It’s happening. We are forming the Friends of North Davis Ponds, which includes the Julie Partansky Pond and the smaller park pond.
The group is open to anyone who enjoys the ponds. The first meeting will be at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9. We will meet at the smaller pond by the parking lot next to 3500 Anderson Road. Bring your ideas of what you would like to have happen. We’ll develop an email list to alert people to activities, a Facebook page with photos and more.
We have a good model to follow, the Friends of West Pond. And Gene Trapp and Jo Ellen Ryan, who have done so much at West Pond, have offered help, advice and ideas for North Ponds.
The first activity for Friends of North Davis Ponds will be a bird count from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. We are fortunate to have Ed Whisler, a consulting wildlife biologist who had a hand in developing the North Area Drainage Pond as a wildlife habitat, conduct a bird count with all willing participants, including beginning birders.
Meet at the smaller park pond parking lot next to 3500 Anderson Road. Bring binoculars if you have them. For more information, contact Whisler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the Friends group, we are interested in more than birds. Whisler has compiled an annotated list of observations from 1989 to 2013 of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish of the North Davis ponds and surrounding neighborhood. Chris Dunford has a list of observations of birds from 1993. And I have a list of 105 birds that have been sighted at the ponds over the years.
If you miss the events, contact me at JeanJackman@gmail.com to get on an email list to learn of future events.
The Feb. 15 bird count will be part of an international event — the Great Backyard Bird Count. We will have a chance to learn and practice identification skills and be citizen scientists. The GBBC became international last year; this year, it runs Feb. 14-17. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society leads the GBBC, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada and sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.
Everyone who reads this, even beginners, can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count on your own or with a group. You can spend 15 minutes or four hours, for one day or all four days. Do it anywhere — how about in your own back yard? Participants tally the number of individual birds of each species they see during their count period and enter these numbers on the GBBC website.
In 2013, participants reported birds on all seven continents and 111 countries and independent territories. Participants reported 4,004 species. Mexico reported the most species, 645. The United States reported 638 and India reported 544. The five most reported species were northern cardinal, dark-eyed junco, mourning dove, downy woodpecker and house finch. We have four of those species, but not the northern cardinal. California set a record with 352 species in four days.
The GBBC provides valuable information to scientists — a big picture, and a way to assess how weather and diseases are affecting bird populations in various regions. The longer that records are kept, the more we all learn.
There are several group count opportunities. Besides the North Ponds count from 8 to 10 a.m. on Feb. 15, the Friends of West Pond will hold a count from 3:30 to dusk on Saturday, Feb. 14, and from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 16. Meet at the gazebo at the west end of Isle Royale Lane.
If you have trouble identifying birds, you are not alone. But there is a new app — Merlin Bird ID, a pocket birding coach, which does ID 285 of the most common North American birds. It asks you five simple questions: location, date, size, colors and bird action, and then guesses at your bird or gives you several to choose from. It has been spot-on every time I tried it.
Not only does the app identify the bird, you also can read more about the bird, listen to a couple of versions of its song and its call, and see a map of its range. It will be available in an Android version in the spring and you can visit the Merlin website and sign up for an availability alert. A web version also is being developed.
Let’s worry about water for us and for the birds, too. It’s easy enough to provide water for birds on your back yard or your apartment balcony or patio. You will get more bird visits and it’s fun to watch them bathe in it. You could use something as simple as a clay pot saucer.
Cherish our natural resources, protect them and kiss each day.
— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident. Her columns appear monthly. Questions, comments, corrections? Email JeanJackman@gmail.com