Please join us in congratulating Maggie Smith of Arroyo Grande, California, winner of the September 2014 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic. Maggie’s name was drawn randomly from the 726 people who submitted at least twenty checklists from their patch during September. Maggie will receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular and a selection of books from Princeton University Press. We asked Maggie to tell us a little more about her patch birding below.
My name is Maggie Smith and I’m an avid field birder who lives in Arroyo Grande CA in San Luis Obispo County. Birding started for me at age 62 without knowing any birders or even having a field guide. The Red-shouldered Hawk with its strident call was the first bird I wanted to name and know more about. Then I discovered Oso Flaco Lake, got a field guide and some very inexpensive binoculars. I birded Oso Flaco daily for about 4 months keeping my list of birds on an excel spreadsheet.
Luckily I was introduced to eBird after 2 years and it changed my birding life. Not only was I was able to input all my birds from my personal records and agree my life list to my eBird list, I was able to find new birding spots and study the status and distribution of birds in my area. When I traveled, the use of Hot Spots was invaluable. Most importantly I felt and continue to feel a deep satisfaction from contributing to the data that eBird collects and uses. Each eBird contributor has an important role to play. Together we’re amazing.
Patch birding is just one of the innovations and improvements eBird continues to make but it really appealed to me. After combining my private locations and the Hot Spots I often bird as a morning route, I was able to get the big picture of the number of species I’d seen.
I love getting very familiar with an area; knowing where the Wrentits live, listening for the songs of arriving western migrants in the Spring and tracking all the breeding activity. This close knowledge of my patch has enriched my birding skills. I bird all over the county, but my patch is special. The big bonus is now after ten years of birding daily, I have my own rich data base where I can look back and find when and where I’ve seen any species. The benefits of eBirding are extensive; when you create a patch, the benefits are intensified.
If you haven’t tried patch birding, give it a go.
Thank you to Zeiss and Princeton University Press for offering such awesome prizes and to the eBird staff for their sponsorship of these challenges.