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Birding in the Space-Time Continuum

Compiled by Laura Erickson

Tips from eBirders to enhance your eBird experience for fun and for science

Many birders concentrate their efforts in reliable hotspots, trying to maximize the number of birds seen during limited birding time. It’s harder to find rare birds when covering the same places over and over, but repeated visits to one spot produce consistent data sets which are extremely valuable for both scientists and other birders. And covering the exact same spaces time after time gives birders a stronger sense of the timing of migration, nesting, and other interesting phenomena. eBird’s first three winners of “eBirder of the Month” exemplify this kind of birding at its most rewarding. Learn more about them at www.ebird.org.

Jane Stulp: Bird in your own backyard

December 2009 eBirder of the Month keeps track
of the birds on her Colorado property

Jane Stulp

I’m a backyard birder. My binoculars sit in readiness by a window or accompany me from the farm office to the kitchen and vice versa. I found when I wasn’t quick enough to notice all the right details, I could snap a photo, digitally enlarge it, compare it to the field guide, and get confirmation by emailing the photo to a birding friend.

After a software crash deleted my electronic bird data, I needed another means to transfer my hand-written journals to an electronic version. I found eBird to be very user friendly.

I can find when and how many Golden-crowned Kinglets I’ve had with a couple of clicks, or I can pull up my list for any of my personal locations for any given time period. The highest species count in a single day for my yard was 48 on May 13, 2006; the lowest was 0 on several occasions. Even the zeros are entered into eBird!

eBird’s backup system is more reliable than mine, and I can download my data anytime. eBird has been a valuable tool and resource for me, and lets me contribute to the broader scientific analysis of bird numbers, behavior, and movement. Thanks, eBird!

David Suddjian: Try point counts

January 2010 eBirder of the Month
enjoys doing site surveys in California

David Suddjian

eBird has shaped my birding in two ways. First, eBird made me much more aware of birds at particular places. I’ve submitted checklists for over 1,900 locations.

I often separate observations from large sites into smaller parts. When I vacationed at Yosemite National Park and Mono Lake last August I did a series of 5-minute point counts each morning!

Second, eBird gave me incentive to make repeated visits to some places. eBird’s data output tools make it easy to view and learn from the results of my efforts. I’ve registered five locations in eBird’s new “Site Survey.” These are supposed to be locations we visit daily or weekly, so I chose places near my home. Now I make a point of going to these places more often, and I have learned a great deal about changing numbers and species over time. I have even learned to pay much more careful attention to the birds around my home.

I am thrilled to have my observations be part of a larger data set that is available to anyone who is interested. That is far more satisfying than having my notes just accumulate in my computer files or in old notebooks on my shelves.

Michael Hobbs: Adopt a special place

February 2010 eBirder of the Month has birded
one spot in Washington for 17 years

Michael Hobbs

Almost 17 years ago, I started visiting Marymoor Park, a convenient local spot, each and every week. I had no ideas about doing a grand scientific survey or anything like that. I simply needed to get out birding more. Scheduling a trip every Thursday morning before work seemed like the best approach.

Long ago, I’d written my own database program to track my sightings. Each week, after my walk, I’d enter the species seen and a guess at the numbers. Other people began to join me on my walks. (Brian Bell has been along on almost all of them.) After a few years, I could pretty much predict what common birds we’d see each week, and could track things like a slow drop in the numbers of certain ducks, or in California Quail.

When eBird was reaching a critical mass with so many birders using it, I uploaded over 40,000 sightings using eBird’s import wizard. Now everyone can view the resulting bar charts, etc. My data are no longer stuck in the black hole of my home computer. And maybe other people will be encouraged to do their own long-term survey of a favorite location.

Birds of North America Online
BNA ML combo package