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Ahead of the Backyard Bird Count, Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Affected the Region's Birds?

photo of Jim Tomko
Kabir Bhatia
Jim Tomko, head of the Audubon Society of Greater Cleveland, says anyone can participate in the count, which runs Feb. 12-15.

This year’s annual Audubon Society three-day bird count begins Feb. 12. And the head of the society’s Greater Cleveland branch says the coronavirus pandemic seems to be giving people a renewed appreciation of nature.

Jim Tomko has been seeing more people than usual hitting the region’s parks and trails over the past year. And he says with so many people working from home, it’s the perfect time to participate in the bird count.

“They’re actually realizing that there is wildlife in their own backyard. I've gotten calls that said, 'Did you know there are turkeys in my neighborhood?; I saw bald eagle fly overhead,’ because they’re home and they’re seeing this. Otherwise, they're at work in their office, and it all goes by them," Tomko said.

“When people are enjoying the wildlife, when it comes time to make decisions to help protect it, they'll say, ‘Oh yeah; I had a fox in my backyard. I never knew there were foxes back there. I'm going to support this in some way or another.’ I think it will have a lot of benefits, both financial and [for] people having an interest in standing up for wildlife that can't stand up for themselves,” he continued.

Tomko also says decreased auto emissions during the pandemic may have affected the region’s wildlife. The Ohio Turnpike, for example, reported an 11 percent decrease in revenue for 2020. But Tomko says it’s too soon to know for sure how much impact that’s had on birds.

Information on participating in the bird count is here, and a live map of the results is here.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. While a Kent State student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.