Why you should join the Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend, Dundee Township residents who venture into the cold and count birds will be part of an international project.

It will not matter if they cannot tell a finch from a hawk. All they will need is a warm coat, a set of binoculars and the desire to count how many birds they will see.

Dundee Township's segment of the Great Backyard Bird Count will start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17, behind the Fox River Valley Public Library District's Dundee library, along Route 68 in East Dundee.

Look for Sleepy Hollow resident and Dundee Township board member Susan Haney. She will be holding the binoculars and walking with a group as she has in years past.

"It's a fun little social time. We get together with a group of friends and go to Library Springs," Harney said. "It's a science thing, but you don't have to be an expert about birds."

The different species and their numbers seen are sent to Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society where a database is kept. From year to year, the information is used to determine trends in where birds roost and eat during the winter, said Joanne Fessett, of the Illinois Audubon Society.

"Many times, we'll receive calls from people asking where all the birds went," she said. "This count helps us know where they are and answer that question."

It also helps scientists know more about the environment and climate.

"Birds are a good barometer for the environment," said Bob Andrini, president of the Kane County Audubon Society.

"They look for food, and if they cannot find any in feeders and on vegetation, they will look somewhere else."

The count started as a national project more than 10 years ago. Now, it is an international event. One of the count's goals is to turn people into citizen scientists who use their eyes and ears to look for feathered creatures they would normally take for granted.

"Last year, roughly 248,000 people participated around the world," he said. "That's a lot of people and a lot of data that went into the Cornell website. The more (counters) we have, the better."

Some watchers will see only a few birds - a blackbird here, a sparrow there. Others will see a good amount of the winged creatures.

"When we get calls from people asking where all the birds are, the count allows us to tell them the birds they saw last year may be at feeders a few streets away," Andrini said. "Not everyone has to be an expert on birds. If they don't know what they see, they can send us a picture (via email), and we will help identify them."

Andrini's email address is

February was selected for the count because trees are bare of their leaves, which obscure nests and resting places.

The Kane County Audubon Society has other events planned for the weekend for people who cannot attend the Library Springs gathering. For a list of gathering sites in Kane County, visit the society's website at

Interested birders can also call Andrini at (630) 584-8386 for details about other gatherings.

What birds will you spot at the Great Backyard Bird Count? Here, a female downy woodpecker rests on a tree. Daily Herald File Photo

If you go

What: 10th Annual Dundee Township Great Backyard Bird Count at Library Springs

When: One hour walk begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 17

Where: Library Springs Natural Area, behind the Dundee Library at 555 Barrington Ave., East Dundee

Cost: Free

Come prepared: Bring binoculars, a notepad and pencil, dress for the weather and wear sturdy footwear.

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