Conduct a Feeder Watch

If you live in the Concord circle and want to join the count but the discomforts of slogging about in cold and damp conditions seem formidable, become a feeder watcher. Please connect with your town coordinator who will take your contact information and tell you when he needs your results. Field party participants who live in the count circle are invited to count their feeder birds, too. Here, patient reader, is a broad summary of the count “protocol” set forth by the National Audubon CBC bird science team.

The purpose of the feeder watcher program is to determine the highest number of each species seen on your feeders and the area around your feeding station. Your complete feeder watch observation has two parts:

  1. The Checklist, which is a list of the highest number of each bird species you saw, and
  2. Effort, which is the time you spent watching and counting and the number of observers in your household who contributed.

Checklists without effort data cannot be accepted.

How to Count

Usually the same birds are coming and going so you will need to take a visual “snapshot” and tell us the highest number of each species you counted at a single glance during the entire observation period. Please do not add a count to one taken several minutes earlier—you are counting some of the same birds twice. If you saw four chickadees at eleven o’clock and six chickadees at eleven-fifteen, the count is six, not ten. In species where males and females can be easily discriminated, such as juncos and house finches, counting the sexes separately will yield more accurate results.

Timing

The observation is timed so please record the beginning of your watch and the end point and report your elapsed total as hrs. x where x equals a fraction of the final hour. This can be accomplished while you are doing chores, working around home, and so forth as long as you are checking and counting at regular and constant intervals. If you leave home, stop the clock. Time spent on errands away from home does not count.

Matters can get tricky in households with multiple observers and feeding areas:

  • Two or more watchers observing one feeding area should contribute to one checklist and share one observation period.
  • Two or more watchers in one household independently covering separate feeding areas keep separate checklists and times, but submit one document with the highest number of each species culled from the lists and a grand total of the observation periods. Do not add up your species counts, only the time values—remember the visual “snapshot” metaphor?

Reporting

Phone or email your results to your coordinators the afternoon of Count Day or as soon as possible. And please download the feeder watchers’ checklist and fill it in before you call or email. You will save your frantic coordinators time and effort talking on the phone and entering data if they receive your species list in taxonomic order with the observation times. Each household should submit only one checklist, which must include the observing time and participation information.

To join a field team proceed to this page where you will find the information you need to sign up and what you need to know about Count Week, finding owls, and reporting rare birds.

Dark-eyed Junco

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