DARIEN – Whether you are a die-hard birder or just enjoy a nature walk, area residents are invited to be part of the worldwide Great Backyard Bird Count from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Feb. 19 at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Darien.
Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real time. Last year, Great Backyard Bird Count participants in more than 130 countries counted 5,689 species of birds, organizers said.
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County senior ranger Adam Carlson has participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count on his own in the past. This is the first year the district is participating in the event.
"I figured it would be cool to use one of our preserves and have the public come out and learn a little about birding and also participate in it," Carlson said. "And we'd be able to potentially see more birds and get more counts."
As someone who has participated in the bird count in the past, he knows what to expect.
"It's cool because when you report these birds, it will be able to actually show you what everybody else is reporting as well in real time," Carlson said. "It connects you to a bigger picture. Having people come out to learn more about birding is part of our initiative as a forest preserve district to try to connect people with nature."
Experts will be on hand to help identify the birds. Binoculars also will be provided.
The event will take participants on about a two-hour hike around Waterfall Glen. However, they don't have to stay for the entire hike, Carlson said.
"It's a pretty well-known stop for birding," he said. "There is some bird movement about that time of year. They basically are trying to figure out where populations are at that given time. And then what you are able to do is look at trends from previous years."
Carlson considers himself a birder.
"It really helps you appreciate nature," he said. "You are looking for these things called field marks. That's a term that describes, say, a white band on the wings [of a bird], or a different colored beak. So you are looking for these little subtle differences to be able to identify them. It's kind of like solving a puzzle."
The calls birds make are another way of identifying them.
"That's going to be one of the biggest ways of identifying them if you can't get the field marks," Carlson said.
He expects participants will be able to see 20 to 25 species of birds that day. Those who want to participant in the free bird walk can register online at apm.activecommunities.com/fpddc/Activity_Search/4299 or by calling 630-933-7248.
Participants should meet at the waterfall parking lot on Bluff Road and bring water, dress for the weather and wear sturdy shoes.
If you go
What: Great Backyard Bird Count
When: 10 to 11:30 a.m. Feb. 19
Where: Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Darien (parking lot on Bluff Road)