News & Features

Announcing the Winner of the Macaulay Library Direct Media Challenge

Last year, the Young Birders Network challenged young birders to use eBird beyond simply reporting numbers to provide even more valuable data for citizen science. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, the winner whose checklist was randomly drawn from all eligible Young Birders Network Portal checklists with photos or audio uploaded with the Macaulay Library Direct Upload tool will receive a new pair of Zeiss binoculars. We’re excited to announce the winner of the challenge today! Read on for more.

Congratulations to Marie Chappell, the winner of the challenge! I was consistently impressed with how she illustrated almost all of the species on her checklists with beautiful images, creating a wonderful record of her birding outings that also captures unique information about the birds she photographed. We asked Marie to describe her experiences with eBird and participating in the challenge.

For most teens, the smartphone is primarily a gateway into the world of social drama and intrigue. For me, it is, in essence, an eBird checklist reporting device.

Ever since I began birding at age thirteen, the pursuit of avian fauna has been my life, and throughout that time eBird has been the most important and powerful tool for shaping and building that passion. Yes, I’ll admit that I own both editions of The Sibley Guide to Birds (and at least four other North American field guides) and have read them numerous times, and that I listen to bird recordings while I’m doing schoolwork, and that I am very involved in my local Audubon and young birders groups. But it is eBird, with its user-friendly interface, its alluring fill-in-the-gaps challenges, and—most importantly—its vitality to bird conservation as a whole, that keeps me going at my current frantic pace.

eBird is the perfect combination of science and fun. Or, more accurately, it’s fun science! Consider, for example, the following screenshot:

These bar charts are derived from the 1,248 complete checklists that I have submitted from my home and neighborhood thus far (you can view one of my favorite ones here: https://ebird.org/ebird/ybn/view/checklist?subID=S32298654). The charts provide interesting and useful information, such as: Common Yellowthroats, although found year-round in my county, only migrate through my neighborhood (something that is probably habitat-related); Cedar Waxwings stay much longer than American Robins (I wonder why?); and Brown Thrashers, although year-round residents, are apparently nomadic (and are much less common than their cousin the Northern Mockingbird). And, of course, I can feel proud that my efforts have produced these charts in the first place. From the conservation viewpoint, this is only one way in which eBird transforms raw data into something that ornithologists can study and analyze.

Tufted Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee. Matterhorn Road,  FL. May 22, 2016. All photos by Marie Chappell.

Away from home, eBird is ideal for planning birding adventures. At the beginning of the YBN challenge, I decided to spend my spring break on a birding trip through central and south Florida. Naturally, I went to eBird to search for the best hotspots—resulting in a number of exciting bird sightings (see this checklist and this one, for example), several drainage ditches, a baby crocodile, and an interesting observation of the Everglades snake-car-crow relationship (illustrated in this checklist).

Juvenile Sandhill Cranes. Orlando Wetlands Park, FL. March 23, 2016.

Sanderlings. Little Talbot Island SP, FL. November 25, 2016.

I thoroughly enjoy browsing eBird’s bounty of information, whether it be the Sora’s range map, photos submitted from China, or Lizzy Kibbey’s eBird Profile Page. I am equally thankful for the Young Birders Network articles on colleges and other helpful hints. I hope that those young birders who like myself are endeavoring to pursue the ornithological path will take time to read all the incredible information Sarah Toner and her team have put up (thanks a ton, Sarah!).

While I am on that note, I encourage all eligible young birders to apply for the 2017 Cornell Lab Young Birders Event. Last year I attended the Event, and the presentations, places, birds, and everything else made it one of the most memorable weekends of my life. And, of course, Chris, Jessie, and the entire eBird staff are all amazing people.

Thanks, eBird staff, for everything you do—we all really appreciate it! Thank you, Zeiss, for sponsoring this challenge!

Keep looking up!

Royal Terns. Huguenot Memorial Park, FL. August 9, 2016.

-Sarah Toner