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Pelagic birding in eBird

Black-capped Petrel in the Gulf Stream off Hatteras, NC, May. Photograph by Brian Sullivan.

Ahoy mateys! Have you ever wondered how to enter your checklists from pelagic trips? Will you be going on a pelagic trip this summer that you plan to enter in eBird? Birding at sea has some challenges that are different from birding on land, but many of the fundamental issues are the same. Birds still have their favorite habitats. Because of this, plotting your location accurately and precisely remains really important. But with the boat constantly moving, this creates some challenges. All of us at Team eBird enjoy pelagic birding more than just about anything, and it remains of of the great frontiers for discovery. To that end, eBird has a new eBird Pelagic Protocol that we hope users will follow on offshore trips. We also have a set of recommendations for how best to log you pelagic birding.

Robert Sams, March 2014 eBirder of the Month

Robert Sams enjoying a stunning Yellow-throated Warbler just back from its wintering grounds.

We are thrilled to congratulate Robert Sams, of Findlay, Ohio, as the winner of the March eBirder of the Month Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic. Robert submitted a checklists from exactly 20 hotspots this month, including checklists from his home state of Ohio as well (here’s a nice example) as from hotspots he visited while traveling in San Francisco, California, and points north (such as this one). Robert will receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular and a selection of books from Princeton University Press. As with all the winner thus far, his name was drawn randomly from among participants that met this month’s challenge. And as with the two winners before him, we were very impressed with how Robert has made eBird a part of his life and how he is using it in the best possible way, submitting complete, effort-based checklists regularly, being conservative in his reporting, and providing documentary notes for species that are flagged for confirmation.

New Big Day route for Team Sapsucker

Almost no matter where we do our Big Day, Wilson's Snipe is a challenge. It will be a challenge this year too!

The annual Big Day fundraiser is hugely important to eBird and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For the past three years Team Sapsucker has visited Texas to chase the North American Big Day record. We were thrilled to break (and then tie) the record with 264 species in each of the first two years and a mind-blowing 294 in 2014, on a perfect run in a perfect year. We honestly don’t believe we can do any better in Texas, so instead we decided to focus this year’s Big Day on the one other area we think might give Texas a run-for-its-money. Most Big Days in North America make one assumption that we plan to challenge this year–see if you can figure out what it is! As far as we know, this one constraint has limited almost all Big Days before, but by breaking free we’ll be trying the one other route in the United States that might offer a chance at 300 species in a day. Finding that many species would require another perfect combination of conditions–intense scouting, good weather, luck with traffic, and lots of help from friends. Can you guess where we’ll be attempting to reach 300 this year?

A New “eBird Festival” Elevates Bird Conservation in the Pacific Northwest


Birding festivals are growing in popularity across the world, and increasingly these community events are becoming “eBird Festivals.” eBird festivals use eBird to track the many birds seen on the field trips offered during these events celebrating birds and birding. eBird Festivals also provide outreach, promoting the use of eBird by helping festival attendees set up their own eBird accounts and by providing information about the powerful data entry and exploration tools offered by eBird. By integrating eBird within festival activities these eBird Festivals are building on a significant opportunity for the birding community to contribute to the science that drives conservation worldwide.

Migration watch–The April Zeiss eBirder of the Month challenge

Migrating Swainson's Hawk, California. Photograph by Brian Sullivan.

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic, focuses on migration birding. April is an amazing month for migration around the world. Right now, our team from eBird is in the midst of one of the world’s most amazing bird migration spectacles in Israel, competing with the world’s best birders to raise conservation dollars in the Champions of the Flyway competition. While migration is most visible at these great concentration points, many birds move in a broad front across the continent during April, and birders everywhere can do a great job of capturing this by entering their data into eBird. The idea behind this competition is to look for signs on visible migration at your favorite birding sites by conducting stationary counts of at least 1 hour duration, and recording all high flying migrants as ‘fly-overs’ on each checklist you submit. Any eBirder who submits at least one 1-hr stationary count will be entered into this competition. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month. Read on to find out more.

Cornell Lab eBirders head to Israel for Champions of the Flyway


Champions of the Flyway is a major new international bird race taking place in Eilat, Israel – one of the world’s most spectacular migration hot spots and rewarding birding destinations. Competing teams from around the world will try to find, identify and log as many species as possible – as they go head to head in an intense 24 hour contest to win the coveted title “Champions of the Flyway”. While the race will be fun, the goal is serious – to raise conservation funding that will help BirdLife International tackle the illegal killing of birds in Southern and Eastern Europe. We are pleased to be attending to  highlight the challenges that migratory birds face in southern and eastern Europe and help develop the international eBird community. Our team consists of eBird Project Leaders Chris Wood and Marshall Iliff, and Merlin Project Leader, Jessie Barry. Unfortunately, we just learned that our fourth team member, Kerem Boyla, will not be able to join due to a strike at the Israeli embassy.

Introducing the eBird Location Explorer!


eBird’s new Location Explorer is designed to be a “dashboard” overview for a region, quickly summarizing the information birders find most useful at the regional level (e.g., country, state, or county). You can keep track of recent birding activity, such as what’s happening at your favorite locations, who’s been birding lately, and explore recent checklist submissions. You can help plan your birding trips by discovering the best places to find birds in a region. You can compare your stats with those of other eBirders in a region, and see how your county, state, or country ranks compared to others. We encourage you to explore the world using eBird’s new Location Explorer!

Jan Meerman, February 2014 eBirder of the Month

With new to science plant species that is now named "Zamia meermanii"

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:

Sagebrush and Bell’s Sparrows


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.

March eBirder of the Month Challenge

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 4.46.44 PM

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.