Bird watching is one of America's favorite spectator activities. Longtime enthusiasts as well as the novice can get involved during the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count set for Feb. 15-18.
The GBBC is an old-fashioned science project that anyone in the world can participate simply by visiting www.birdcount.org and reporting the species of birds and numbers during the 4-day counting period. Residents of Phillips and Lee counties can participate on their own or by joining interpreters at Mississippi River State Park or Delta Heritage Trail State Park for an observation session or walk.
To participate, just watch birds at a location of your choice for at least 15 minutes on one or more of the observation and count days. Calculate the number of birds of each species that you can identify. Then, pick your location on a map, answer some questions, fill in your count and submit your data of your sightings and share them with others around the world.
“This is a great way for people in the community to get outside and discover what nature has to offer right here in their own backyard,” said Tara Gillanders, park interpreter, Mississippi River State Park, “while contributing to a huge science project at the same time.”
Those desiring to participate in a Mississippi River State Park or Delta Heritage Trail State Park, the schedule of bird walks and observation sessions are as follows:
• Friday, Feb. 15 at 4 p.m. meet at the Beaver Point Picnic area in the Mississippi River State ark for an “In Search of Our Feathered Friends Walk”, which will last about 1 hour
• Saturday, Feb. 16 at 9:30 a.m. meet at the Beech Point Use parking lot on Bear Creek Lake for a morning bird walk that will last about an hour; or at 3 p.m. meet at the Storm Creek Lake parking area for “Birding Around Storm Creek Lake.” The session also will last about an hour
• Sunday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. meet at the Delta Heritage Trail State Park's main trail head at Walnut Corner for “Birding the Old Rails”, which will last around 1 hour.
A few loaner binoculars can be used by participants who do not have their own.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada are jointly conducting the GBBC project. The count generally generates sightings from tens of thousands of people. As many as 600 bird species are reported each year in the U.S. and Canada alone.
For additional information, contact the Mississippi River State Park at (870) 295-4040 or http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/mississippi river/events/. Mississippi River State Park is located just four miles southeast of Marianna on Arkansas Highway 44.
You may also contact Delta Heritage Trail State Park at (870) 572-2352 or http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/deltaheritagetrail/events/. Delta Heritage Trail State Park is located at Walnut Corner about 6 miles west of Helena on U.S. Highway 49.