Do you have an extra 15 minutes this weekend? Perhaps you have no school on Monday for President's Day and are looking for something to do? If so, think about participating in the The Great Backyard Bird Count. This is a great citizen science project run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (in my hometown!). Basically, all you need to do is observe the species and birds you see over a 15 minute (or more) period and then submit the data online. The data needs to be collected by the end of the day on Monday, February 20, 2012, but you have a bit more time (until March 5th) to actually submit the data.
The ornithologists at Cornell will use the data to create a picture of where the birds are during this weekend from all over the country. The data from this weekend, and from counts in the past, help answer questions like how the winter's weather has affected bird populations, if migrations will be similar or different from previous years as well as if any species are showing worrisome declines in population.
The Great Backyard Bird Count website has a wide variety of resources to help you in your task. There are more detailed instruction for collecting and submitting the data, including some PowerPoint presentations. Not sure of which birds you might see in February in your area? You can type in your zip code and get a regional bird list. There is also a whole section for kids, including coloring pages. And, you can watch the data as it comes in and see other counts that are coming in from your zip code. How cool!
And, inspired by the bird count this weekend, Maya and I (along with some friends) made some shaped bird feeders for our feathered friends. We followed the directions from this post on the Eighteen25 blog. Here's a pic of our finished product (I think its supposed to be an apple?):
It is very easy to do (only requiring gelatin, water and bird seed) but I wouldn't recommend doubling or tripling the recipe, unless you have a virtual army of kids you are doing this with. One recipe made two large cookie cutter bird feeders - but the mixture cools off pretty quickly and, once it does, it loses its stickiness and makes it hard to put into the mold.