UK Repeating Survey that Last Year Found Widespread Charming Mammals

Hedgehog Ears!

Hedgehog Ears by by codepo8

Later this week up to 100,000 Brits will be going to their yards and counting badgers, hedgehogs, foxes, toads and moles. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds got 62,000 people to count last year when they started out.

The survey “is by far the biggest survey on garden mammals ever!” the site boasts. I’ve certainly never seen anything like it in the U.S. It’s a fantastic resource for wildlife watchers because you can see which counties have the most of which animals. Sure, it’s not totally scientific. People self-select to do it. And if I had a yard full of hedgehogs, I’d be filling out surveys and telling everyone I know about it.

The 2009 results showed a delightful amount of wildlife. In Wales, 9% of people who took the survey see badgers at least once a month and a quarter of the English live with have little hedgehogs on their property. What kind of magical place is this? Did anyone report any talking bunnies?

The survey just takes an hour, so they don’t demand that–unlike similar bird surveys–the animal doesn’t have to show up just at that moment. They let people report sign of an animal ask generally how often they’re seen. Otherwise you might get a whole lot of nothing from the survey.

As you might guess from its name the RSPB is more interested in birds than mammals. They also ask about cats, which they estimated recently that

Keep reading UK Repeating Survey that Last Year Found Widespread Charming Mammals


Got 15 Minutes? Become a Citizen Scientist This Weekend

For four days starting Friday, anybody can be a birder and a citizen scientist. The Great Backyard Bird Count, now in its 13th year, is the first bird census of its size to have its tally be all online.

Unlike more hardcore events like the Christmast Bird Count, which requires all-day spotting, the GBBC is for all levels and you only have to commit to 15 minutes. You can bop around anywhere you want in the four days –February 12-25–and then submit your report online.

“It’s a neat way of getting school and scout groups,” involved, says Audubon’s Geoff LeBaron, , [all] kids a way of get them going

Worried you won’t know your birds well enough? They have some pointers on how to tell apart tricky pairs. To me, they look like those games where you try to tell one seemingly identical picture from another.

If you’re competitive, check out their photo contest, which has several categories. I thought the “People Enjoying Birds” would be a lame one, but I was wrong. Check out last year’s winner, Harry Mueller of Manitoba took an amazing shot of a woman pouring thistle into a feeder while four eager sparrows perched on her hat and mitten. Just shows how much fun you can have with even ordinary backyard birds.

Read More Bird Stories

To see more animals go to

Keep reading Got 15 Minutes? Become a Citizen Scientist This Weekend

Citizen Bird Counts Going Global — Just as Warming Shifts Migrations

Americans are between bird counts, but this weekend the Brits worked on their big event, the Big Garden Birdwatch.  The bird counts are now spreading around the world–just in time to help capture how climate change is shifting birds’ ranges and migration patterns.

Once written off as somewhat silly and “wobbly” data, citizen scientist data is are now being taken more seriously says Audubon’s Geoff LeBaron, who runs the Christmas Bird Count, which was started by Audubon a century ago as an alternative to going bird hunting on the holiday.

“We could never afford to pay people to do that,” LeBaron says. Now known by the trendy name crowd-sourcing, this data is free and vast. But wait, that’s not all. The bonus is that it helps promote and prioritize conservation and creates bird advocates.

All of the surveys work differently and target different audiences. In terms of sheer data, the biggest is probably Christmas Bird Count: in the 109th count last year 59,000 birders tallied 66 million birds. But it’s a long, cold day in the field and no place for kids.

That’s where lighter events come in, like the Big Garden Birdwatch or the American Great Backyard Bird Count,  which starts here February 12. They’re kind of a gateway drug that birders hope get students and dilettantes hooked. From the comfort of their homes, half a million Brits count for just an hour. Americans have to stay focused for just 15 minutes. (And if that’s not convenient enough,

Keep reading Citizen Bird Counts Going Global — Just as Warming Shifts Migrations