Please join us in congratulating Jan Meerman of Green Hills, Belize, the winner of the Februrary eBirder of the Month Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic. Jan submitted a total of 22 checklists this February from his Green Hills Private Protected Area patch. Here is a link to one of the winning checklists. Jan will receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular and a selection of books from Princeton University Press. When we notified him, he wrote back “This is such a tremendous thing! There is no way I can express how excited I am about this!” We asked him to tell us a bit more about himself and how he uses eBird. This is what he said:
Birders of the arid Southwest have been experiencing headaches this winter, and it is not just dehydration. The recent AOU split (here) of Sage Sparrow into two distinct species, Bell’s Sparrow (Artemisiospiza belli) and Sagebrush Sparrow (A. nevadensis), has led to an outbreak of head-shaking and hand-wringing on blogs, listservs, identification discussion groups, and even reviewer discussion groups in the region. Chris McCreedy of Point Blue Conservation Science provides us with an overview of the challenges and the field work being done to supply some answers.
This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic, encourages birders to explore new hotspots in their area. In September 2013 we released the Hotspot Explorer. The Hotspot Explorer provides a powerful way to access site-based data summaries, and is very helpful for planning trips to the very best birding places. But for those who want to contribute a lot to eBird, the Hotspot Explorer also provides great tools to help you to find underbirded areas where your contribution will help the most. Below we give some tips on how to use the Hotspot Explorer to find underbirded hotspots near you. This month’s eBirder of the Month prize binocular will be drawn from among anyone who has submitted at least one effort-based (i.e., not Incidental) complete checklist from each of 20 different hotspots this month. You can choose your own hotspots, but we hope you will focus on some that have very little activity for March.
Have you seen a flash of rust-tipped feathers under a bright yellow eye? Or perhaps you’ve enjoyed the dubiously melodious sound of a squeaky-hinge song? Previously a common sight in mixed-blackbird flocks and flooded forests, Rusty Blackbirds now face an unfortunate and remarkable notoriety; this species has endured a decline more severe than any other once-common landbird, with population decreases of 85-95% over the past half-century. Understanding the ecology of this vulnerable species is critical for developing strategies to reverse these declines and protect this species. The Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz encourages you to bird for conservation- support an initiative to identify conservation challenges and develop strategies to conserve a vulnerable songbird!
Birders are the engine behind what we now think of as the “eBird Enterprise”, a global project with high conservation significance that has collected more than 150 million bird records from across the planet. A new publication in the journal Biological Conservation highlights how eBird has evolved from a basic citizen-science project into a collective enterprise, taking a novel approach to citizen science by developing cooperative partnerships among experts in a wide range of fields: population and distributions, conservation biologists, quantitative ecologists, statisticians, computer scientists, GIS and informatics specialists, application developers, and data administrators. The paper is featured as “Editor’s Choice” on the Biological Conservation web site, and has been set to “open access”. Please visit the link above to download the paper, and learn more about how your contributions are impacting our ability to document, understand, and conserve birds and biodiversity. Thanks again eBirders. None of this would be possible without you!
February 14-17 (Friday to Monday) is the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). To participate, all you have to do is go birding during this timeframe and make sure to enter your checklists in eBird. The GBBC was one of the first demonstrations that the internet could be used to collect bird checklists from bird enthusiasts, and indeed it was instrumental in the creation of eBird back in 2002. If you aren’t already excited about this weekend, here are a few reasons why we think you should be.
Purple Gallinules are well known as champions of long-distance vagrancy, with records from as far north as Iceland, as far south as South Georgia Island, as far west as the Galapagos Islands, and as far east as Italy and South Africa. This species, and many other rails, are habitat-based dispersalists, adapted to respond to ephemeral habitats and with the machinery to travel long distances. In late fall 2013 and winter 2014 there have been a surprising number of observations and specimens collected of this species far out of range. But why? The polar vortex? Drought? Winds? Some combination of the above? BirdCast presents an in-depth analysis that suggests that drought in the Caribbean is driving dispersal and that winds have produced generally favorable conditions for Nearctic and Neotropical vagrants to reach the Palearctic. Head over to BirdCast to read more on Purple Gallinule vagrancy in the North Atlantic.
On 1 February 2014, a new eBird portal was released called Eremaea eBird, dedicated to birding in Australia. Through a historic partnership with the founders of “Eremaea Birds” and a newly formed group of supporting Australian organizations, we have merged the former “Eremaea Birds” system into eBird, bringing with it nearly 3.5 million historic bird records from Australia, a highly motivated group of new participants, as well as the expertise of the local Australian birding community for vetting data. We are pleased to welcome our new partners from Australia to the eBird family!
Please join us in congratulating Shawn Langston of St. George, Utah, the winner of the January eBirder of the Month Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic. Shawn submitted a total of 47 checklists in January, all from southwestern Utah and nearby areas Arizona and Nevada. Here is the winning checklist, which was drawn at random. Shawn will receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular and a selection of books from Princeton University Press. When we notified him, he wrote back “Are you kidding me!! I remember reading about this on the eBird website but thought my probability of winning would be about zero.”
Winter is not typically a season that we associate with bird migration. However, plenty of movement occurs during these cold, dark months, in particular irruptive and facultative movements. Although few irruptive species moved south this year (almost none, other than Snowy Owls), the winter of 2013-2014 has seen a parade of arctic systems move across North America, bringing cold temperatures well outside of recent averages. These have triggered facultative movements as species are literally frozen out of the north and eBirders are contributing greatly to our understanding of the species and patterns involved. In mid-January 2014, it became apparent that White-winged Scoter and Red-necked Grebe were on the move, popping up at lakes, rivers, and ponds in most of the eastern U.S. Some coastal areas also have seen a noticeable increase and it seems clear that the movements of these birds are directly connected to the higher-than-normal ice cover on the Great Lakes. To explore these movements more and better understand the connection to ice cover on the Great Lakes, please visit BirdCast.