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The Franklin’s Gull fallout of 2015

First-winter Franklin's Gull at Cape May, NJ. Note its well-defined half-hood, obvious white eye arcs, and white tail with crisp black terminal band. Photo by Tom Johnson.

November 13, 2015, will go down in the history books as the (first?) day of the epic 2015 Franklin’s Gull flight to the East Coast of the United States. Franklin’s Gull numbers have been above average in the East over the past week, with flocks in the great Lakes, and as unsettled wet and rainy weather Wednesday and Thursday gave way to clear skies and strong West or Northwest winds overnight astute observers up and down the East Coast made sure to get out at dawn to bear witness. At Cape May, the flight began in the early morning and continued all day, with some flocks of 60+ being seen! The combined one-day total there was something like 315 birds. As the alert was raised more observers got out looking in time to find their own. Every coastal state from Massachusetts to Virginia was in on the action. It isn’t over yet! Go birding this weekend!

eBirding the World Big Year – October Update

Palawan Peacock-Pheasant in the Philippines

In 2015, Noah Strycker has been attempting to become the first person to see 5000 species of birds—about half of the avian species on Earth—in one calendar year! As of this month, the 5,000 mark is behind him. Noah is now closing in on the home stretch of 365 straight days of birding around the globe, with an itinerary covering 34 countries and all seven continents, on one continuous, all-out, global birding trip. To date he has covered Antarctica, South and Central America, Europe, Africa, and much of Asia, tallying a fantastic 5,061 species – exceeding his target, and a new world record for the most bird species seen in a single year! Congratulations Noah! Is 6,000 possible? Noah is using eBird to keep track of his sightings and to help strategize during his quest, as well as to connect with many other birders as he travels. You can see his daily blog accounts on Birding Without Borders. He has been kind enough to write up a summary of his travels for us each month – you can find his notes from October here!

Nelson Contardo, October eBirder of the Month

Please join us in congratulating Nelson Contardo of Santiago, Chile, winner of the October 2015 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic. Our October winner was drawn from among those who submitted at least 31 complete checklists not containing an “X” in October. Nelson’s name was drawn randomly from the 1,541 eBirders who achieved the October challenge threshold. Nelson will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for his eBirding efforts. We asked Nelson to tell us a little more about himself, his use of eBird, and his love of birds – read on for more!

Neotropical Birding issue 17

NB17 cover

The latest issue of Neotropical Birding, the bi-annual magazine of the Neotropical Bird Club was recently published and contains a wealth of interesting articles about Neotropical birds and birding. Articles range from Here be gadflies: pelagic birding off north-east Brazil by Alexander C. Lees, Fabio Olmos and Alberto Campos, through Finding Mexico’s mystery owl — Cinereous Owl Strix (varia?) sartorii by Nathan Pieplow and Andrew Spencer, to Markham’s Storm Petrel breeding colonies discovered in Chile by Fabrice Schmitt, Rodrigo Barros and Heraldo Norambuena. We are great fans of this publication and the Neotropical Bird Club and encourage anyone with an interest in the New World tropics to join. To help entice you, the Club has made the article on finding the nesting colonies of Markham’s Storm Petrel in Chile available for free here. For details on how to join, visit the club’s website: http://www.neotropicalbirdclub.org/.

eBird and Macaulay Library: next generation tools for rich media

Adult male Northern Harrier, Moss Landing, CA, October. Photo by Brian L. Sullivan.

It’s no surprise that birders are a visual and aural community—after all, we spend most of our time searching for birds by sight and sound. Millions of birders around the world now carry cameras into the field, and many people also record bird sounds using smartphones. Until now, this rich resource of bird photos and sounds has been scattered across disparate resources, or in the worst cases has not been captured at all. Using the data collection power of eBird, and the long-term curation and archival capabilities of the Macaulay Library, we’ve created a home at the Cornell Lab for this next generation of bird information. Leveraging the strengths of both projects, we’ve developed a scientific foundation and a streamlined process for collecting rich media that provides a long-term, open data resource searchable by birders and scientists alike—a real-time, digital natural history collection. And did we forget to mention, it’s incredibly fun? Through a simple drag-and-drop process, it is now easy to illustrate your eBird checklists with photos and audio files, not only providing documentation for your bird records, but also creating a visual and audio tapestry of what you’re encountering in the field, and easily share it with others.

Web and Android Developer Positions Open


We are excited to announce two new opportunities to join the eBird team at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The first position is to join our growing team of mobile application developers at the Lab, focusing on developing the Android eBird application. The second is to join our group of web application developers. Please read on to find out more about the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and these positions. We have had great success hiring people from the eBird community and hope it continues with these positions! We encourage you to share these positions with friends who have application development experience.

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November eBirder of the Month Challenge

Magnolia Warbler

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, focuses on repeatedly birding the same area. To date, eBirders have submitted more than 275 million observations of birds, from 2.87 million separate locations across every country. Many of these locations have just one or two checklists—giving us a baseline for the bird community there, but not as comprehensive knowledge as we’d like. With repeated visits to a spot, we can learn so much about how the birds using that location change across seasons and years. Having repeated “sampling” at a location is very powerful for scientific analysis. This repeated sampling is similar to what you might do every year for the Christmas Bird Count, and is very valuable for eBird analyses. Do you like the animated maps of bird movements? This is how we create these—read the full article for a brand new map, never before shown. The eBirder of the month will be drawn from eBirders who submit at least 15 complete no-X checklists from the same eBird location during November. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.

Snowy Owls moving south—winter is coming!

Snowy Owl, Duxbury, MA

Thanks to Harry Potter, Snowy Owl is one of the most well-known birds in the world, and also almost universally adored. Who can say no to a massive, charismatic, white owl? Over the past few winters, much of North America has been graced by these ghostly owls, especially during the winter of 2013-2014. In that season, thousands of Snowy Owls irrupted further south than normal, particularly in the eastern United States. Snowies were seen as far south as Florida (!), and a single bird even made it to Bermuda (!!). In Newfoundland, people were seeing hundreds of owls in a single birding outing, like this checklist with 138 individuals, and 55 from one viewpoint. Wow! We’re already seeing signs of another Snowy Owl invasion this fall, with early reports of birds far exceeding what was seen by this time in 2013. Will the numbers continue to grow throughout the winter? Only time will tell.

Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas Year 1

Kirtland’s Warbler. Photo by Nick Anich.

The inaugural year of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II is complete—marking the first year that a breeding bird atlas has had the data collection process run entirely through eBird. Wisconsin Atlasers submitted more than 24,000 checklists documenting the location and breeding activity of more than 1.7 million individuals of 229 species. It’s been a great first season! You can explore some of the results on the official Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II eBird portal, where you can view species maps with breeding evidence, or see summaries of the effort across the state, a county, or a single atlas block. To learn more about the summary of the first year, provided by the WI Atlas team, read on!

eBird learning: new study quantifies eBirder variability and individual improvement

Ovenbird—a difficult species to detect when it isn't singing

The 272 million records in eBird come from more than 200,000 different individual birders. Each of us has a different birding style, different eBirding habits, different bird identification strengths by sight and sound, and a different focus when in the field (some of us are always looking up for raptors, while others watch for sparrows underfoot.) Some sources of variation in detection—from variation in effort, habitat, date, and time of day—are already accounted for in our analyses. However, until now our analyses have not accounted for one of the greatest sources of variation: the birder. We recently devised a metric for quantifying differences among birders, and a newly-published paper describes the use of the method, as well as showing that with more time spent birding, as measured by the number of eBird checklists a birder enters, the more proficient they become. The paper, “Can Observation Skills of Citizen Scientists Be Estimated Using Species Accumulation Curves”, is published in PLoS ONE and available to everyone (Kelling et al. 2015).