May 9 will be Global Big Day, when a worldwide census will be
taken of bird species and the numbers present in as many parts
of our planet as can be surveyed. In 2019, there were 35,209
birders participating in 174 countries who contributed 92,284
checklists in a single day!
This year’s goal is to receive more than 100,000 checklists. You
can observe birds right in your yard and not even leave your
house, and you can spend 10 minutes in the morning or as long
as you want to watch for different species at various times of the
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology conducts this event, which is free
to participate in for anyone with a computer, internet connection
and binoculars. Simply visit ebird.org/globalbigday to find
instructions to register your own free eBird account and
This is just one example of citizen science that helps biologists
monitor our world wildlife resources. Ordinary people with the time
and interest to conduct population surveys and monitor specific
species or environments greatly assist many nonprofit
organizations, all for the good of our human and natural-resource
Each year, thousands of people participate in Christmas bird
counts that help ornithologists in many countries understand
winter bird populations. Years ago, my late husband, Roy, and I
did a one-day birdathon in May as a fundraiser for The Ridges
Sanctuary, listing as many bird species as we could find in Door
County. Birdathons were still being done statewide last year to
fund bird research, but they may not continue because of the
The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology (WSO) depends on birders
from all parts of the state to record their sightings of species
throughout the year, and records have been kept of our state’s
bird population for many years. A taxonomic bird chart is available
online through the WSO that lists all species that are regularly
seen, but it also lists the rarer birds and general frequency of
When exploring citizen-science opportunities on the web, you can
find many sites that will educate you about what’s possible. The
Citizen Science Association (CSA, citizenscience.org), for
example, promotes the involvement of the public in scientific
research that can be community oriented or even globally
directed. The CSA assembles knowledge from educators,
scientists and data managers to make as much important and
useful information available as possible.
The National Geographic Society (nationalgeographic.org) shares
information about citizen-science projects for age groups as
young as preschoolers. During this time when families are at
home, some of these projects can be done together to enhance
learning through a variety of ideas.
Spring is a great time to get outside to learn about native birds
and plants in your own neighborhood. Migrating birds – many of
which are returning to nest in our area – are fun to watch. The
males come back first and sing to stake out their territory and
attract a mate.
Our lakeshore location attracts many birds that are moving north
with the warmer weather and south winds. They seem to follow
shorelines as “guide posts” in their migration routes.
I remember friends telling us of their experience sailing a boat
north from Chicago to Door County in May. It was foggy, so they
stayed closer to the shore and the fog signals as they traveled.
Once underway, they noticed a variety of small songbirds landing
on their sailboat, seemingly exhausted from flight. They also saw
some floating in the water.
Major migrations occur during the night, aided by winds blowing in
the directions the birds are traveling, so it makes sense for them
to fly at night and to rest and find food during the day.
We think of May as the best month for songbird migration.
Records show that’s when the greatest number of warblers move
in, as well as the favorite, colorful nesting birds such as Baltimore
orioles, ruby-throated hummingbirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks,
indigo buntings and scarlet tanagers.
Make sure your feeders are well stocked and your bird baths are
clean and filled with fresh water each day to be ready for the
arrival of these treasured songbirds. The gray days of winter are
changing into a blossoming spring enhanced by colorful, singing