Procedures for an MBBS

Basic procedures

  1. pick a day for your count between May 15 and June 30; a Sunday morning is a good time because there is little traffic then
  2. arrive at the starting point in time to start your first count exactly 30 minutes before sunrise (about 5:30 EDT for our area in early June)
  3. drive exactly 0.5 miles between counts by the odometer in your car
  4. if it is unsafe to stop at the 0.5-mile mark (or the 0.5-mile mark falls on a numbered highway) continue to the first place on your route where it is safe to stop (for the next count, proceed 0.5 miles from this adjusted position)
  5. continue until you have made 20 stops (9.5 miles if all intervals are 0.5 miles)
Making each roadside count
  1. get out of your car beside the road and get your data sheet ready
  2. record how many individuals of each species you see or hear within exactly 3.0 minutes from the time you are ready to start
  3. if you are interrupted, or if traffic noise makes listening impossible, add an equivalent amount of time to the 3.0 minutes
  4. do not count any birds heard or seen more than 0.25 miles away
  5. record the habitat on each side of the road (see habitat codes)
  6. use one of the sample data sheets (see dataforms)
  • The first time you run a route, it will take some extra time to learn the turns and stopping places.
  • A good county map with the names of secondary roads is essential.
  • Make a list of your stops so you can remember them next year!   Describe each stop briefly (for instance, "after the yellow house", or "just past the white fence").
  • Your first few roadside counts will also need some getting used to. But it shouldn't be long before you have established a routine.
  • Like the national BBS, the results will be most useful when the same people do the same routes year after year.
  • The longer we can keep doing these MBBS routes the more interesting they will become!
Before you run your route . . .
  • Notify the county sheriff's office that you will be counting birds early in the morning.
  • Make a sign with big letters -- Bird Count -- to display on your car.
  • Enlist a friend to help out.