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Birding in the 21st Century.

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Fox Sparrows – one of the Northwest’s more confusing species

Sooty Fox Sparrow from Humboldt Co., CA 25 Sep 2012.  An example of a more reddish and gray faced Sooty.

Four groups of Fox Sparrows occur in our region; few other parts of the country can claim that distinction. Three breed in the region and one is a scarce winter visitant. Each group has a very distinct natural history and is usually identifiable in the field. eBirders should make an effort to record them separately, and thereby contribute measurably to our knowledge of them. As long as observers are aware that all of them present field identification challenges of varying degrees and exercise some caution in field identification, eBird data should provide useful insights into the fine points of their distribution and changes over time.

eBird Mobile 1.3: breeding and behavior codes

Common Potoo—NY breeding code. Photo by Jose Luis Navarro/Macaulay Library

A new version of eBird Mobile (1.3) has just been released that lets you note breeding and behavior codes in your mobile checklists—available for free on both iOS and Android. This lets you track breeding bird activity more easily than ever before, and also lets you log flyover codes—which could win you a pair of binoculars this month! If you’ve never tried eBird Mobile, there has never been a better time to get started. More than 110,000 eBirders have used eBird Mobile so far, replacing the field notebook as the easiest and most accurate way to record your bird sightings in the field. Learn how to get started with eBird Mobile. This latest version also provides the technical foundation that will allow us to build in automatic tracking of distance within the app, sharing of checklists, and many other features that we want and plan to build into eBird Mobile. Every step is bringing us closer to having the full eBird website on your mobile device!

Want a free birding trip to Trinidad & Tobago?

Purple Gallinule by Jerome Foster/Macaulay Library.

You’re in North America, it’s early 2017, and winter is everywhere. Bird song is nothing but a distant memory, and you yearn for warmth. Wouldn’t you rather be in Trinidad and Tobago? If you eBird, you could be—for free! We’re very happy to announce an exciting opportunity for a lucky eBirder and friend: two nights at the Asa Wright Nature Centre; complimentary roundtrip airfares for 2 people on JetBlue from either JFK (New York) or Fort Lauderdale, FL; and guided tours on the ground in Trinidad and Tobago. Thanks to the Asa Wright Nature Centre, JetBlue, and the Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Board for their generous sponsorship. A lucky eBirder will be drawn randomly from among all eligible checklists submitted between Sept 15-Oct 31 2016. More lists, more chances to win. The winner will be notified by November 10.

Explore and share your birding with eBird Profile Pages!

eBird Profile Featured Image

320,000 eBirders and growing… You’ve looked through eBird checklists and seen their names: kindred birding spirits whose sightings you may have glimpsed only once, or followed regularly over months and years. Now, you can find out who the people are behind these names by exploring eBird’s new Profile Pages! Whether you’re a backyard birder or a globe-trotting world lister, eBird Profile Pages allow you to share your birding story with friends and the entire eBird community. This first version of your public eBird dashboard focuses on showcasing your eBird/Macaulay Library activity with tools that visualize all your sightings and highlight your recent media contributions—all updated with each new eBird contribution. We hope these Profile Pages provide a fun new way to visualize the contributions you’ve made to eBird and the Macaulay Library, inspire you to ‘fill in the gaps’ in your profile maps, and allow you to get to know other eBirders by exploring their Profile Pages. Enjoy meeting the global eBird community, and set up your eBird Profile Page today!

September eBirder of the Month Challenge

Osprey by Geoffrey Groom/Macaulay Library

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, will keep your binoculars pointed towards the sky. As the seasons turn over in September, the movement of birds begins perhaps the best part of a birder’s year: migration. Whether you’re north of the equator for fall, or enjoying an austral spring, things are happening! Migratory restlessness may result in local movements of 10s of kilometers, or something as drastic as undertaking herculean journeys that take shorebirds from the Arctic to the edge of the southern continents. The most amazing part of all of this is that you can witness it, wherever you are. The eBirder of the month will be drawn from eBirders who submit 15 or more eligible checklists in September containing at least one “Flyover” code. Checklists must be for observations during this month; not historical checklists entered during September. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.

Celebrating the National Parks Centennial

Crater Lake National Park

100 years ago today President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Parks Service Organic Act creating the new agency and mandating “… it conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

The Scrub-Jay world just became more complicated, and interesting

Photo (c) Jim Livaudais 2016

In July 2016, the AOU Checklist Committee announced their decision (Retter 2016) to recognize two species of Scrub-Jay: Woodhouse’s (Aphelocoma woodhouseii) and California (Aphelocoma californica). Birders and ornithologists have long recognized the distinctions between these two species taxa. While this historical knowledge provides some useful guidance in separating the two, it has also given rise to some misconceptions. The two species differ in geographic range, have differing population traits, and are somewhat difference in appearance.

Celebrate the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial

Swainson's Thrush (c) Jim Livaudais 2016

Today, August 16th 2016, marks a historic day for migratory birds. On this day, 100 year ago, the United States and Great Britain (on behalf of Canada) signed the Protection of Migratory Birds—also called the Migratory Bird Treaty. The Migratory Bird Treaty represents the first international commitment to protect and conserve the migratory birds that we share with our international partners. This and three others that followed—with Mexico (1936), Japan (1972), and Russia (then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; 1976) —form the cornerstone of our efforts to conserve birds that migrate across international borders. The implementing legislation for the treaties in the United States, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), prohibits the take, possession, importation or exportation, transport, sale, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the strict terms of a valid permit. The bird species protected by the Act include nearly all species native to the signatory nations and their territories.

Taxonomy Update for 2016

Lesser Violetear from Costa Rica. This species is somewhat smaller, has more emerald green feathering, and typically lacks the blue chin and blue central breast of Mexican Violetear, although some (like this bird) can show hints of blue in those areas. Photo Brian Sullivan/Macaulay Library.

The eBird taxonomy update is essentially COMPLETE. All major changes have occurred, and we have only a small number of minor changes yet to make. This may affect the lists of a very small number of users as we implement these over the next few days. We do this update once each year, taking into account the past 12 months of recent taxonomic knowledge on splits, lumps, name changes, and changes in the sequence of the species lists. As of this point, all eBird data will be reflecting the new taxonomy. This includes your My eBird lists, range maps, bar charts, region and hotspot lists, and data entry. eBird Mobile should also be updated to the new taxonomy. If you see unfamiliar bird names in the list, please refer to the story below to understand the change and why it happened. In addition, we list a number of new options for data entry (hybrids, spuhs, slashes, etc.), all of which are listed below.

eBird NW Summer 2016 Bird of the Season: Elegant Tern Sighting 6-26-16 North Potholes Reserve (eBird Checklist S30404849)

Elegant Terns at North Potholes Reserve, Grant County, Washington on 26 June 2016.  Photo by Cara Borre.

I was joined by Asta Tobiassen and our friend Nick Hamill for a day of birding on Sunday June 26, 2016. Our goal was to continue introducing Nick to new birding sites he could visit from his cabin in Cle Elum. That morning we decided it was time for Nick to experience Potholes.

We arrived to the north access location by late morning and stayed for a few hours birding in the hot sun. Nick and Asta are photographers, so it is not uncommon that I wander off from them as my primary focus is finding birds, not necessarily photographing them. As I scanned the water with my scope to the north of Road C NE, I found the typical water birds one would expect including American Coot, Pied-billed, Western and Clark’s Grebe and a few species of duck. I heard and saw a Caspian Tern fly over me, and decided to focus on terns that were roosting on downed foliage about 100-175 yards out into the water.