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Thousands of bird watchers tally up their sightings in annual Backyard Bird Count

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ITHACA, New York — Snowy owls and other unusual visitors from the far north are expected to make a showing in the 18th annual Great Backyard Bird Count being held this weekend.

The count spans four days, Friday through Monday. Last year, more than 140,000 bird watchers from 135 countries contributed their observations.

The citizen science project was launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. It creates an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.

Anyone can join in for free. Participants register and enter data online (http://gbbc.birdcount.org ). You simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count.

Scientists use the information to get the "big picture" of what's happening to bird populations.

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