February 13-16 (Friday through Monday) is the 18th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). To participate, just go birding during this timeframe and make sure to enter your checklists in eBird. The GBBC was one of the first demonstrations that the Internet could be used to collect bird checklists and was instrumental in the creation of eBird back in 2002. For 2015, we really want the GBBC weekend to focus on sharing your knowledge with others. Do you have a friend or family member who has always wanted to go birding with you? Someone you should teach to use eBird? Someone you think you could turn on to birds and share your sense of wonder with? Make the GBBC the weekend where you pick up the phone and invite him or her along.
Below are some thoughts about this weekend, what it is becoming, and how to get involved.
Take someone birding
Here at eBird and at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we fundamentally believe that birds can save the world. A love of birds connects humanity with the natural world in a way that is all too hard to find in modern society. Even for city-dwellers, parks and green spaces hold birds that remind us about the natural world and keep us connected to it. Migratory birds link the continents and their movements flow across borders in ways that highlight how interconnected the world is. Only by connecting with the natural world, understanding that our actions here may have implications half a world away, and caring about the outcomes, will humanity become better stewards of our planet.
Everyone who enters records in eBird and has become a part of the eBird Enterprise on any level had a moment or person who inspired them to take an interest in birds. The GBBC weekend provides that moment and you can be that person for someone new. If we each got one new person involved with birdwatching each year, the ranks of bird lovers and nature lovers in the world would grow exponentially.
Join the global team!
Team eBird thinks of the GBBC as the Great Global Bird Count. Now in its third year as a global effort, let’s see what a global team of birders can do. eBird is now a massive effort to document bird populations around the world over time, but GBBC represents a chance to take a global 4-day snapshot. Everyone who submits a checklist this weekend will be part of the global effort.
Get your friends involved!
Do improve on last year’s results, we really need is to get more people involved. Do you have a birding friend in another country? Get in touch, and ask her or him to join the Great (Global) Backyard Bird Count, and see if they can add a unique country or find a unique species. Perhaps you’ve gone on a birding trip internationally. This is a great excuse to get in touch with your guide and encourage him or her to take part. This is a great way to introduce your friends to eBird and hopefully get them hooked!
How to follow the GBBC stats this weekend
In order to see how well our global team is doing this weekend, we invite you to check out the GBBC home page. Although tailored for the GBBC, this page has most of the same functionality as eBird. You can submit data here or in your favorite eBird portal—it all goes to the same place. Your My eBird stats will be the same here as they would be anywhere in eBird. The key difference is the Explore Data page. The output here is tailored for the GBBC, so you can see the following:
Any one of these outputs can be posted as a link. Drum up support in your local birding community by posting these statistics on your blog, Facebook page, listserv, or your favorite social media of choice. If you want to compare results, we encourage you to use ebird.org to explore February 2014 patterns and compare them to February 2015 patterns. Try this for eBird range maps for any species. For example, Snowy Owl in February 2014 and February 2015; both maps include GBBC data. Common Redpoll is another one with stark differences between February 2014 and February 2015. Use this same method to explore other species of interest during this year’s count. Here are some other interesting stats from 2014 to measure against this year’s event: http://gbbc.birdcount.org/news/top-10-lists/.
And make sure to check in with the eBird Live Submissions Map this weekend. This is awesome enough now, but we know it will really get hot this weekend. The hottest times to watch this map are likely to be 4-9pm (Eastern Standard Time or GMT -5) on Sunday and Monday; our best hour is usually 5pm (EST) on Sunday night when a 3000+ checklists are usually submitted. Please enjoy this year’s GBBC and thanks for your role on the global eBird team!
Sandhill Cranes by by Georgia Wilson, Florida, the 2014 photo contest winner. Watch for the first migrating Sandhill Cranes to move north in the Great Plains of the United States during the GBBC.