Last week's brief brush with winter was a shock.
Some of us embraced the reality of what the next season will bring and - can you believe it? - look forward to winter and everything that comes with it.
Others of us most decidedly do not.
At just the right time, then, along comes an invitation from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to join Project FeederWatch - a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locations.
A note to Cornell from a couple in Massachusetts who joined FeederWatch explains our reason for mentioning this today.
''Thank you for providing us with a motivation to really pay attention to our local bird populations. Winter weekends, especially snowy ones, go by very quickly when watching for birds," wrote Kathy and Steve Olsen.
The invitation notes that the information collected through this joint project of Cornell Ornithology Lab and Bird Studies Canada is used by scientists to help track movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.
You don't have to be an expert to participate and it only takes as much time as you decide to give.
''FeederWatch is conducted by people of all skill levels and backgrounds, including children, families, individuals, classrooms, retired persons, youth groups, nature centers, and bird clubs,'' says the invitation.
Participants count birds they see at their feeders at set times from November through early April and then report the results online or using forms provided by Cornell. There is a $15 participation fee to cover materials, staff support, web design, data analysis, and a year-end report - Winter Bird Highlights. Once registered, you will get a kit that contains instructions, a bird identification poster, a wall calendar, a resource guide to bird feeding, and a tally sheet to record your observations. You also get a subscription to the Lab of Ornithology's newsletter, BirdScope.
You may sign up online or simply get more information at www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/; or by mail at Project FeederWatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, NY 14850. The survey starts on the second Saturday of November and runs through the first Friday of April - although you may join at any time of year.
While we suggest FeederWatch to you as a constructive way to help pass the time in winter, the more important aspect is the value of your contribution to the science and conservation of North American feeder birds.