February 13-16 (Friday through Monday) is the 18th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). To participate, just 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 and was instrumental in the creation of eBird back in 2002. For 2015, we really want the GBBC weekend to focus on sharing your knowledge with others. Do you have a friend or family member who has always wanted to go birding with you? Someone you should teach to use eBird? Someone you think you could turn on to birds and share your sense of wonder with? Make the GBBC the weekend where you pick up the phone and invite him or her along.
Below are some thoughts about this weekend, what it is becoming, and how to get involved.
Take someone birding
Here at eBird and at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we fundamentally believe that birds can save the world. A love of birds connects humanity with the natural world in a way that is all too hard to find in modern society. Even for city-dwellers, parks and green spaces hold birds that remind us about the natural world and keep us connected to it. Migratory birds link the continents and their movements flow across borders in ways that highlight how interconnected the world is. Only by connecting with the natural world, understanding that our actions here may have implications half a world away, and caring about the outcomes, will humanity become better stewards of our planet.
Everyone who enters records in eBird and has become a part of the eBird Enterprise on any level had a moment or person who inspired them to take an interest in birds. The GBBC weekend provides that moment and you can be that person for someone new. If we each got one new person involved with birdwatching each year, the ranks of bird lovers and nature lovers in the world would grow exponentially.
Join the global team!
Team eBird thinks of the GBBC as the Great Global Bird Count. Now in its third year as a global effort, let’s see what a global team of birders can do. eBird is now a massive effort to document bird populations around the world over time, but GBBC represents a chance to take a global 4-day snapshot. Everyone who submits a checklist this weekend will be part of the global effort.
- How many birds can we find? There are 10,404 species in the world and eBird has recorded almost 98% of them (read more). The 2013 GBBC recorded 4258 species (41.2%) and in 2014 tallied 4296 (41.6%). Can eBirders and GBBC participants team up in 2015 to find 5202 species—50% of the world’s species in one long weekend?
- How many checklists will be submitted? Within eBird and the GBBC, the most important measure of success is the checklist. Each checklist represents a snapshot in time and space, and each is valuable. The 2013 effort collected 137,998 checklists in a single weekend. That grew to 144,109 in 2014. How many will we collect this year?
- How many countries will collect data? eBird has data from every country in the world, but many countries have only a few submissions. But we know birdwatchers are birding in every part of the world every day. In 2013 the GBBC recorded data from 110 countries and territories. That grew to 135 in 2014. How many countries will contribute this year?
- New and thriving eBird communities have continued to emerge this year. Log in to the GBBC site and open the location explorer on GBBC weekend to type in the Philippines, Malaysia, Kuwait, Portugal, Honduras, Guadeloupe, Argentina, Australia, Sri Lanka, or India.
- How will your area fare? eBird has powerful new ways to explore location-based information. Just go to Explore Data and click the new “Explore Location” feature. Check out the stats for your country, state, province, or county, and drill down deeper to explore an individual park, refuge, preserve, or other hotspot. Rally your friends to make the best showing you can in the area you live!
Get your friends involved!
Do improve on last year’s results, we really need is to get more people involved. Do you have a birding friend in another country? Get in touch, and ask her or him to join the Great (Global) Backyard Bird Count, and see if they can add a unique country or find a unique species. Perhaps you’ve gone on a birding trip internationally. This is a great excuse to get in touch with your guide and encourage him or her to take part. This is a great way to introduce your friends to eBird and hopefully get them hooked!
How to follow the GBBC stats this weekend
In order to see how well our global team is doing this weekend, we invite you to check out the GBBC home page. Although tailored for the GBBC, this page has most of the same functionality as eBird. You can submit data here or in your favorite eBird portal—it all goes to the same place. Your My eBird stats will be the same here as they would be anywhere in eBird. The key difference is the Explore Data page. The output here is tailored for the GBBC, so you can see the following:
- Location pages for GBBC 2015 – This is the most exciting new feature. Enter any location and see the species list, birding activity, recent visits and other information restricted to the count period. Be sure to use eBird to explore this for other periods as well!
- Hotspot pages for GBBC 2015 – Access hotspot pages from your county or state page. Scroll down the right side to see the list of Top Hotspots and then click the “More hotspots…” link at the bottom. This list can be sorted by most activity or least activity, depending on if you want to find top spots or places where your observations are most needed. Click any hotspot name to see the Hotspot page and that site’s activity during the 2015 GBBC. Make sure your favorite spots have a good showing this coming weekend!
- Range Maps for GBBC 2015 – See where and how often each species is found around the world. Zoom in and click on the points to see individual records.
- Top 100 for GBBC 2015 – Check out the region-by-region contributions of individuals in terms of both number of checklists and number of species reported.
- Yard/Patch for GBBC 2015 – If you have registered a yard or patch, you can track your stats and compare to others for the GBBC weekend only.
Any one of these outputs can be posted as a link. Drum up support in your local birding community by posting these statistics on your blog, Facebook page, listserv, or your favorite social media of choice. If you want to compare results, we encourage you to use ebird.org to explore February 2014 patterns and compare them to February 2015 patterns. Try this for eBird range maps for any species. For example, Snowy Owl in February 2014 and February 2015; both maps include GBBC data. Common Redpoll is another one with stark differences between February 2014 and February 2015. Use this same method to explore other species of interest during this year’s count. Here are some other interesting stats from 2014 to measure against this year’s event: http://gbbc.birdcount.org/news/top-10-lists/.
And make sure to check in with the eBird Live Submissions Map this weekend. This is awesome enough now, but we know it will really get hot this weekend. The hottest times to watch this map are likely to be 4-9pm (Eastern Standard Time or GMT -5) on Sunday and Monday; our best hour is usually 5pm (EST) on Sunday night when a 3000+ checklists are usually submitted. Please enjoy this year’s GBBC and thanks for your role on the global eBird team!
Sandhill Cranes by by Georgia Wilson, Florida, the 2014 photo contest winner. Watch for the first migrating Sandhill Cranes to move north in the Great Plains of the United States during the GBBC.