CONCORD – Stock up those bird feeders and dig out your binoculars for New Hampshire Audubon’s Backyard Winter Bird Survey.
This annual statewide survey will take place on Saturday, Feb. 9, and Sunday, Feb. 10.
Biologists need assistance from citizens all over the Granite State to get a clear picture of what’s really happening with winter birds.
Anyone can participate in the Backyard Winter Bird Survey by counting the birds in their own back yard on the survey weekend and reporting online or sending the results on a special reporting form to NH Audubon.
To receive a copy of the reporting form and complete instructions on how to participate, send a self-addressed, stamped, long envelope to: New Hampshire Audubon, Winter Bird Survey, 84 Silk Farm Road, Concord, 03301.
Forms are also available at NH Audubon centers in Auburn, Concord and Manchester, and online. Find more information about the survey at nhaudubon.org under the Birding page.
Data from the Backyard Winter Bird Survey is used to track changes in the distribution and abundance of many species. Each year, about 1,300 observers across the state count the birds coming to their feeders.
“The strength of the survey is that we can look at trends over the long term,” survey coordinator, Rebecca Suomala said. “We now have more than 25 years of data and we can see the patterns of ups and downs in different bird species.”
Last year, there were record numbers of red-bellied woodpeckers and near record Carolina wrens, both southern species that have expanded their ranges northward and are now common on the survey. Eastern bluebirds and American robins were also tallied in record numbers.
“The survey numbers show these two species increasing since 1997. They used to be harbingers of spring, but are now increasingly found all winter, feeding on fruit,” Suomala said.
There were 74 species were recorded overall in 2012.
“This year, we are expecting high numbers of common redpolls, a northern finch that tends to invade New Hampshire every other winter,” said Dr. Pamela Hunt, senior biologist at NH Audubon.
Hunt also suggests people watch for pine grosbeaks, another periodic winter visitor that feeds on fruit and has been reported in many areas of the state this fall and early winter.
Reports of a lack of birds are just as valuable as reports of many birds.
“If everyone reported only when they have a lot of birds, we wouldn’t be able to see the declines,” Suomala said. "The most important thing is to participate each year, regardless of how many or how few birds you have. This provides a consistent long-term set of data that shows both the ups and downs."
All New Hampshire residents are encouraged to take part. Results from past years are on the NH Audubon website. For more information about the Backyard Winter Bird Survey, call NH Audubon at 224-9909 or visit nhaudubon.org and click on Birding.
There are two bird surveys in February. NH Audubon’s Backyard Winter Bird Survey that takes place in New Hampshire only, and the Great Backyard Bird Count, a nationwide web-based survey Feb. 17-20, birdcount.org.