Back to Nature (Published on - Jan. 24, 2008)
Everyone counts
Photo by Rick Tremmel
A red-shouldered hawk.
As a rain soaked squirrel crept along the cumbersome live-oak limb, the lightning struck all around him.

Sudden flashes of pink and yellow brightened the silver sky momentarily and then daggered from heaven into the depths of the dry, sandy earth.

The long awaited storm rumbled and banged and I remembered my mother telling me when I was a young girl that this was a sign that God was rearranging the furniture.

“Spring cleaning,” she said. I smiled to myself thinking out loud, hey, I do that a lot. I just hadn’t realized it might be a blessed activity or event.

For the past couple of weeks the wildlife, that cohabitates with us in our garden, has begun to rearrange their nests, burrows and hide-a-ways. There’s red tinsel again adorning the newly stuffed Carolina wren’s nest at the corner of the front porch. An overflowing squirrel’s nest is packed so full it’s presently drooping haphazardly between two towering leafless oak limbs. The storm may have some rearranging notions of its own about that mess.

The armadillos ... well let’s just say they’ve announced war upon our back yard as if tunneling out of jail from somewhere. Mice! Mice! Mice! I can hear them. I can see where they’ve been, but I don’t plan on inviting them back again.

So it is with great joy to observe a gorgeous, plump, healthy red-shouldered hawk keeping herself busy preparing lunch these days. She and her mate have perused our property for the past three years eventually making it their home. Although we haven’t, as yet, located the hawks’ nest camouflaged in the thickly woven treed canopy and woods adjoining our home, dinner is prepared in full view on a fairly regular basis, to the thrill of mesmerized human audiences.

Wildlife abounds in Florida. Even a novice observer can’t avoid becoming familiar with a few of the most common avian species that frequent our backyards, parks and balconies. A great opportunity to learn more about these fascinating birdie creatures that live side by side with us humans is to participate in The 2008 Great Backyard Bird Count, led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.

Taking part in the GBBC couldn’t be easier! You don’t even have to know a lot about birds and you can find helpful identification tips on the Web site at Participants watch birds for as little as 15 minutes on one or more days of the four day event, counting in their yards, city parks, nature centers, or wherever they like. They enter the highest number of each species seen at one time on the GBBC Web site. That’s it!

Participants can explore maps and charts showing what others are reporting in their area or across the continent. Visitors to the Web site also can see winning photos from the 2007 photo contest and get inspired to send in their own digital images during the 2008 GBBC. Every photo submitted is considered for the contest. In 2007, participants reported a record-breaking 11 million birds of 616 species. They submitted more than 80,000 checklists, an all-time record for the 10 years of the count.

Perhaps you have an amorous couple of wrens making woo in your clothespin bag or you take notice of a mockingbird claiming his territory within the hedgerow? Perhaps you simply enjoy a 15-minute walk in the park? You don’t have to be a bonified “birder” to participate in the 2008 GBBC, Feb. 15–18. This year “everyone” counts!

For more information on the annual 2008 The Great Backyard Bird Count go to:

Karen can be reached at

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