As movie-goers watch the stars of The Big Year in their quest to count birds, some may be motivated to try the hobby for the first time. The annual Great Backyard Bird Count is the perfect opportunity. The event is hosted by Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada. The results provide a snapshot of the whereabouts of more than 600 bird species. Anyone can participate in this free event and no registration is needed. Watch and count birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count, February 17-20, 2012. Enter your results at www.birdcount.org, where you can watch as the tallies grow across the continent. The four-day count typically records more than 10 million observations. “When thousands of people all tell us what they’re seeing, we can detect patterns in how birds are faring from year to year,” said Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “The Great Backyard Bird Count is a perfect example of Citizen Science,” says Audubon Chief Scientist, Gary Langham. “Like Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, volunteers help us with data year after year, providing scientific support that is the envy of many institutions. It’s also a lot of fun.” “We’re finding that more people are taking part in our bird count programs every year— and the more that take part, the better it is for the birds,” says Richard Cannings, Senior Projects Officer for Bird Studies CanadaThe 2011 GBBC brought in more than 92,000 bird checklists submitted by participants from across the United States and Canada. Altogether, bird watchers identified 596 species with 11.4 million bird observations. Results from the 2011 GBBC included: Increased reports of Evening Grosbeaks, a species that has been declining; A modest seasonal movement of winter finches farther south in their search for food; The Eurasian Collared-Dove was reported from Alaska for the first time, more evidence of an introduced species rapidly expanding its range. Although it’s called the Great “Backyard” Bird Count, the count extends well beyond backyards. Lots of participants choose to head for national parks, nature centers, urban parks, nature trails, or nearby sanctuaries. For more information, including bird-ID tips, instructions, and past results, visit www.birdcount.org. The count also includes a photo contest and a prize drawing for participants who enter their bird checklists online.