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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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