Bird lovers will be out and about all weekend long trying to spot various species of birds as part of The Big Birding Weekend.
The race to count the most species of birds began Friday, Jan. 25 at 5 p.m. and continues until Sunday, Jan. 27 at 5 p.m.
Teams of five are scouring parks and preservation areas for a chance to figuratively bag the most birds and win a trophy.
The event is hosted by Rich's Backyard Birds at 5670 FishHawk Blvd., Lithia, as a way to promote an appreciation of Nature's feathered friends.
More than 10 teams signed on to participate and will gather back at Rich's Backyard Birds at the end of the weekend for a trophy presentation, door prizes and bird tales.
According to the results of the fourth annual FishHawk Christmas Bird Count conducted by volunteers from Rich's Backyard Birds Dec. 30, there are plenty of birds to be found in the Lithia area.
This year's team of Christmas count volunteers identified 62 species of birds including the osprey, the northern mockingbird, the little blue heron, the blue jay, the red-shouldered hawk and the American crow.
Most plentiful during this year's bird count were the yellow-rumped warbler (118), the cattle egret (147), American robin (80), the blue-gray gnatcatcher (60) and the palm warbler (66).
Counters also caught a glimpse of one yellow-throated warbler, a swamp sparrow, a laughing gull, a green heron and an American kestrel.
However, some birds spotted in past years were elusive during the 2012 count including the bald eagle, the barred owl, the black-crowned night heron, the boat-tailed grackle (51 were spotted last year), the least sandpiper (the volunteers found 91 in 2010) and the yellow-bellied sapsucker.
Owned by Rich and Tanya Crete, both longtime bird watchers, Rich's Backyard Birds specializes in products for bird lovers, from bird seed to feeders.
For those interested in learning more about Florida's native and migratory birds, Crete leads a bird walk each month from October through April at various bird-watching hot spots. The walks begin in the morning and are completed by 11 a.m. and all levels of bird watchers are welcome.
For dates and times of upcoming walks, contact Crete at 813-657-2473 or email him at Rich@RichsBackyardBirds.com.