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Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are encouraging bird and nature fans throughout the state to join tens of thousands of everyday North American bird watchers for the 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), Feb. 17-20.
A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation. Participants count birds and report their sightings online at www.birdsource.org/gbbc.
"These types of activities provide the citizen-scientist with an opportunity to help wildlife," said Doug Gross, Game Commission biologist. "Anyone who can identify even a few species can contribute to the information wildlife managers use to decide where to invest limited resources in land conservation, as well as habitat improvement or protection.
"Additionally, this is a great opportunity for beginning bird watchers to hone their skills, and for all participants to enjoy the winter landscape."
Participants are asked to count birds for at least 15 minutes on at least one day of the event and reporting their sightings online at www.birdsource.org/gbbc. Additional online resources include tips to help identify birds, a photo gallery, and special materials for educators.
Gross encouraged those submitting reports to the GBBC website to also contribute bird sightings by registering at Pennsylvania eBird website managed by the Game Commission. To submit sightings, go to the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on "Wildlife" in the menu bar at the top of the page, then choose "Birding" and then click on "Pennsylvania eBird."
"The Game Commission was the first state wildlife agency to host and manage a state eBird website, which is dedicated to helping birders throughout North America and the world record their bird observations and improve our understanding of the use of bird habitat and seasonal bird activities," Gross said.
The data collected helps the Game Commission and other wildlife researchers understand the importance of particular locations to birds and bird population trends, information that is critical for effective conservation. These efforts enable everyone to see what would otherwise be impossible: a comprehensive picture of where birds are in late winter and how their numbers and distribution compare with previous years.
Each year, in addition to entering their tallies, participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest. Many are featured in the popular online gallery.
Visit www.birdsource.org/gbbc to learn more, including highlights from the 2011 GBBC.
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