The foul weather has come and gone.
By my unofficial calculation, this is the third 100-year-storm in the last three years. Between Snowmageddon, Tropical Storm Lee and now Frankenstorm, we've had our share of Mother Nature's worst over the last few years.
But every storm has its silver lining. Snowmageddon brought lots of babies to the world. Lee put a new bridge in my front yard. And Frankenstorm, well, at least a few birds were able to take an express ride to their wintertime destination. With 65-mph winds, they didn't have much of a choice.
I've spent a lot of time in the woods this week (too much time, probably). It didn't take long to notice the changes Sandy brought with her.
There are fewer leaves on the trees, a bunch of fresh branches on the ground, and the sunrises this week have been accompanied by a wonderful aural treat. I counted dozens of finches chirping and squawking as they foraged for their morning meal. No doubt, Sandy's gusty northeast winds brought them to our neck of the woods -- with a bit more speed than normal.
I saw far more of the migrating birds than I normally do. And I'm sure folks on the other end of the county did as well.
Who knows, maybe Sandy disrupted the year's migration. Or maybe it's all just a coincidence. But we will never know unless somebody tracks what's happening. That's why an upcoming event is so important.
With so many birds in so many places, it's impossible for just a handful of biologists to capture the necessary data. That's why the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is vital. I've written about it several times before. It's an important survey that gets folks outdoors and involved with what's happening in the natural world around them. But the next count will be more important than ever. It will be a global survey.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society will hold their 16th annual bird count from Feb. 15-18. But instead of focusing on North America's avian population, the groups have eliminated the borders. According to an announcement this week, the survey will cover the entire planet.
"The GBBC is an ideal opportunity for young and old to connect with nature by discovering birds and to participate in a huge science project," said Audubon's chief scientist Gary Langham. "This year, we hope people on all seven continents, oceans, and islands, will head out into their neighborhoods, rural areas, parks and wilderness to further our understanding of birds across the hemispheres."
The way to participate this year is the same as every year. Simply devote 15 minutes to studying the birds in your backyard. Count the birds you can identify and go to www.birdcount.org to record what you saw and where you were when you recorded your findings.
Not only is the GBBC a great way to get outdoors and see what's happening right in your own backyard, but now that it's gone global, it offers us a chance to get involved in one of the largest scientific surveys ever conducted.
I just hope we're not neck-deep in yet another 100-year storm when it's time to step outside and officially count the birds this winter.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.