It’s not every day a fifth-grader, an HVAC tech, a stay-at-home mom, a teacher or a sales manager can pitch in on a gigantic, real-world science project.

But people from all walks of life can do just that through Feb. 18, when they join the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Volunteers with the local Desert Rivers Audubon chapter will help people get started 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 16, at Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, 2757 E. Guadalupe Road.

The annual count is a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada. The information gathered provides a huge body of data for scientists who study world bird populations, health and migration.

The count is open to people of all ages, and it’s free. Participants can count birds anywhere they wish — neighborhoods, parks, nature centers or from their window.

The goal is to record every bird you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter tallies at the Great Backyard Bird Count website.

Sightings pour in from around the globe in real time, and participants can watch live data coming in and look up their ZIP code to see the count’s progress in their area.

During the 2012 count, participants reported 17.4 million bird observations.

For information, visit Birdsource.org/gbbc or DesertRiversAudubon.org.

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