Development of land is the bane of habitat for many species. As open space is lost to housing, industry, roads and “progress,” animals, birds, reptiles, plants, insects, trees and flowers all lose their habitat, unless it’s preserved. That development leads to an increase in emissions which contributes to global warming, posing further threats.
In the past 50 years, according to many studies, the population of Neo-Tropical bird species in the U.S. has plummeted, by up to 75% is some cases. New Jersey, one of the smaller states in size (but high in population density) has more than 500 species of birds, partly because it is on a number of important bird migration flyways. The area around Cape May is known around the world for its spring and fall bird migration.
Twenty-five years ago The Cornell Lab of Ornithology started Project FeederWatch as a way to document the movement of feeder birds around the country, and to see what’s happening to them. Now, more than 15,000 participants in all states (and Canadian provinces) report what species they see weekly, and how many at any one time, from November to April.
The Ewing Environmental Commission participates in FeederWatch because one of its aims is to preserve the natural environment in the Township. Participating in FeederWatch helps do that on a local, state and national basis, by increasing knowledge about what birds are seen at feeders, and with what frequency. Now in its tenth year, more than 160 reports have been filed, and more than 45 different bird species have been seen in that time. If you enjoy looking out your window with your morning cup of coffee ( or any other time of day for that matter) and observing the creatures that visit your own little wildlife habitat, why not join members of the Ewing Environmental Commission and add your own observations to the data collection? Find out more on our Project FeederWatch page.
What Exactly Is Project FeederWatch?
“Project FeederWatch is a citizen-science project that will change the way you see birds. By observing birds in your own backyard, you can help scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology track what’s happening with feeder birds across the continent (US and Canada). More than 15,000 FeederWatchers come from all walks of life, including people of all ages and levels of bird-watching skill.
As you count birds for FeederWatch, you’ll learn more about the intriguing habits of your regular visitors—and you’ll notice surprising new birds throughout the winter. For more than 25 years, FeederWatchers have helped scientists understand birds. Your counts will help show how birds are faring by documenting how their numbers and movement change from year to year.”
Source: FeederWatch brochure by Cornell Lab of Ornithology
What do you report for FeederWatch?
FeederWatch takes place from early November to early April of the following year. A FeederWatch member receives an inventory sheet to tally species seen (or you can make your own). There are several steps to follow:
Describe your bird viewing area for FeederWatch. A number of different questions are asked: size of viewing area, tree or shrub cover, water sources, brush piles, urban or rural setting, space between houses, are there other feeders in area, how far away are feeders, how many do you have, what types of seed do you use, any suet, and the address you are watching from.
Each time you watch (two consecutive days with a break of five between them) you are asked to comment on: when you watched (AM or PM), weather conditions (overcast or clear, rain, snow, sleet or not), snow cover, high temperature and low temperature during the time you watched), and how much time you watched (under an hour, 1-4 hours, etc.).
What birds did you see, and the maximum number at any one time:Record the species seenIf the species is always there, then what was the maximum number you saw at any one time? If you watch at dusk, for example, White-Throated Sparrows have a tendency to show up just before dark, so you may start out by seeing four, but within ten minutes there are eight…and you’d record eight if that was the highest number over two days.
At the end of each session, determine your totals, and then report to FeederWatch.org.
How to report to FeederWatch.org
FeederWatch charges an annual fee of $18 for non-members of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (who pay $15 a year). When you join you’ll get a member number, so you create your own database at FeederWatch.org to record what you see (click on the data entry tab once you get to the data base). From there you enter the weather information for the time you watched, choose the amount of time spent watching, and then record the species seen, and the greatest number at any one time. It’s fun to put in 11 Juncos and see a picture of a Junco pop up next to the description, and number. By the end of your report you’ll have a list of birds seen, the maximum number at any one time, and the total number of birds seen for the report. As time goes by, and reports accumulate, you’ll see variations in the total number seen and the species too. If there’s a cold snap, and snow, you’ll report more species and total numbers than if there is no snow. The more feeders you have, and water and suet, the greater your chances of seeing more birds.
What’s really interesting about the FeederWatch website is that you can see what the other 150-185 reporting members in New Jersey are also seeing, as well as see the reporting information for every other state and the Canadian provinces. In the Ewing area, for example, a pretty regular visitor to our feeders is a Brown Creeper, but only 3-5% of others reporting in New Jersey see it regularly. On the other hand, Downy Woodpeckers and Mourning Doves are seen by 80% or more.
How to contact FeederWatch
Online at: http://www.FeederWatch.org
Toll free at: 866-989-BIRD
By mail to: PFW, PO Box 11, Ithaca, NY 14850 (U.S. Residents only).