Please join us in congratulating Bob Walker of Los Alamos, New Mexico, winner of the September 2019 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Bob’s name was drawn randomly from 2,008 eBirders who submitted at least 20 eligible eBird checklists with eBird Mobile ‘tracks’ less than 5km (3 mi) in September. Bob will receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular for his eBirding efforts. Here’s Bob’s birding story:
I have attracted birds to my backyard using seed and a little pond for many years. It was not until two years after I retired that I started entering my observations into eBird. I made a project for myself to learn how many different kinds of birds actually show up in the yard. Now, years later, I have seen nearly 100 species of birds from my personal mini-hotspot.
I live in the foothills of northern New Mexico, at an elevation of 6,400 feet, but the nearby habitat ranges in elevation from 5,500 feet along the Rio Grande River to over 10,000 feet near the peaks of the volcanic mountains that lie to the west of Los Alamos, NM. This range of elevations provides a tremendous variety of habitats for birds, from desert scrub species near the river to yard birds near the home and montane species at higher elevations.
Luckily for us, the Rio Grande is a central migration path for many birds, so the spring and fall migration seasons mean we see many interesting birds. I learned there are just too many birds out there to limit myself to my backyard, so I have slowly expanded the regular locations where I go to search for birds. eBird tells me I have now reported over 200 species of birds within the county, and in that process I have enjoyed the companionship of a very enthusiastic and friendly group of local birders consisting of novices to experts, loosely organized by our local Nature Center where I volunteer often. These wonderful companions have helped me pick up more tricks than I thought I could ever learn.
I am more of a bird photographer than I am a birder. After all, at first I hardly counted a bird unless I had a photograph of it that I liked. Now my camera comes along with me serving two purposes – either to get good pictures of birds, or at the least pictures good enough to make an ID. We arrange our travel opportunities to include finding birds, and use eBird regularly to discover where the hotspots are in areas we visit. The traveling, birding, and photography have all helped me recognize birds better – I report more birds even in familiar locations than I used to, because I am now smarter about birds than I was before. Two fun checklists from the last few days of September 2019 come from 6th Street Pond and Lower Water Canyon..
I want to thank the folks from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for developing eBird (and Merlin and BirdNET) as a convenient and informative way of documenting an enjoyable pastime that will stay with me forever. I also thank Carl Zeiss Sports Optics for supporting eBird. It is great to know that in my own way, I can contribute in a small part to a citizen science project that will help us understand our relationship with some of nature’s most interesting and enjoyable creatures.