3 W.Va. state parks participate in 'Great Backyard Bird Count' - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

3 W.Va. state parks to participate in 'Great Backyard Bird Count'

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Photo courtesy of West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Photo courtesy of West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

Bird watchers of any experience level can take part in one of the nation's largest bird surveys later this month at three West Virginia state parks.

Pipestem, Cacapon, Blackwater Falls state parks officials say they will take part in the national Great Backyard Bird Count data collection event on Feb. 15-18, and everyone from novice bird watchers to notable ornithologists are invited to join in.

"For four days anyone can count and identify birds in their backyard, or in my case at Pipestem State Park, submit the information online and have our West Virginia information become part of a national database," said Pipestem Naturalist Jim Phillips.

A news release from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources said scientists will use data collected during the Great Backyard Bird Count to measure how various bird populations are doing, determine if birds' migratory patterns have changed over time, see how certain diseases are impacting birds in different regions and measure whether there are apparent differences in bird diversity between urban, suburban and rural areas.

"Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux," the DNR release said. "No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time. 

"Scientists use the GBBC information — along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird — to get the 'big picture' about what is happening to bird populations," the DNR stated. "The longer these data are collected, the more meaningful they become in helping scientists investigate far-reaching questions."

Phillips said participants in the bird count must spend at least 15 minutes observing birds on any of the four days. They can spend longer than 15 minutes, though, and they can observe in multiple places or participate for multiple days.

"I'll be counting at our Pipestem bird walks, and when I get home, I'll count in my backyard," Phillips said.

This year the GBBC is being integrated into a worldwide bird data collection program.  To enter data is as simple as creating an account at www.birdsource.org and following some basic instructions.

Pipestem, Cacapon, and Blackwater Falls state parks each have bird walks and watches scheduled during the bird count event. Each park naturalist will submit the collected data during these activities to the GBBC website or eBird.

At Pipestem Resort,  participants can meet at the nature center at 10 a.m. Feb. 15 for a car caravan to Bluestone State Park to look for wintering eagles. The following day, participants will meet at 9 a.m. in the lobby of McKeever Lodge for a bird walk through the cabin area. On Feb. 17, Phillips will host a walk along the edge of the woods beginning at 9:30 a.m. The resort's nature center will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 16 and 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 17 for bird watching in that area. For information, call Pipestem Resort at 304-466-1800.

Cacapon State Park will host the "Birrrrds of Winter" hike at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 16 starting at the nature center. Naturalist Renee Fincham will host the event and look for resident birds that are still around. The hike follows the Laurel Trail, which is approximately two miles with a few hills. Fincham also organizes Saturday activities throughout the winter months dedicated to nature. For information, call Cacapon State Park at 304-258-1022.

Blackwater Falls State Park has a number of hikes and events scheduled for the Great Backyard Bird Count. On Feb. 16, the park will host an 8:30 a.m. "Up and At 'Em" walk that is 45 minutes long. At 2:30 p.m., the park will host a two-hour "Birds and Buds" identification hike through the northern hardwood forests.

On both Feb. 16 and 17, the Harold Walters Nature Center will offer "For the Birds," a program on bird identification, how to use binoculars and learning about what different birds eat. Also on Feb. 17, the park will offer a hike around Pendleton Lake. On Feb. 18, the park will host a half mile hike by the sled run, which begins at 11 a.m.

For information, call Blackwater Falls State Park at 304-259-5216.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada and sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.