Counting birds

screenshot-birdcount-sThe Aussie Backyard Bird Count is underway as I write and still has a few days to run, so there’s still time to get involved. It’s an annual event but this is the first time I have been organised enough to take part.

The procedure is simple enough, so long as you have a smartphone:

  • Download the (free) app from the homepage or your usual Android or Apple app store.
  • Sign in.
  • Mark your location on its map. You can do it manually if the app can’t find your location. (This happened to me a couple of times and was only resolved when I went to ‘Settings’ and enabled high-accuracy location services.)
  • Hit ‘Next’ and your 20-minute counting session begins. When you see a bird, type in the species; if you see another, just hit + on the list you’re building up.
  • When the timer has counted down to zero, you will be asked to submit your count.
  • If you’re like me, you will then wonder whether you should have counted the bird you heard but didn’t see, or the one you weren’t quite sure about, and will consult the FAQs hiding behind the ? at the top of the home screen.
  • Then do as many more counts as you like, in any locations you like.

The Bird Count is a project of Birdlife Australia and Birds in Backyards. Visit its own homepage to get started or find answers to any other questions about it. It’s a great citizen-science project and the bird identification section of the app will be useful for year to come – unless you’re one of those super-keen birders who already has such a thing on your phone.

If you are one of those people, you may well be interested in the National Twitchathon at the end of this month:

Every year, hundreds of passionate birdwatchers race around the great Australian bush competing in a unique sporting event called a Twitchathon. The aim? To see or hear as many bird species as possible, and in the process help protect our birdlife for years to come.

In 2016, the BirdLife Australia National Twitchathon is back, bigger and better than ever. Whether it’s your first time spotting or you’re a fully-fledged twitcher, the Twitchathon is now a nationwide competition that caters for all birders. …

This year there are three different event options to choose from. Choose an event, form a team, and start planning a route and fundraising strategy!

As always, the 24-hour race will be a marathon of maximum habitat coverage, yielding massive species totals – winning teams regularly see over a quarter of all Australia’s birds, driving hundreds of kilometres and stopping only to twitch. This year, a system for calculating the national winning team has been created using statistical analysis of BirdLife Atlas data found in our new Birdata web portal.

For those with less time, the 12-hour ‘Champagne’ race gives teams half a day to spot as many birds as they can. This more relaxed event avoids the need for teams to drive overnight, and even includes an optional lunch break.

The ‘Birdathon’ targets everyone, young and old, experienced and novice. Each team has three 1-hour blocks to birdwatch over the course of the day, which they can choose to use at any time, and in any place. …

Good luck – and have fun! – at whatever level suits you.

2 thoughts on “Counting birds”

  1. From BirdLife, 24.10.16:
    The Aussie Backyard Bird Count is over for another year and you may now be wondering what happens next? 
    The app and website will be open until Sunday 30 October for you to submit any backdated checklists. You can edit the date and time on your checklists by simply clicking on the date and/or time. After 30 October, we will be collating, vetting and analysing the data. As you can imagine this is quite a lengthy process, but we plan to have the results ready for you by late November.
    When the final results are ready, we’ll send you an email, but you can also keep an eye on the Aussie Backyard Bird Count website and BirdLife Australia’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.
    The winners of our fantastic prizes will be announced on 11 November.
    If you have the app, you will be able to access the field guide function year round and get to know your local birds. 
    An important date for your diary—the next Aussie Backyard Bird Count will be held from 23–29 October 2017.
    We really hope you enjoyed taking part and learnt a new species or two. Thanks again for your participation and for making every Australian bird count! We’ll be in touch again soon.

  2. The results are in:
    “From the 17-23 October 2016 over 61,000 nature-loving Australians took time out of their busy schedules to enjoy the birds around them resulting in almost 1,400,000 birds counted!
    The Top 10 most counted bird species in Australia remained unchanged for the third year running, with the Rainbow Lorikeet once again claiming the number one spot. There were minor changes in the order of some of the top 10 birds – the House Sparrow moved down two places, from #5 to #7, and the Welcome Swallow also moved down one place. The Galah, Red Wattlebird and Silver Gull all moved up a spot.”
    Visit for the full results.

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