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The Weekender Report
The latest in fish and wildlife recreational opportunities across Washington State

February 3, 2010

Contact: (Fish) 360-902-2700
(Wildlife) 360-902-2515

Countdown to spring includes
Great Backyard Bird Count

Temperatures are warming, songbirds have reappeared, and the first spring chinook salmon of the year was recently caught by an angler on the lower Columbia River.

All signs of an early spring?  Not necessarily, said Bill Tweit, an avid birder and a fisheries manager at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  

"People are still fishing through the ice on some lakes in Eastern Washington, although it’s getting pretty dicey in some areas," Tweit said.  "Also, while spring chinook are starting to move into the lower Columbia River, the bulk of that run isn’t expected to arrive until mid-March."

But what about all the song birds showing up in people’s backyards?

"Mostly what people are seeing are local birds - robins, sparrows, jays and chickadees - that only fly as far south as necessary to avoid harsh weather," Tweit said.  "The real migrants - warblers, swallows and thrushes - won’t start returning from Mexico and points south for another month or so."

Keeping tabs on all of those birds is the main goal of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual survey of birds sighted throughout the North American continent over a four-day period. This year’s bird count is scheduled Feb.12-15, when birders are invited to record the number of birds they see - by species - in a 15-minute period on the GBBC website ( http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc ).

Participants can conduct their count in their own backyards, in a neighborhood park or anywhere they choose.  "Even if you can only identify a few species, you can provide important information that enables scientists to learn more about how the environment is changing and how that affects our conservation priorities," said Judy Braus of the National Audubon Society, which sponsors the GBBC along with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Other outdoor activities available in the weeks ahead range from elk viewing at WDFW’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area to a razor-clam dig, tentatively set to begin Feb. 26.

For more information about these and other fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities, see the regional reports below:

North Puget Sound  

Fishing: Most marine areas in Puget Sound are open for salmon, but blackmouth fishing has yet to heat up this year. "I’ve heard reports of anglers reeling in a salmon here and a salmon there, but overall fishing for blackmouth has been slow," said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist.

Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) are open for blackmouth - resident chinook. Anglers fishing those marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is closed to salmon fishing.

In the rivers, steelhead fishing continues to be slow as well. Some hatchery steelhead have been reeled in recently at Reiter Ponds on the Skykomish River and at Tokul Creek. There also have been reports of some wild steelhead in the Pilchuck and Wallace rivers, said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.

Leland reminds anglers that the Green River is closed to fishing from the 1st Ave. South Bridge upstream to the Tacoma Headworks Dam, and the Skagit and Sauk rivers close Feb. 16. With low steelhead returns expected back to those rivers, the emergency closures are necessary to protect wild steelhead, Leland said.

Meanwhile, a portion of the North Fork Nooksack River re-opened Feb. 2. 

Details on all of these emergency rules can be found on WDFW’s fishing regulation website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Freshwater anglers looking for a change of pace might want to try fishing for cutthroat trout in Lake Washington. The daily limit is five trout, but rainbow trout measuring more than 20 inches and steelhead must be released.

Hunting: The waterfowl season is over, and hunters are reminded to report their harvest of brant, snow geese and sea ducks to WDFW by Feb. 15. Hunters can report online or submit their reports by mail: 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA, 98501. Hunters who fail to report by Feb. 15 will be ineligible to hunt those birds in the 2010-2011 season.

Wildlife viewing: Have 15 minutes to spare for bird science? That’s virtually all it takes to contribute to the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual survey of birds sighted throughout the North American continent over a four-day period. This year’s bird count is scheduled Feb.12-15, when birders of all levels of experience are invited to count the number of birds they see in a 15-minute period and enter their tally, by species, on the GBBC website ( http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc ). Participants can conduct their count in their own backyards, in a neighborhood park or anywhere they choose.

"Taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to get outside with family and friends, have fun, and help birds - all at the same time," said Judy Braus of the National Audubon Society, which sponsors the GBBC along with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  "Even if you can only identify a few species, you can provide important information that enables scientists to learn more about how the environment is changing and how that affects our conservation priorities."

Birders looking to venture away from their backyards can head out to the Skagit River and watch bald eagles . There’s still time to catch a glimpse of the white-headed raptors along the Skagit, where eagles spend part of each winter feeding on the carcasses of spawned salmon. After a few weeks of dining, the eagles head north to their summer homes in Alaska and British Columbia. The best place to begin eagle-viewing activities is at the Skagit River Interpretative Center . The center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday through Sunday through Feb. 15.  For more information on the interpretive center, visit http://www.skagiteagle.org/IC/IC-index.htm .

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing:   Several new areas of Puget Sound are opening to blackmouth fishing, more wild steelhead are moving into coastal rivers and another razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled for later this month.

"Blackmouth fishing has been pretty slow around the Sound, but these new areas could be a different story," said Steve Thiesfeld, a WDFW fish biologist.  He was talking about marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal), both of which opened to fishing for resident chinook salmon Feb. 1.

Starting Feb. 13, anglers will also be able to fish for blackmouth in marine areas 5 and 6 on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Rather fish for steelhead ?  This is the time of year when wild steelhead begin moving into coastal rivers in large numbers and - as of Feb. 1 - most of those rivers were in good shape for fishing, said Randy Cooper, another WDFW fish biologist. 

"Fishing has been pretty good on the lower Hoh River, although the Sol Duc has been drawing the largest number of anglers," Cooper said.  "Hatchery steelhead are clearly winding down, but the fishery for wild fish should keep improving through the month."

Anglers may retain one wild steelhead per license year on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers.  On all other rivers, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar. Specific rules for each river are described in the 2009-10 Fishing in Washington pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

WDFW has tentatively scheduled an evening razor clam dig at several ocean beaches in late February, pending the results of marine toxin tests.  Shellfish managers are optimistic that elevated levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) - which disqualified Long Beach from a dig in late January - will have dissipated by then.

"The toxin appears to have moved up the coast from Oregon, where it has cleared up enough to open beaches for razor clam digging," said Dan Ayes, WDFW coastal shellfish coordinator.  "That’s a good sign, but it’s still important that diggers here wait for a final announcement on the opening before they hit the beach."

Approved digging days in February for specific beaches are shown below, along with evening low tides:

  • Friday, Feb. 26, (4:49 p.m., -0.7) Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Saturday, Feb. 27, (5:34 p.m., -0.9) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Sunday, Feb. 28, (6:16 p.m., -0.8) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch

Harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition. Each digger's limit must be kept in a separate container. All diggers must have an applicable 2009-10 fishing license to dig razor clams on any beach. A license is required for anyone age 15 or older. 

Anglers can buy a combination license or an annual shellfish/seaweed license. Also available are razor-clam only licenses in annual or three-day only versions. Descriptions of the various licensing options are available on the WDFW website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . A list of state license vendors is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/ .  

Hunting: The waterfowl season is over, and hunters are reminded to report their harvest of brant, snow geese and sea ducks to WDFW by Feb. 15. Hunters can report online or submit their reports by mail: 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA, 98501. Hunters who fail to report by Feb. 15 will be ineligible to hunt those birds in the 2010-2011 season.

Wildlife viewing: Have 15 minutes to spare for bird science? That’s virtually all it takes to contribute to the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual survey of birds sighted throughout the North American continent over a four-day period. This year’s bird count is scheduled Feb.12-15, when birders of all levels of experience are invited to count the number of birds they see in a 15-minute period and enter their tally, by species, on the GBBC website ( http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc ). Participants can conduct their count in their own backyards, in a neighborhood park or anywhere they choose.

"Taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to get outside with family and friends, have fun, and help birds - all at the same time," said Judy Braus of the National Audubon Society, which sponsors the GBBC along with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  "Even if you can only identify a few species you can provide important information that enables scientists to learn more about how the environment is changing and how that affects our conservation priorities."

Birders looking to venture away from their backyards can head out to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge , where numerous birds are often on display. A recent visitor to the refuge spotted several different species, including six greater white-fronted geese , an American bittern , a red-tailed hawk , a Cooper’s hawk and a bald eagle .

Southwest Washington

Update:
- Cowlitz River anglers can retain steelhead with a clipped right ventral fin effective Feb. 13.
- Sturgeon retention in the Bonneville Pool will end Feb. 21.

Fishing:   The first spring chinook salmon of the year was caught Feb. 1 in the Columbia River off Davis Bar, west of Vancouver.  The fish reportedly took a cutplug herring on a "downhill" troll with the current.

So began the 2010 spring chinook fishery, which could promise to be one of the best on record.  With over 550,000 springers predicted to return to the Columbia River this year, anglers are already prospecting for early arrivals.

Columbia River anglers may retain hatchery-reared spring chinook under last year’s rules until fishery managers from Washington and Oregon meet to establish new fishing seasons for the remainder of 2010.  That meeting, which is open to the public, is set to begin at 10 a.m. Feb. 18 in Oregon City, 211 Tumwater Dr.

But since the bulk of the spring chinook run isn’t expected to arrive until mid-March, anglers may want to consider some other options between now and then:

  • Winter steelhead:   Anglers fishing The Dalles Pool have been averaging one to 1.5 steelhead per rod, although 70 percent of the fish were wild and had to be released.  Meanwhile, late-run winter steelhead are beginning to move toward the hatcheries on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers where they were raised. The fishery for late-run fish tends to peak in late February and early March, although some late-run steelhead are already beginning to show up in the catch. 
  • White sturgeon:    Catch rates of legal-size sturgeon have picked up above Bonneville Dam in recent days, likely triggered by warming water temperatures.  Sturgeon fishing in the lower river remains slow, but that could change if smelt return to the Cowlitz River in greater numbers than expected.  Sturgeon regulations for all areas of the lower Columbia River listed in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet will remain in effect through February.  New seasons will be set by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon at a public meeting scheduled Feb. 18 in Oregon City, Ore.
  • Smelt: Projecting another poor return, WDFW is limiting the Cowlitz River sport fishery for smelt to four days this winter. The Cowlitz will be open for smelt dipping Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a 10-pound daily limit. Sport fishing for smelt on the mainstem Columbia River opened seven days per week, 24-hours day, starting Jan. 1, although anglers catch very few fish there. Commercial boats on the Columbia landed about 2,700 pounds of smelt in January, but the catch dropped off  during the last few days  of fishing.
  • Trout:   While nothing is certain, anglers have a pretty good chance of catching trout - some averaging eight pounds - in lakes planted by WDFW during the winter months. At Klineline Pond, 106 bank anglers caught and kept 123 catchable-size rainbows and 10 broodstock rainbows and released another 106 catchables and three brooders during the last week of January.  During that week, Klineline was stocked with 4,500 catchables, Lake Sacajawea in Longview got 3,000 catchables and Battleground Lake got 1,500 catchable, plus 150 surplus hatchery steelhead averaging eight pounds each.  In addition, a couple of lakes in the gorge (Rowland Lake near Lyle and Spearfish Lake near Dallesport) got a total of nearly 100 broodstock rainbows averaging four pounds each.   
  • Razor clams:   WDFW has tentatively scheduled an evening razor clam dig at Long Beach and several ocean beaches in late February.  If toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat, Long Beach will open for digging Feb. 27-28 after noon both days.  (See the South Sound/Olympic Peninsula report for digs scheduled at other beaches.)  Shellfish managers are optimistic that the elevated levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) - which disqualified Long Beach from a dig in late January - will have dissipated by then. "But it’s important that diggers wait for a final announcement on the opening before they hit the beach," said Dan Ayes, WDFW coastal shellfish coordinator.

During the last week in January, Tacoma Power recovered 44 winter-run steelhead, five coho adults and one jack during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.  Also that week, Tacoma Power employees released five winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and 11 winter-run steelhead and one coho jack into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam. 

Hunting: The waterfowl season is over, and hunters are reminded to report their harvest of brant, snow geese and sea ducks to WDFW by Feb. 15. Hunters can report online or submit their reports by mail: 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA, 98501. Hunters who fail to report by Feb. 15 will be ineligible to hunt those birds in the 2010-2011 season.

Wildlife viewing: Have 15 minutes to spare for bird science? That’s virtually all it takes to contribute to the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual survey of birds sighted throughout the North American continent over a four-day period. This year’s bird count is scheduled Feb.12-15, when birders of all levels of experience are invited to count the number of birds they see in a 15-minute period and enter their tally, by species, on the GBBC website ( http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc ). Participants can conduct their count in their own backyards, in a neighborhood park or anywhere they choose.

"Taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to get outside with family and friends, have fun, and help birds - all at the same time," said Judy Braus of the National Audubon Society, which sponsors the GBBC along with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  "Even if you can only identify a few species you can provide important information that enables scientists to learn more about how the environment is changing and how that affects our conservation priorities."

Birders looking to venture away from their backyards can head out to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge , where numerous birds are often on display. A recent visitor to the refuge spotted dozens of different species, including tundra and trumpeter swans , a cinnamon teal , a pair of great-horned owls and a northern shrike . "Loads of harriers and other raptors as usual," the birder reported on Tweeters website ( http://www.scn.org/earth/tweeters/ ).

Eastern Washington

Fishing:   Ice on lakes throughout most of the region remains questionable since daytime temperatures have been above 40 degrees. Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said the two winter-season rainbow trout lakes - Williams and Hatch lakes in Stevens County near Colville - remain iced over and a few folks are fishing through the ice.  But ice fishing is definitely "at your own risk," he said. Baker encourages anglers to check WDFW’s ice fishing safety information at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/ice_fishing/ .

Chris Donley, WDFW central district fish biologist, said there is open water at the northeast end of Sprague Lake, and anglers continue to catch the lake’s big rainbow trout . Year-round Eloika Lake in north Spokane County has mostly open water for anglers.

Year-round Rock Lake in Whitman County rarely freezes up completely and has been providing good open-water fishing for rainbow and brown trout . "But the best bet right now is still Lake Roosevelt," Donley said. "The rainbow trout and kokanee fishing there is very good, especially on the south end."

Steelhead fishing is also good in the Snake River drainage, especially on the tributaries like the Grand Ronde, Touchet, Tucannon, and Walla Walla.  When water levels drop and the water clears, steelhead are harder to catch. But the fish are there, so persistent anglers can be successful. Anglers fishing the system can retain hatchery steelhead, but are required to release all wild fish. See the details in the rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Wildlife viewing: Winter is a good time to observe northern shrikes, rough-legged hawks, American kestrels, prairie falcons , and short-eared owls at WDFW’s Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County.  Watch gray-crowned rosy finches, horned larks, Townsend’s solitaires , and red-tailed hawks at Steptoe Butte State Park in central Whitman County. Look for northern saw-whet and northern pygmy owls , and downy and hairy woodpeckers at Lewis and Clark Trail State Park on the Touchet River southwest of Dayton in Columbia County.
 
These are just some of the bird species at three of the 51 sites in the region featured in the new "Palouse to Pines" Loop State Birding Trail map - the sixth in the Great Washington State Birding Trail map series developed and funded by Audubon Washington, along with WDFW, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Inland Northwest Community Foundation and others.
 
The new map can be seen and purchased for $4.95 online at http://wa.audubon.org . Together with its local chapters, Audubon Washington produced the first map of the birding trail in 2002 - the Cascade Loop. The Coulee Corridor followed in 2003, Southwest Loop in 2005, Olympic Loop in 2007, and the Sun and Sage Loop in 2009. One additional route covering the Puget Sound area will complete the birding trail in 2011. All maps contain information about habitat, bird species, access, and best seasons for birding. Signs marking birding trail sites will be installed in coming years.

Bird enthusiasts of all kinds are invited to take part in the 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count , from Feb. 12-15.  Participants in the free event will join tens of thousands of volunteers of all levels of birding experience across the country to count birds in their own backyards, local parks or wildlife refuges.
 
Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the event and report their sightings online at http://www.birdcount.org .  Each checklist submitted by these "citizen scientists" helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing and how to protect them. Last year, participants turned in more than 93,600 checklists online, creating the continent's largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.
 
On the http://www.birdcount.org   website, participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during the count. The site has tips to help identify birds and special materials for educators. Participants may also enter the GBBC photo contest by uploading images taken during the count and a drawing for prizes that include bird feeders, binoculars, books, and many other birding products. For more information about the GBBC, contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 or gbbc@cornell.edu , or Audubon at (215) 355-9588, ext. 16 or at   citizenscience@audubon.org .

Northcentral Washington

Fishing: WDFW fish biologist Matt Polacek recommends year-round Banks Lake in Grant County for good fishing opportunities for rainbow trout and kokanee .  "The main lake is ice free," he said, "but a small group of anglers are also catching whitefish and perch through the ice on the south end of Banks Lake."

Warmer weather has opened up previously iced-over sections of the Methow and Okanogan rivers, providing some good winter steelhead fishing.  WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp reports catch rates of one fish for every six to eight hours of fishing for the last two weeks. 

"Jig and bobber setups for the gear fishermen, as well as smaller flies under float indicators for the fly fishermen, have all been producing catches of steelhead," Jateff said. 

Jateff reminds steelheaders that both the Okanogan and the Methow are under selective gear rules and no bait is allowed.  Retention of hatchery-origin fish with clipped adipose fins is mandatory, up to the daily limit of four.  Anglers should make sure to gain permission before crossing private property alongside both of these rivers.

Meanwhile, ice fishing opportunities on Okanogan County lakes has been reduced due to warming temperatures.  "The ice in some areas appears to be unstable," he said.  "However, Patterson Lake in the Winthrop area is still producing catches of yellow perch , with a few rainbows mixed in.  There is no minimum size and no daily limit on yellow perch in Patterson because we actually want anglers to remove as many as possible."

For information on ice-fishing safety, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/ice_fishing/ .

The Methow River is open to whitefish from Gold Creek upstream to the falls above Brush Creek and the Chewuch River from the mouth to the Pasayten Wilderness boundary.  The Similkameen River is open from the mouth to the Canadian border.  Jateff notes those fishing for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead must use selective gear (single barbless lures and flies, no bait allowed).

Wildlife viewing: WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger of Moses Lake says ground squirrels are already visible this year.  "Ground squirrels on the Columbia Plateau emerged early from hibernating burrows this year due to the mild conditions we’ve had this winter," he said. "These are the Washington and Townsend’s ground squirrel species that are protected as both state and federal candidates for listing because their populations are declining."

For more information on Washington ground squirrels in Adams, Douglas and Grant counties, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/research/projects/shrubsteppe/occupancy_modeling_ground_squirrel/ .

Bird enthusiasts of all kinds are invited to take part in the 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count , which runs Feb. 12-15 this year.  Participants in the free event will join tens of thousands of volunteers of all levels of birding experience across the country to count birds in their own backyards, local parks or wildlife refuges.

Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the event and report their sightings online at http://www.birdcount.org .  Each checklist submitted by these "citizen scientists" helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing and how to protect them. Last year, participants turned in more than 93,600 checklists online, creating the continent's largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.

On the http://www.birdcount.org   website, participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during the count. The site has tips to help identify birds and special materials for educators. Participants may also enter the GBBC photo contest by uploading images taken during the count and a drawing for prizes that include bird feeders, binoculars, books, and many other birding products. For more information about the GBBC, contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 or gbbc@cornell.edu , or Audubon at (215) 355-9588, Ext 16 or  citizenscience@audubon.org

Southcentral Washington

Fishing:   Three out of 14 boat anglers fishing the John Day Pool on the Columbia River took home a legal-size sturgeon, according to a creel survey conducted the last week of January.  "Legal-size sturgeon must measure between 43 and 54 inches in fork length," said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fish biologist. "New regulations went into effect last year changing how sturgeon are measured from total length to fork length.  Fork length is defined as the distance from the tip of the nose to the middle of the fork in the tail, and that’s the length you record on your catch record card, even if the card has the old ‘total length’ column."

Hoffarth notes the sturgeon fishery in this area will remain open until the quota is reached and closure announced. 

"Walleye fishing in the Tri-Cities area and upstream in the Snake River is beginning to pick up," Hoffarth said. "Anglers are reporting fair catches below and above McNary Dam and in the Snake River below Ice Harbor and Little Goose dams."

Hoffarth says steelhead fishing in the district has been spotty this winter but should pick up in late February and early March.

Wildlife viewing:   Despite the mild winter, elk and bighorn sheep continue to be visible at or near WDFW’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area winter feeding sites. The area headquarters, west of Yakima off Hwy. 12, is the best bet for visitors. Reservations for on-site tours, conducted by volunteers and supported by donations, can be made by calling 509-698-5106. For more information on Oak Creek Wildlife Area, including driving directions, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/oak_creek/ .

Birders of all kinds are invited to take part in the 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count , scheduled Feb. 12-15 this year.  Participants in the free event will join tens of thousands of volunteers of all levels of birding experience across the country to count birds in their own backyards, local parks or wildlife refuges.

Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the event and report their sightings online at http://www.birdcount.org .  Each checklist submitted by these "citizen scientists" helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing and how to protect them. Last year, participants turned in more than 93,600 checklists online, creating the continent's largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.

On the http://www.birdcount.org   website, participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during the count. The site has tips to help identify birds and special materials for educators. Participants may also enter the GBBC photo contest by uploading images taken during the count and a drawing for prizes that include bird feeders, binoculars, books, and many other birding products. For more information about the GBBC, contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 or gbbc@cornell.edu , or Audubon at (215) 355-9588, Ext 16 or citizenscience@audubon.org .