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How Many Birds?

How many bird species might an attentive backyard birdwatcher, or "birder", find?

The term "backyard" means any nearby open space, such as a stream corridor or an open field with forest edge. The more habitat types a backyard has, the better.

Don and Lillian Stokes, of Hancock, NH, have a backyard that includes the Contoocook River, a distant ridgeline, open field, wetlands, and forest, not to mention many birdfeeders and birdhouses to attract their feathered friends. Like many active birders, they keep a backyard list of their sightings from over the years.

Don and Lillian are the authors of the "Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America," and they've observed nearly 200 species in a decade.  Lillian also maintains Stokes Birding Blog, with updates that include new species, and her photographs which capture nature in intimate detail. They invite both fellow birders and more casual birdwatchers to join them on outings, and always keep guest binoculars available.

For most avid birders, helping others find a new species brings great joy. Still, a backyard list represents much more than the bottom line total. Often the pursuit isn't so much about birds as about venturing out and tuning in to the natural world. Whether it's a new bird species or the first blooms on a red maple tree, there's the enjoyment of discovery and close observation, and the fun of sharing it with others. An intriguing world awaits all of us, viewed through the window, a few steps out the door, or farther afield.

Chris Martin has worked for New Hampshire Audubon for over 31 years as a Conservation Biologist, specializing in birds of prey such as Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and Peregrine Falcons.
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