Please join us in congratulating Michiel Oversteegen of Oranjestad, Aruba, winner of the worldwide August 2016 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Our August winner was drawn from among eligible checklists that contained 3+ images or 1+ audio files. Michiel’s name was drawn randomly from the 3,383 eBirders who achieved the August challenge threshold, submitting a total of 17,335 eligible checklists. Michiel will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for his eBirding efforts. We asked Michiel to tell us a little more about himself, his use of eBird, and his love of birds – read on for more. He titles his post “eBirding in paradise”—we can’t help but agree!
Aruba is known for its beautiful powder fine white beaches, calm clear water, beautiful sunny weather (almost) every day and spectacular sunsets. The perfect ingredients for what is Aruba’s main economic source: tourism. Consequently the image many people have of Aruba—either if they visited Aruba or not—are the blue waters, the luxurious shopping centers, fine restaurants and swinging nightlife. This was exactly the same image I had when I moved from the Netherlands to Aruba in the mid 90s.
However, shortly after my arrival I discovered Aruba is more than this; one of its relatively unknown features is its diversity in wildlife both on land and in the water, magnificent fauna, stunning landscapes, and peerless moonrises. Around 2012, inspired by others, I started to take pictures of those moments that most of us do not get to see when in Aruba. No images of the beaches, the malls, the casinos, but photos taken in the middle of nature. For me—and all of us eBirders—the birds carry a special place in the heart. By far most of my time spent outside, is with observing and photographing the birds…
During the past years birding became more than a hobby…now it’s closer to an obsession or addiction. Sometimes I even think it is a disease, since I infected my youngest son too. He is as enthusiastic as I am and he joins me whenever he can. Together we volunteer for Aruba Birdlife Conservation, a very active foundation which is currently fighting for the protection of sensitive nature areas against construction and further development.
Last month my son is spotted a unfamiliar nighthawk/jar. The experts are still trying to determine the exact species, but we already know it is a first recording in Aruba. This would be the 255th species on the Aruba list. When you have a first time observation it feels special, but even more special when you are only 12 years young. The experts keep it exciting for him. We will be very, very happy with the Zeiss binoculars, the nighthawks/jars are masters of camouflage and with these excellent optics, we might have new some discoveries in the near future.
These are few of our checklists, all during August. Just imagine the fun we had.
The fall migration is in full swing. We have hundreds if not thousands of swallows in the air. The small and larger shorebirds are coming from north, but we even have visitors from the South America. This is that period of the year when it is more fun to summarize your observations and crawl behind the computer to submit your checklists on eBird…all this while the photos are being uploaded from the memory cards. With the continuous database increase, software improvements and perfect support from the volunteers and staff, the use of eBird has become enjoyable. It takes little effort, and great results. Only when the birders fill the databases, the scientist can do their job. We do it for us and—more importantly—for the future generations…like my son.
Each month eBird holds a global eBirding contest centered on a particular theme, with a prize of new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for the winner. eBirders from all regions, including the Caribbean, may participate in the challenge. Instructions for each month’s challenge and stories about the winners are posted on the on the main eBird site here. For more information about the eBirder of the Month challenge, click here.