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Chris McCreedy, March eBirder of the Month

Chris banding a Yellow Warbler at Rush Creek in California. Photo by Don Kelsen.

Please join us in congratulating Chris McCreedy of Tucson, Arizona, winner of the March 2017 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Our March winner was drawn from eBirders who submitted eligible eBird checklists containing photos or audio recordings in March. Chris’s name was drawn randomly from the 24,489 eligible checklists that achieved the March challenge threshold. Chris will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for his eBirding efforts. We asked Chris to tell us a little more about himself, his use of eBird, and his love of birds – read on for more.

It is a thrill to have a checklist selected for the monthly competition. Kudos and thank you to Zeiss for sponsoring this challenge and to eBird for keeping the challenges relevant and interesting.

Also kudos to eBird for building such useful and easy-to-use multimedia platforms that enrich our checklists. It is great for data and fun – I recorded my FOY Common Poorwill at the Proctor Road campground in Madera Canyon, Arizona, for the lucky winning checklist. Uploading the recording was a matter of 1) me waking up in the middle of the night and hearing a poorwill, 2) fumbling around in my tent for my phone, 3) recording the poorwill on an app, 4) re-recording the poorwill because my wife was snoring, 5) emailing the recording to myself, and 6) uploading it onto my checklist – and I did it all without getting out of my sleeping bag.

I first got into birding in 1998. I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in forest ecology and botany, but I passed up a job studying trees in Michigan for a chance to go out West for the first time. Once there I worked on a Bell’s Vireo project on the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico, my first introduction to the desert and its conservation issues. This section of the Gila River had only recently been taken out of grazing, and today is remains under threat of proposed water diversion projects.

Cooper’s Hawk by Chris McCreedy/Macaulay Library

Back then, I only knew Bell’s Vireos, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Peregrine Falcons. I had a cheap pair of binoculars I had owned since I was eight, but I hated them and I never used them. Though I found many nests, I didn’t even really see my first Bell’s Vireo until 2001 (new binoculars) – luckily, Bell’s Vireos are very vocal and you can get good at finding their nests without bins. Later that fall I worked at the American Museum of Natural History’s Southwestern Research Station in the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona. Plants were still my thing and not birds; one of my jobs was to fill the hummingbird feeders and it blew my mind why visitors would ever want to sit around for hours staring at the feeders. Now I do it all of the time.

Nonetheless I loved finding bird nests, and the next year I was lucky enough to score an internship with the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now Point Blue Conservation Science) in the eastern Sierra Nevada, as a nest searcher. I worked in Inyo and Mono Counties for many years for PRBO, eventually leading a 10-year Willow and Dusky Flycatcher demographic study at Mono Lake (photo). I met the most dedicated, passionate, and intelligent scientists at PRBO while I worked on their projects throughout California, Arizona, and Antarctica. I never stopped loving the desert and, eventually, PRBO made me their desert ecologist, which gave me the freedom to lead projects in the Great Basin, Mojave, and Sonoran Deserts.

Rufous-capped Warbler by Chris McCreedy/Macaulay Library

I found my way back to Arizona in 2008, where I studied with Dr. Charles van Riper III at the University of Arizona and continued to work with Point Blue. At U of A, my lab mate Michael Lester introduced me to eBird, sealing my fate to sink thousands of hours of my life into this remarkable citizen science effort.

Today I live in Tucson. I love living and birding in Arizona. The desert is endlessly beautiful and I always feel like I might see any species at any time. I review eBird records for Mono County, California, and Yuma County, Arizona—two of my favorite places. I am now a research associate at Point Blue and over the winter I worked on a multi-state Bendire’s and Le Conte’s Thrasher monitoring project and on building a desert citizen science program using something Cornell has designed called Avicaching. I’m also trying to find time to complete a manuscript on wintering Bell’s and Sagebrush Sparrows.

Curve-billed Thrasher by Chris McCreedy/Macaulay Library