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Backyard Bird Count calls all levels of birders to citizen science
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A red-tailed hawk at Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville, on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. On Saturday, March 17, Elachee Nature Science Center will hold their fourth-annual Raptor Fest, featuring various birds of prey. - photo by David Barnes

Grab your binoculars and field guide because the Elachee Birding Hike: Great Backyard Bird Count will fly into Hall County this Saturday, Feb. 16.

In conjunction with Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society’s 22nd annual Great Backyard Bird Count, Elachee Nature Science Center invites all levels of birders to record their bird sightings from 8-11 a.m. at Chicopee Lake. The event is free to the public.

People can find the lake at Elachee Chicopee Woods Aquatic Studies Center on 2100 Calvary Church Road in Gainesville.

Peter Gordon, longtime birder and director of education at Elachee, said the Great Backyard Bird Count takes place around the same date every year, and draws in participants from across the country. The nationwide event occurs Friday, Feb. 16 through Monday, Feb. 18, but Elachee will only hold its outing Saturday.

People can contribute by recording the species and number of that type of bird they see or by taking part in the birding hike at Chicopee Lake.

“It’s probably the best citizen science project for the average person to do,” Gordon said. “The great thing about it is sure it helps if you can identify all the birds, but if you can’t, you can just identify five or six species by counting them.”

Gordon said the recorded bird identification still goes into a data pool to become looked at by ornithologists, which is then used to predict or observe problems that might affect bird populations.

For those who attend Saturday’s hike, all of the bird checklists will be submitted through Elachee. Gordon will provide extra binoculars and field guides for people who don’t bring supplies.

Because the hike involves standing on a dock to observe birds for a long period of time, Gordon recommends not bringing children under 10 years old.

During the event, participants will not only look at birds, but talk about them.

Almost every year Gordon said the group spots an American blank duck. Since the species is somewhat rare, he said representatives from Cornell Lab of Ornithology call Elachee to confirm the identification each year.

Gordon said people who attend the birding hike can also expect to see several sandhill cranes, which migrate through Gainesville.

People can sign up for the Elachee Birdining Hike by calling 770-535-1976 or emailing Gordon at peter@elachee.org. In the case of rain, Elachee will notify people on its Facebook page, if the event is canceled.

For those unable to attend, but eager to participate in the nationwide Great Backyard Bird Count, visit gbbc.birdcount.org to submit bird observations.

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