If you see some of your neighbors out walking around with binoculars, it's because the Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend.
This is arguably the largest citizen science project in North America, where thousands of birders and non-birders count and report the birds in their neighborhood. Anyone who can tell a robin from a turkey vulture is welcome to join in.
Last year over 4,000 reports were submitted in California alone. The information is used by scientists to track the spread and numbers of birds across the country and in Canada, and not incidently to evaluate the health of the environment in general. Of particular interest in Northern California is the impact of West Nile disease on Magpies, crows and other succeptable birds.
It's a good excuse to take a walk around the neighborhood, down by the river or just tally the birds you see from home. The event goes from today until Monday, the Friday and Monday weekdays being allowed to get the schools involved. Fair Oaks is a very "birdy" place, so get out and have fun.
For more information, go to http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/