Bird of the Month: eBird and opportunities to use it

ebird
A screenshot of the eBird website shows recent reports of birds in Doña Ana County
Last month I promised to share my excitement about eBird with you, and so I will. Better than spending the entire column on it, though, I will give you some ideas of upcoming opportunities to use it, as well.

So, what is eBird? It is an online bird tracking and recording tool and one of the better things to happen to birding this century. It’s a collaboration between several entities and sponsors, but the two main players are the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Birders all over the world enter sightings of birds, and regional editors check them for accuracy. As you can see, this has all kinds of potential benefits. First, you need to sign up for an eBird account. That’s very easy. Just go to eBird.org.

When the eBird site comes up, click on Submit Observations and follow the instructions to sign up or (if you already have), log in. From here, the best advice is just click on whatever takes your fancy and work through the instructions. If you know an experienced eBirder, they will probably be more than happy to show you some of the shortcuts they have learned. I know that I am always willing to do so. You can contact me at mpndltn@gmail.com (put eBird question in the subject line) or 635-8711. If I don’t know the answer, I can find someone who does.

So, now let’s assume you’re signed up for eBird. One of the really great features is the regional eBird alerts to which you can subscribe. From the Main Page, click Explore Data, on the next page click Alerts.

This lets you subscribe to lists of rare bird sightings or sightings of birds you haven’t seen in that area. To make what I mean clearer, I’ll use an example.

Tomorrow, as I write this, I’m going to Muskegon Michigan. Several days ago, I signed up for rare bird alerts from the whole state and from Muskegon county. Every day since, I’ve gotten e-mail listings of rarities sighted. These listings give the species, where and when sighted, observer, and a map for each one. So, one day I saw that one individual was submitting a lot of reports with pictures of several of the species from each checklist. A lot of them were from a state park on Lake Michigan that I’ve been to before. On the checklist of species he saw there was a link to the eBird Community. Curious, I clicked on it and found a place to leave a message for eBirders worldwide. So, I briefly mentioned I’d seen his lists, they looked like he was seeing some interesting species and would he be interested in birding when I go there? Since I’m writing this before my trip, I don’t yet know how it will work out. But I have his name and when I get there, I will see if I can track him down. Failing that, I can see if there is any day or time he’s most likely to be birding at that spot, and show up there to bird as well. I will let you know next month how things go.

In eBird you can also check out local “hotspots” around the world to see how many species are seen there, when what was last seen and who saw it. So, before you go on a trip, you can get some idea of where to look for what when you go. Astounding!

I can see that this topic is far from exhausted, so I will return to it in another article. But I do want to tell you about some opportunities for birding coming up. These are good places to practice using eBird. I do so by entering the list of what we saw into eBird after I return from the field, but with the eBird app (for both Apple and Android) one can enter the list of birds seen right in the field.

The first opportunity I’ll plug is the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in San Antonio south of Socorro. It’s from November 14 through 19 this year, and if you’re looking for some great outdoor experiences you will have a hard time to find one better. You can take tours of the refuge, check out spectacular nature art and see thousands of waterfowl and cranes. For more information, visit friendsofthebosque.org/festival-of-the-cranes-1.aspx

Then on Saturday, December 2, the Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society out of Silver City sponsors its annual Raptor Count on the roads of the southwestern part of the state. This census has been going since 1965 and counts hawks (accipiters, buteos, and falcons), shrikes, roadrunners and owls. For information and an assignment for area to cover, contact Roland Shook at 590-4731.

Finally, on Saturday December 16, our own Mesilla Valley Audubon Society will conduct its annual Christmas Bird Count. This sunrise to sunset citizen science endeavor counts every bird seen by the 14 participating teams in a 15-mile diameter circle centered near the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. We need birders of all skill levels, so you needn’t be an expert. If you know a team leader that you can count with, let them know you’re interested. If you want to participate and don’t have a team, we’ll find one for you. For more information, contact Wayne Treers at way1mike@yahoo.com or 528-8696.

The Bird of the Month feature is brought to you by the Mesilla Valley Audubon Society, the local chapter of the National Audubon Society. To learn about MVAS and its activities, including monthly fieldtrips and beginner bird walks, visit new-mexico-birds.com