All of us spend a lot of time searching for birds by sight and sound. And increasingly birders are carrying cameras into the field and recording bird sounds using smartphones. Now we all can create more enjoyable and meaningful lists than before by using a simple drag-and-drop process to upload your photos and sounds directly into our eBird checklists! This not only provides documentation for our bird records, but also creates a visual and audio tapestry of what we have encountered in the field, that can then be easily shared with others.
This new feature in eBird builds on the long-term curation and archival capabilities of the Macaulay Library. The result is a scientific foundation and a streamlined process for collecting rich media that provides a long-term, open data resource searchable by birders and scientists alike—a real-time, digital natural history collection.
The Big Picture
While the ability to drag and drop rich media into your eBird checklists is fun, it is also significant in other ways:
Exciting tools for eBirders
This influx of thousands of new images each day provides the opportunity to develop some great new media tools for eBirders. The first of these is a “Rarity Feed” (coming soon)—this new feed provides an automatically updated string of worldwide rare bird images.
This rarity feed is the first in a long series of tools to explore media across eBird in fun and engaging ways. To make sure that all of these tools work as well as they can, it is important to understand some guidelines when choosing which photos and sounds to upload to eBird and the Macaulay Library. Please visit these pages for best practices and guidelines for uploading photos and sounds.
Innovation. Having access to millions of geo-referenced, science-based, bird images offers limitless capabilities for future tools and research. On the tools side of things, two new features are in the pipeline: building a comprehensive “Search” tool that allows you to quickly find the kinds of photos and sounds you’re interested in; and developing eBird/Macaulay profile pages, which will allow you to control the way you are represented in the community, and provide a platform to more easily share your bird observations, photos, and sounds with others.
On the near horizon for research there is an exciting collaboration developing in computer vision. Soon you’ll be able to annotate your images for inclusion in Merlin—an incredibly popular mobile app aimed at teaching birdwatchers how to identify birds. The vision for Merlin is to expand it globally, putting access to bird identification information into the hands of anyone with a mobile device—creating new connections between communities and nature. Over time, these same computer vision modelling techniques that drive Merlin will also aid in automatically detecting incorrectly identified images during upload, and provide instructional feedback to eBirders, thereby improving eBird data quality, and building general knowledge.
Go birding and have fun!
eBirders have shown the world what is possible when we come together around our common interest in birds. Data from eBirders have helped prioritize land acquisitions for conservation, served as the backbone for more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, and redefined birding in the 21st century. It’s exciting to take this next step together: eBird, Macaulay, and a network of global partners, working to redefine the processes of data collection, archiving, and access in a natural history collection. The future is in your hands, and your camera!