NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - This morning novice to experienced bird watchers are taking one extra step with their hobby. They're counting the birds they see.
Beginning today through February 15, the 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count happens. It will go on worldwide to help scientists track changes in bird distribution.
East Texas News caught up with our state's non-game ornithologist and an SFA Gardens educator while they were birding in Nacogdoches, their home town.
Ornithologist Chris Shackelford identified a bird first by its call. Then he pointed his feathered friends out to others.
"Now he's behind there," Shackleford said as he pointed the bird out.
"Oh yeah, there he is" agreed Kerri Lemon, an educator with SFA Gardens.
Shackelford will lead guided hikes along the trails of Tucker Woods at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center on Saturday. Participants will count birds for science.
"The scientists use the data and the bird watchers become the scientists, what we call citizen scientists by opening up their yard and telling people what they see in their backyard. They're collecting the data right there on the spot," Shackelford said.
Shackelford says so far, 2016 birdwatching has been hit and miss.
"I think the inconsistency in the weather makes it difficult for birds to decide what to do," Shackelford said.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology expects El Nino surprises. One already happened in Nacogdoches with a reported sighting of a common red poll.
"There are only about 14 records for the whole state of Texas, and there's one of them right here in Nacogdoches right now," Shackelford said.
If the red poll isn't around, Shackelford will help families spot plenty of other birds. And SFA Gardens will provide hands on learning activities.
"We have some guided tours here at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, and we'll walk around," Shackelford said. "Already in the last few minutes I've had red bellied woodpecker, white breasted nuthatch, pine warbler, Carolina chickadee, just a lot of neat birds right here in the middle of the city."
"This is what it's like to have a real birder with you," Lemon said. "Oh look he just flew."
Here's what you need to know if you want to participate in the free, outdoor event sponsored by SFA Gardens and Nacogdochecs Naturally.
It happens Saturday, that's tomorrow, from nine to noon at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center on 2900 Raguet Street.
If you want to report your sightings to scientists through February 15 go online to www.birdcount.org.