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Kalle Rainio, April eBirder of the Month

Please join us in congratulating Kalle Rainio of Littoinen, Finland, winner of the April 2017 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Our April winner was drawn from eBirders who submitted 15 eligible checklists using eBird Mobile in April. Kalle’s name was drawn randomly from the 5,382 eligible eBirders that achieved the April challenge threshold. Kalle will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for his eBirding efforts. Don’t forget, eBirding on 13 May for Global Big Day could win you binoculars for your participation! Read more to see Kalle’s fantastic story.

I am excited to have won the April eBirder of the Month Challenge! I thank eBird and Zeiss for these thrilling monthly challenges, which I have now participated since September 2016. I was extra lucky with this win, since I actually have been planning to replace my old Leitz Trinovid binoculars, which I have used for 28 years, with new ones!  I must also thank our dog Remu for this win, since most of my April eligible checklists are from our morning walks!

eBird’s monthly challenges, I think, are an efficient way of exploring the possibilities of different electronic platforms, and modify the way people use for example mobile devices when participating in citizen science projects. I have found the eBird Mobile application easy and fast to use, entering the morning dog walk data while enjoying a cup of coffee.

My eBirding started last May, when I participated in the Global Big Day. A couple of months later I noticed the eBirder of the Month Challenges, and decided to enter more observations. Another motivation was that there are so few Finnish eBird users, that the explore tools may not give a complete picture of what can be seen in my main birding area, Southwest Finland, to foreign visitors relying on eBird data in planning their birding activities. So, I decided to contribute by the way we all can, entering data. In my case, that has meant for the last half a year or so, mainly morning dog walks around our house. I am lucky to have a patch of quite old forest nearby, squeezed between new houses and fields, so the habitats are quite diverse.

Gray-headed Swamphen by Kalle Rainio/Macaulay Library

I was 9 when I started birding in December 1981 – then I wrote down my first observations. The first years were still quite slow, and I tried also other hobbies, like collecting plants and beetles, but birding took hold when I got friends of the same age to go birding with. They also got me to join the local birding club, and by birding trips organized by them, I got more and more into birding. The final nail to the coffin was a visit to Jurmo bird observatory in May 1988 – I was hooked!  Bird observatories are my favorite birding sites, as there you can start birding as you step out of the door! At remote island observatories the feel of migration somehow materializes as passerines, exhausted from the crossing of the Baltic Sea, hop around you, giving wonderful views.  I started bird ringing in 1997, and have ringed mostly passerines at bird observatories, constant effort ringing sites as well as nestlings. Birding has taken me also abroad to other European countries, Brazil, New York, Tanzania, Thailand and India.

To me, bird migration has always been the main interest in birding. That together with my general interest to biology led to biology studies in the University of Turku, and I wrote my PhD thesis on climate change effects on migration timing. In my thesis, I used data collected by citizen science projects, thus I fully acknowledge the importance of web-based portals, which collect data on the occurrence and numbers of organisms. eBird has a very prominent role in collecting bird data globally, and I hope that its global coverage will further increase in the future. Because well-organized data, new and historical, is what we need to understand and predict the effects of global change to our winged friends, and ultimately, to protect them!

Razorbill by Kalle Rainio/Macaulay Library

[Team eBird note: don’t forget that taking part in Global Big Day on this Saturday, 13 May, could win you Zeiss binoculars!]