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Help count birds this weekend wherever you are

Great Backyard Bird Count can be done in parks or nature areas as well as at home

Whether it involves spotting lesser goldfinches in your backyard, as above, or myriad birds in a nearby wildlife site, anyone can participate this weekend in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Whether it involves spotting lesser goldfinches in your backyard, as above, or myriad birds in a nearby wildlife site, anyone can participate this weekend in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Kathy Morrison

Got 15 minutes to spare for the birds? The Great Backyard Bird Count is back. 

Starting Friday and through this holiday weekend, anyone can help contribute to a real-time snapshot of bird populations. 

The National AudubonSociety naturally is involved in the event, and explains it like this:

“Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world.”

How to participate? Here’s the guide from (also available at the link):

1) Count birds anywhere you like for at LEAST 15 minutes – or for as long as you wish. Keep track of the kinds of birds you see and how long you watched. 

2) Make your best estimate of how many birds you saw of each species. For example, 5 Northern Cardinals, 3 American Crows. Huge flocks may be a challenge, but your best guess is still valuable.

3) Enter your list(s) online at  Put in a new checklist: 

– for each new day

– for each different location 

– for the same location, same day, if you counted at a different time of day.  

The observation data are used by ornithologists to learn how birds are doing overall and how to protect them and the environment we all share. 

Gardeners of course depend on birds to control insect pests as well as contribute to the diversity and beauty of our outdoor world.

If you’re not already familiar with the birds in your neighborhood, I recommend downloading the free Merlin app today, or at least before you start counting. (The account you create will be used to file your bird-count checklist, too.)  Merlin was created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to help anyone identify, by photo or by sound, the birds around them. You can download a list of birds common to the western United States. I especially like to record on my phone the call or song of a bird I can’t see.

The Sacramento Audubon Society also maintains an online list of Sacramento-area birds, which is so helpful in learning all the feathered neighbors. also has excellent tips on identifying and counting birds.

You can be sure I'll be out in the wilds of my backyard Friday, with binoculars and phone at ready.


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For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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