County Quest inspires record eBirding in Vermont

By Team eBird 3 Feb 2012

Vermont eBird submissions in 2011

As eBird has grown, the program has benefited more and more from local promotion and engagement of the local birding community. Those of us that manage eBird are concentrated in Ithaca, NY (and a couple other cities), and can only interact with a certain number of people in a given year. But the growing community of eBirders around the country are increasingly taking it upon themselves to engage their local communities and get their friends more involved with and excited about eBirding. Many are giving eBird talks and workshops at their local bird club or birding festival (see our promotional material here) and developing other novel ways to get people excited about eBird. Here we’d like to highlight last year’s ‘Vermont 2011 County Birding Quest‘, which engendered some friendly competition to make 2011 the best year ever for eBirding in Vermont.
The original story and the results are posted on the Vermont eBird site, our “regional portal” for the Green Mountain state, which was one of the very first state-specific portals within the eBird network. These regional portals are great ways to give eBird a local twist, and allow state-specific output and and content. Our story on Kent McFarland as eBirder of the month highlighted some of the great ways that he has made Vermont eBird such a success.

This year in Vermont has raised the bar yet again, with the ‘Vermont 2011 County Birding Quest‘. Birding can be many things to many different people, but for many of us, a little competitive spirit adds to the fun of eBirding. Who has submitted more checklists? Who has seen more birds in this state? This county? This county this year? The Quest pitted county versus county, birder against birder–all engaged in a friendly rivalry for top honors of the highest species count, which was adjusted for fairness based on a par system.

Here are a few highlights from the final results:

  • Nearly 18,000 eBird checklists submitted and over a half-million birds tallied!
  • Three first state records were discovered: Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, Slaty-backed Gull, and (the very overdue) Marbled Godwit
  • Addison and Chittenden counties finished with the highest species tallies: 250 and 245 respectively
  • Windham and Windsor counties shared the 2011 Quest Cup, with pars of +31, and respective species totals of 230 and 213
  • Ian Worley submitted a remarkable 1,144 eBird checklists, while Jim Mead (858) and Sue Elliott (836) took home very respectable silver and bronze in this category
  • Statewide leaders in total species observed were Jim Mead (257), Ian Worley (239), and Craig Provost (237)

Most of all, the Quest engaged birders of all ages, skill sets, and levels of obsession and added a lot to what we know of bird distribution in Vermont. The Quest concluded with a great chance to get the state’s eBirders together for a face-to-face gathering and ‘awards ceremony’, and took place 22 January 2012 at Montshire Museum.

We are really proud to have eBird as the centerpiece of a project like this that not only contributed to science and conservation and got people more engaged and excited about birding, but also got people from across the state together and helped some new friendships form. And apparently the Vermont 2012 County Birding Quest is already off and running, trying to set even higher records this year!

We invite you to follow Vermont’s example with similar efforts in your home state or county, and to read the full account on Vermont eBird. And if you’d like help promoting eBird in your area please check out our promotional material, with powerpoints and printable fliers.