He dove and swooped, each time lower and lower, over the entire area of my count location, which is not small. His body and wings tilted first one way, then the other as he swept the entire area of all birds. He really looked like a broom sweeping the air. Then, as quickly as he came, he was gone. We watched the rest of the afternoon, but no other birds returned.

The next week, on our counting days, we had very few birds. For the following two weeks’ counts, no birds appeared. The presence of the Northern Harrier had frightened away all the birds. Would it be permanent? I hoped not.

Finally, the meadowlarks and sparrows returned. Their numbers are increasing again, and we added a few different species to our counts. I am content to observe him on the utility poles down the road from my house, hopeful that he has found some field mice to satisfy his hunger and will not feel the need to visit my feeder site again.

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