News & Features

September eBirder of the Month Challenge

A Common Buzzard (Steppe) migrating through Kuwait. Photo by Omar Alshaheen/Macaulay Library

So appropriate for Pennsylvania, eBird is emphasizing birds observed flying over.  As home to the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and many of the world’s best hawk watch sites, this is a code frequently used in Pennsylvania and could be used even more often by birders viewing the wonderful marvel of autumn migration.  For instance, the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology visits the Waggoner’s Gap hawk watch as part of the annual meeting at Carlisle.  Hawk watchers are not the only place to enjoy “flyovers.”  Even at home, an occasional Sandhill Crane or flock of Ring-billed Gulls could be a highlight of the day’s birding.

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, will keep your eyes and ears trained upwards. 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 enjoying a northern autumn or an austral spring, things are happening! Migratory restlessness may result in local movements of 10s of kilometers, or 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.

Sometimes it might feel like you need to have access to one of the great “migrant traps” of the world to witness migration in action: Tadoussac, QuebecEilat, Israel; Veracruz, MexicoDongyin, Taiwan; Whitefish Point, Michgan; or any of the many other peninsulas and avian focusing points in the world. Don’t worry, that isn’t true: migration is everywhere! While active migration may often be most visible at these great concentration points, many species move in broad fronts across every continent, and birders anywhere can do a great job of documenting this amazing annual cycle this by entering your data into eBird. This month we encourage you to look for signs of visible migration at your favorite birding sites by recording all high flying birds as ‘Flyovers’ on each checklist you submit. These could be anything from songbirds flying over and not using the habitat, or raptors soaring overhead en route to parts unknown.  Not all flyovers are migrants, but any bird that is passing overhead, not using the habitat that you’re standing in, should be marked as a Flyover. Learn more about the Flyover code here.

Shorebirds are on the move worldwide in September, and paying attention overhead early in the morning can often turn up an unusual species far from habitat that you’d expect. Black-tailed Godwits by Christoph Moning/Macaulay Library.

During the course of your eBirding this month, many of the birds you see and hear will be local residents, and you can record these on your checklists as you normally would. However, you’ll also likely detect some high-flying birds, perhaps swallows, raptors, or waterfowl. You should record these birds as ‘flyovers’ using the “F-Flyover” breeding code that is available if you click the “Show details” button next to the species in the checklist entry process, and then use the drop down list for “Breeding Codes.” Recording your flyover birds in this way helps analysts determine which birds are actually using the habitat you’re standing in, versus just flying over on migration or other local movements. Best of luck, and enjoy the magic of migration wherever you may be!

Each month we will feature a new eBird challenge and set of selection criteria. The monthly winners will each receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular.

Sandhill Crane in flight by Jake Dingel. Note the extended neck.

Carl Zeiss Sports Optics is a proven leader in sports optics and is the official optics sponsor for eBird. “Carl Zeiss feels strongly that by partnering with the Cornell Lab we can provide meaningful support for their ability to carry out their research, conservation, and education work around the world,” says Mike Jensen,  President of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, North America. “The Cornell Lab is making a difference for birds, and from the highest levels of our company we’re committed to promoting birding and the Lab’s work, so there’s a great collaboration. eBird is a truly unique and synergistic portal between the Lab and birders, and we welcome the opportunity to support them both.”

Find out more:

eBirder of the Month

Yellow-headed Blackbirds are moving around in September, and it’s a great month to try to find one in eastern North America. Photo by Matt Davis/Macaulay Library.