Everyone can be a citizen scientist and count birds, Bellevue enthusiasts say

December 27, 2018

Don’t ask, Kathleen Crawford-Rose says, when you inquire about the number of bird feeders she has in her backyard.

Twelve or 13, she shared when pressed.

“Too many,” she said.

She and her husband, Robert Rose, have lived in their Bellevue neighborhood since 1977. That’s when they started seriously feeding the birds.

“Our backyard is natural, and it just had a lot of birds,” she said.

Birding is a way of life for the couple.

They go on birding trips each year, to as far away as New Zealand, Africa and South America.

They also are citizen scientists, as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology calls those who help in their bird counts.

The couple participates in Cornell’s Project FeederWatch from November to April. The Roses did the National Audubon Society’s Christmas count and will do the Great Backyard Bird Count from Feb. 15 to 18.

Several local birders participated in the Christmas count, which is performed as a group. Thirty-three people participated, identifying 64 species. They found 38,000 individual birds.

Because they live so close to Fontenelle Forest, Crawford-Rose said they were part of a subgroup that counted in that area.

They found 15 species at their feeders, down from 20 the week before.

The pair counts the species they spot each week for Project FeederWatch, which they’ve done for more than 20 years.

“It gives them a good record of population shifts, northern species invasions and things like that,” Crawford-Rose said.

Common birds such as Cooper’s hawks, blue jays, cardinals, nut hatches and house finches seem to be doing just fine, according to her observances. Birds that come here to nest in what used to be prairies aren’t faring as well.

Her favorite local bird is a Carolina wren.

“They are so inquisitive and really, really cute,” she said. “They have a lot of personality. They are just a little teeny bird, but they have a great big loud voice. They like to nest in flowerpots on people’s porches. They are a fun little bird to have around.”

Of the birds she’s seen on her trips, a blue-footed booby stands out.

Although Project FeederWatch has already begun, Crawford-Rose said it’s not too late to sign up.

While she said birds in her yard like everything, the most popular items are suet, peanuts and sunflower seeds.

“The most important thing is to make sure you have some water,” she said. “And one or two good feeders with the things that they like the best.”

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