Feb 10th, 2022

Community Science

The Great Backyard Bird Count happening at the Garden on Saturday, February 19, 2022, is an opportunity for us to put on our metaphorical lab coats and participate in community science!

yellow bird on branch eats seed part of the wildscapes in winter, by observing bird populations through community science we can learn about the ecosystems

Seeds from summer’s spent flowers are winter’s fare for the goldfinch. Photo by Tom Hennessy

Birds are important factors when collecting data on the well-being of an area’s ecosystem. That’s why Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society originally created the national event Great Backyard Bird Count back in 1998. This 4-day event, Feb. 18-21, 2022, celebrates 25 years this year and is a fun way to use community science to collect data on ecosystems in your area and become more aware of trends in bird populations from year to year.

Here at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, on February 19, 2022, visitors can count birds with us from 9 a.m. to noon, and/or preregister for one of the guided bird count walking tours(acceptable for youth ages 6-12). Once you’re done with the bird count and tours, come inside to the Kelly Education Center where the Richmond Audubon Society, Virginia Bluebird Society, and Virginia Master Naturalists will have additional activities and information available. Also, stop by the Lora M. Robins Library to check out some Garden resources related to birding!

Community Science

Community science is a process where the public takes part in collecting information for scientific purposes. It is the most accessible way for communities to collect data and observe bird populations on a nationwide scale, says Beth Anne Booth, Lewis Ginter’s Exhibitions Manager. Community science also spreads awareness about ecological issues. When members of the community are the ones collecting the information on bird populations, they become much more aware of how it affects the ecosystems around them.

Bird Count

This bird-count tradition has helped scientists by giving them a method of gathering information on bird populations and distribution on a large scale. This is the third year Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is taking part, and we couldn’t be more excited. Birds are a vital part of our ecosystem. Pollination is just one of the important things plants rely on birds for. Native plants in the Garden help supply food for birds too. Birds also provide some peaceful songs as the Garden’s natural music!

What I love about this event is that it is for all ages and experience levels. You don’t have to be a pro to join us count birds! That being said, we will have some experts in attendance to help identify birds and assist with self-guided experiences. These experts will also be guiding the bird count walking tours. It is sure to be an educational and fun day.

Right now is the perfect time of year to count birds, says Booth. The bare trees make it easy to look up and see different bird species perched on the branches. If you can, bring a camera! There are bound to be some good photo opportunities.

Once all the data is collected from our day of counting birds, we will be submitting this information to “eBird,” which is an online database for bird observations. It provides current data on bird population and distribution to scientists, researchers, and naturalists. This database will allow Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to observe the bird population and distribution trends over time, and we will be able to see how this ultimately affects the Garden.

We hope to see you counting birds with us!

About Lydia Pearl

Lydia is a public relations intern at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in Mass Communications. She is excited to be practicing her writing skills while learning more about plants and getting involved in the Richmond community.

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