Missing the outdoors? Add your help to winter bird counts

LANSING— If you’ve got cabin fever, MI Birds partners across Michigan are hosting some cool community science opportunities that may help you embrace the cold:
The Great Backyard Bird Count (Feb. 15-18), coordinated by Audubon and Cornell Lab of Ornithology, invites people all over the world to record their bird observations for at least 15 minutes, in their own backyards.
• All ages and birding skills welcome.
• Join in any or all days.
• Last year, over 190,000 people participated in this global bird count, and Michigan – with nearly 4,000 checklists submitted – was among the top 10 participating states.
Project FeederWatch (various dates, November through April), organized by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada, is a winterlong survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas and other locales in North America.
• All ages and birding skills welcome.
• Monitor your bird feeder as much or as little as you’d like; create your own schedule.
• You’ll need a bird feeder, bird bath or bird-enticing plants.
• Get details on participation and what’s included in your research kit at the Project FeederWatch website, www.feederwatch.org.
Erin Rowan, MI Birds program associate for Audubon Great Lakes and the DNR, suggests using tube, hopper or suet bird feeders, rather than putting seed directly on the ground or using platform feeders – these methods tend to attract deer and other unintended guests.
“After Jan. 31, deer and elk feeding are not allowed in the Lower Peninsula,” Rowan said. “It’s part of an effort to prevent deer gathering around food sources, because that activity increases the potential spread of chronic wasting disease.” Rowan said, too, that people can get mess-free bird seed options (to keep the ground clean) at many stores and can surround feeders with fencing to limit deer access.
MI Birds is a public outreach and education program created by Audubon Great Lakes and the DNR. Birders and hunters share similar conservation values, but rarely cross paths. MI Birds aims to deepen all Michiganders’ engagement in the understanding, care and stewardship of the public lands that are important for birds and local communities.
For more on the regulations going into effect Jan. 31, contact your local DNR Customer Service Center. Questions about the bird count events? Contact Erin Rowan, 313-820-0809.