Great Blue Herons are a fixture along the Campbell River seawalk.

ISLAND WILD: Count on birds for prizes and joy

The annual Backyard Bird Count is set for this weekend

They eat, drink, bathe and play in our backyards; in springtime, they sing love songs, mate and nurture their young.

No other wild critters visit on such a faithful basis. Birds are pure joy, bringing colour and action and song to our daily lives.

Now they’re counting on you … to count them in, by joining a wild bird survey this weekend. You can help your birds by reporting them to Cornell University’s ornithologists, and it only takes 30 minutes of your time.

Between Feb. 18-21, do the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), then fill in a simple online form.

Last year, Campbell River birdwatchers reported a grand total of 71 different midwinter species, while Victoria counters tallied up a whopping 101 species. Results help scientists study bird movement across the continent.

To assure good attendance at your backyard buffet, re-stock birdfeeders. Provide small black oily sunflower seeds, as well as niger seed and suet.

Plastic feeders are best for birds; avoid wood and metal. Hummingbirds have arrived, so put out nectar.

The correct recipe is one part white sugar to four parts water; boil briefly, cool and store in refrigerator. No need to purchase commercial hummingbird food, which contains harmful red dye.

In every season of the year, birds need water even more than birdseed, so clean, sanitize and refill birdbaths. The little fluffballs just love the sound of dripping water, and a leaking bucket dripping into a pan will prove to be a magical magnet.

Birds will flock to your yard if provided with food, water and shelter. Place feeders high off the ground, out of the wind, and close to shrubs for natural cover.

Keep seed off the ground where cats can nab a pre-occupied bird.

If you love birds, join in this weekend’s educational birdwatching event. Everyone who submits a checklist is eligible for prizes: birdfeeders, handbooks – even an iPod Touch! Find GBBC instructions, and LOCAL bird lists online: www.birdcount.ca.

Bird resource: Vancouver Island Backyard Bird posters available at Coho Books and Campbell River Museum.

NATURE EVENT: 6th annual Campbell River Eaglefest on February 26, 2011. Check www.wingtips.org.