Please join us in congratulating Jeff Bleam of Boulder Creek, California, winner of the November 2014 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic. Jeff’s name was drawn randomly from the more than 3400 people who submitted checklists from at least 75 different locations in 2014. Jeff will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars and a selection of books from Princeton University Press. We asked Jeff to tell us a little more about himself, his use of eBird, and his love of birds below.
I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Boulder Creek, CA where 50% of the people are mountain people, 50% are hippies, and 50% are techies who commute over the hill to Silicon Valley (yeah that doesn’t add up but that’s Boulder Creek). Most of my birding is in the Bay area from southern Monterey to Half Moon Bay with a work patch in Fremont off of Auto Mall Parkway. I don’t know how I found out about eBird but I do know I started using the site to track my sightings in February 2005. Once I learned more about the Lab and what they were trying to do I joined and started to explore the site. There were many articles, as well as protocols for creating useful checklists that would assist in bird research. Since then I have used eBird to keep track of my life list, county lists, country list . . . you get the point. The yard and patch feature is great to log birds in an area you keep going back to. I started working in Fremont in August 2010 and during my lunch runs I bird along the way. Auto Mall Parkway is what it sounds like: auto dealers, big box stores, outdoor malls, and light industrial companies. Before changing jobs, I worked near a rich birding area around the Mountain View sloughs so what could I expect from Auto Mall Parkway. Well, between the human landscape and the bay are 2 man made ponds that filters the runoff water from the area before reaching the bay. After 4-1/2 years and counting I have reached 155 species from 677 checklists and over the last few months some great now semi-regulars are Golden and Bald Eagles. What a little water can do for biodiversity.
New features and tools are being developed all the time. The newer ones are searching for species and hotspots in a given area. If you use the map version of the hotspots you can easily find good birding spots when you are traveling. I have recently started traveling to Colorado Springs. I have been using the hot spot location tool for the area and by selecting the details for a hot spot I get a list of the birds recently seen in the area. On one of my trips, I used this tool to find Castlewood Canyon State Park, an area that had reports of Mountain Bluebirds, and sure enough I found a flock of about 10 lifers. Being an avid nature photographer, having these tools in hand helps in choosing locations to find birds either rare or common. Recently a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher showed up in San Mateo County on the central coast of California. I found out about the bird through an eBird email alert. With a quick tap on the map link in the alert I had the location on my phone. Off I went and I was rewarded with a life bird without having to go to Texas. Now with BirdLog it is even easier to create checklists that are directly uploaded to eBird with one click. I find eBird a very useful tool as a photographer with the added benefit of helping research scientists understand bird behavior and ultimately for protecting the birds and biodiversity.
Thanks to Zeiss and the Princeton University Press for their support of eBird and birds.
Photographs taken by Jeff Bleam.