Tag Archives: citizen science

If You Love BIRDS, Here is Something You Can Do This Valentine’s Weekend

A blue jay

A blue jay

So you probably are aware that this Saturday is Valentine’s Day–the day we set aside for love and friendship…. well how many of you love watching the birds? Do you put out bird feed each winter and watch with great pleasure as the birds gather to devour the easy meal? If you enjoy watching birds, then this assignment could be for you!

This is the weekend for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, which has been going on for more than 100 years. If you are unfamiliar with this, lucky for you I’m going to tell you how it works. If you already know, well then good for you, maybe you want to think about participating.


A male cardinal adds a spot of color

Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this event takes place this weekend, from today–Friday the 13th through Monday. No special equipment or wisdom is needed, just a window looking outside into your yard, whatever that might look like. You can live in the city or in the country, in a house or an apartment, it doesn’t matter. People from all over the world record the kinds and numbers of birds they see for periods of at least 15 minutes, and then enter their sightings on the website www.BirdCount.org. The information helps track changes in bird populations on a large scale and provides scientists with invaluable information that would be difficult to obtain without the willingness of so many volunteers.



Many people wonder if they should participate, thinking in dismay, “But I’m not an expert birder! What if I get one wrong?”

It’s okay if you are not an expert!

In fact, most people who participate are just regular citizens like you who enjoy watching the birds. If you can identify most of the common birds that visit your yard, you are on the right track. Here is a great site that can help you with identification.

My local paper, the Citizen Times, in an article about the Bird Count stated, “Bird watchers from 135 countries participated in the 2014 count, documenting nearly 4,300 species on more than 144,000 bird checklists.” That’s a lot of information!

So for the love of birds, consider participating this year! It’s free and won’t take much time. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and get comfortable, you never know what you might see as you sit watching out the window… not a bad way to spend a few minutes, especially when it’s cold and windy outside, and warm and cozy inside.

A red-bellied woodpecker

A red-bellied woodpecker

If you need more details on how to participate, Click HERE .

Have fun! And happy Friday the 13th!

Posted in Activities for Kids, Birds, Call to Action!, Just for Fun, Nature NOW | Also tagged , , 1 Comment

Why the Monarch Butterfly is in Trouble

milkweed-Some years ago I traveled to Mexico in the winter to witness the AMAZING migration of the Monarch Butterflies. (Read about this HERE) Seeing hundreds of orange and black butterflies coating the trees like wallpaper was one of the most incredible wildlife experiences of my life and one that has made me appreciate this six-legged creature even more than ever.

These days, the Monarch Butterfly is in trouble. Monarch Butterflies migrate every fall all the way to Mexico where they spend the winter with MILLIONS of other Monarchs. The winter of 2013/2014 showed record low numbers of Monarchs in Mexico. Where the average acres covered by these beautiful creatures is usually 17 acres, this past winter the number was just under 2 acres! This is 90% below the average and should be enough to sound off alarm bells in the heads of people all across North America, from Canada, throughout the United States and south into Mexico.

Read more about the reasons for these low numbers HERE. 

In summary, the numbers have declined for three reasons:

milkweed-83231.Challenges where Monarchs live and breed

A plant called Milkweed is the ONLY plant the caterpillars eat and it is not as common as it once was–in individual gardens, along roadways and on large farms.  Across the United States Milkweed is being eradicated from corn and soybean fields and new genetically altered crops are being planted. These new plants can withstand the herbicides applied, but native Milkweed cannot. The results have been devastating for the Monarch Butterfly population. Monarchs MUST have Milkweed in order to complete their lifecycle.

2. Challenges where Monarchs spend the winter

Millions of monarchs migrate each winter to Mexico where they congregate on roughly 17 acres. Deforestation, unregulated tourism and problems associated with such concentrated numbers of butterflies are some of the challenges they face.

3.Challenges during migration

Some monarchs travel more than 2000 miles to reach their wintering grounds in Mexico. Bad weather, difficulty finding nectar sources, and collisions with vehicles are just a few of the challenges they have to overcome to have a successful migration.

If you care at all about seeing butterflies and helping these beautiful creatures, CLICK HERE to learn what you can do to help.





Posted in Animals, Call to Action!, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates | Also tagged , , , , , 4 Comments

How You Can Help the Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterflies are in trouble. (Read about this HERE) But thankfully, there are some things YOU CAN DO to make a difference. Every person matters. Every action makes a difference. These are things anyone can do! Please start today!!


A field of Milkweed supports MANY BUTTERFLIES!

Here are some things you can do:

  1. Plant NATIVE Milkweed. (The Native part is super important! Because some people are planing Tropical Milkweed and this is a bad thing. Read more about this Here.) Here’s how to get Native Milkweed: Acquiring Native Milkweed   This flower is beautiful, fragrant and an absolute BUTTERFLY MAGNET, not just for Monarchs but for many butterflies and other insects.

    Milkweed used to grow everywhere! But now, not so much.

    Milkweed used to grow everywhere! But now, not so much.

  2. Plant native flowers in your yard that will supply nectar to visiting butterflies, including Monarchs Here is some info on this: Gardening for Monarchs and other butterflies
  3. Avoid pesticides in your yards and gardens, especially Roundup that is bad for your health and the environment. (Read more about that here)
  4. Become a Citizen Scientist and report your Monarch observations so others can learn from you. Here is some info on this: Citizen Science
  5. aamona-8317Educate others, including your family, friends, and neighbors. Many people think of Milkweed as a weed! Which isn’t helped of course by its name. But Milkweed is ESSENTIAL to the Monarch butterflies and this flower is both lovely and smells heavenly. Having some in your yard would be a wonderful thing! Please help others get over the idea of encouraging a plant with the word WEED in its name! Our society must get over the idea that everything that comes up naturally is a weed.

Telling others about the importance of Milkweed might be the most valuable thing you can do. Please help spread the word! If you see that your neighbor has Milkweed in his/her yard, tell them! And ask that they hold off on mowing until after the butterflies are done–late October.

Its flower is beautiful AND fragrant1

Its flower is beautiful AND fragrant!

6. Support farmers that don’t use genetically modified crops. Whether or not you believe organic food is better for your health, there is not doubt it is better for the environment. GMO’s are one of the main reasons why our Monarch butterflies can no longer find Milkweed.

7. Write to your local Department of Transportation and ask them to plant NATIVE FLOWERS in their medians and along roadways in your state. Also, ask that they allow Milkweed to grow. Tell them the importance of Milkweed. If LOTS of people are writing to them telling them the same thing, they will take notice. This is how change happens!


8. Raise Monarchs. There is a lot to this, but if you are willing, it’s a wonderful adventure. You learn so much from watching them in all of their stages. Raising them yourself eliminates most of the challenges Monarchs face including predators and parasites. Here are three resources for learning what’s needed: Monarch Watch, Monarch Lab, Learn about Monarchs.com

Thanks for caring! Every person can make a difference. Help spread the word!!

Posted in Animals, Call to Action!, Did you know..., Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates | Also tagged , , , , , , , 5 Comments