Doug Daniels, March eBirder of the Month

By Team eBird April 25, 2016

Doug atop Rondax Mountain in the Adirondacks.

Please join us in congratulating Doug Daniels of Canandaigua, NY, winner of the March 2016 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic. Our March winner was drawn from among those who submitted 1 or more eligible checklists in March from at least 15 locations new to their eBird account. Doug’s name was drawn randomly from the 3,835 eBirders who achieved the March challenge threshold. Doug will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for his eBirding efforts. We asked Doug to tell us a little more about himself, his use of eBird, and his love of birds – read on for more!

I am Doug Daniels and the fortunate winner of the March eBird challenge. I became aware of my selection through an email. I was at Loveland Pass in Colorado at the time on a birding tour with Lakeshore Nature Tours. Our leader, Brett Ewald, had just located the target species at 6:30 AM – a White-tailed Ptarmigan.   When we left the site and were heading to breakfast, I checked my email and could not believe my good fortune, winning a pair of Zeiss binoculars! Previous to this my best win was a cassette recording by a local band (dating myself).

Greater Sage-Grouse displaying in Colorado

Greater Sage-Grouse displaying in Colorado; see the checklist here

I have always been an empirical learner with a love for nature. My interest in birding was enriched when I had a summer job as a US National Park Ranger / Naturalist at Fire Island National Seashore off Long Island, NY. It was 1969. This national seashore had been created only the year before. It was there, working alongside Bob Budliger, president of a Long Island chapter of Audubon, that I first witnessed spishing. Bob had attracted a Black-throated Blue Warbler. I was hooked.

After moving to Wayne County, NY in 1974 my focus was on my children and my occupation as a special education teacher, which I worked at and loved for thirty-five years until I retired. As my children grew older and more independent, I became interested in visiting various habitats and listing the birds seen each year in a black and white composition book. I was fortunate to live in an excellent birding area, near Lake Ontario and Montezuma NWR. I was also grateful to be mentored by some very excellent birders including, Bob Spahn, Dominic Sherony, Mike & Dave Tetlow, Brad Carlson, and Bob Guthrie.

About fifteen years ago, I bought a scope and began listening to two ‘Birding by Ear ‘ CDs. This greatly expanded my abilities and I also began to travel to see birds out of state and to pursue a life list. My proudest list is my NYS list which currently stands at 367. eBird enables me to review previous years, and I am informed whenever a species is seen in NYS that I have never seen!

I was first exposed to eBird while chasing a Henslow’s Sparrow found on the Lake Ontario lake plain by Andy Guthrie. I met Chris Wood there and he asked if I would like him to share his eBird list. Chris, one of the eBird project leaders, signed me up on the spot with his cell phone, I chose a password and the rest is history. I use eBird for all my birding now, no more entries in those composition books.

eBird enables me to check any previous entry I have made, to see when a species typically has migrated in spring and fall. It automatically collates my data into useful lists by region, country, state and county. When traveling, I can research an area, find out about hotspots, and review sightings of species I am seeking to observe. I can sharpen my skills by reviewing the photos posted to eBird. When I travel to bird with others, I can easily share my lists as I will do following the recent Colorado trip to see the leks of grouse and prairie chickens.

I find eBird to be an incredible tool that serves both the user and the birding community. As more and more data is inputted, information on migration, health of species, potential links to climate change and other research will have a vast data base. Thanks to Cornell for creating this wonderful tool for birders and an incredible database for the world. Thanks also to Zeiss and Princeton Books for their generosity.