Please join us in congratulating Jennifer Marenghi of Shady Side, Maryland, winner of the July 2017 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Our July winner was drawn from eBirders who submitted 15 or more eligible checklists shared with another eBirder in July. Jennifer’s name was drawn randomly from the 1,769 eligible eBirders who achieved the July challenge threshold. Jennifer will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for her eBirding efforts. Read more to see Jennifer’s full story, which starts with a date and ends with a wedding!
I first discovered what birding was three years ago when I was on a first date with a cute boy. He kept mentioning eBird, and I thought he was talking about some kind of dating website for birds. 1,000 checklists later, we’re married! Newlyweds, in fact– and eBird played a huge role in our wedding planning!
Back in 2015, my not-yet-husband took me to Monhegan Island, Maine for fall migration. We decided it was the most beautiful place on earth. When he proposed last fall, we knew there was only one place we could go to tie the knot! With the location decided, we needed a date, so we did what I’m sure every other engaged couple does– checked out eBird to choose our wedding date based on when we could get the most lifebirds. I had never seen Atlantic Puffin, Bicknell’s Thrush, or Arctic Tern, so mid-July it was!
From there, we used eBird to plan a magical eleven-day trip through New Hampshire and Maine. Whenever my husband and I want to get away from it all, the first thing we do is consult eBird to figure out where we should go to maximize lifebirds, then plan our trip around hitting the hottest hotspots and stakeouts (and if we happen to pass something cool, like the Grand Canyon or old San Juan, maybe we’ll stop to check that out, too!). Thanks to eBird, I got all my target birds for this trip, plus some of our Maryland winter birds on their breeding grounds. In addition to Monhegan, my favorite spots were Mt. Washington, New Hampshire (where we saw a Spruce Grouse and several American Pipit) and Salty Dog Farm, Maine (where my husband saw breeding Nelson’s Sparrow!). Winning eBirder of the Month is always super cool, but winning with your checklists from your wedding trip makes it extra special!
Even when I’m not planning a wedding, I use eBird just about every day in a variety of ways. It’s really helpful for me to be able to see with just a few clicks what other birders have observed recently (often leading to impromptu bird chases!) and to learn about new birding spots to fill in the gaps in my county and state lists. It’s also fascinating to peruse some of the not-so-recent reports to see what awesome birds have shown up in my region before, and to see how breeding and migration patterns have changed over the decades.
What I love most about eBird, though, is that, much like a family photo album, it’s a way to relive wonderful memories. I like to scroll through lists from years past and think to myself, “Oh, yes, remember when we saw that Clay-colored Sparrow at Chris’s feeder? Remember when we chased that Gyrfalcon in 5-degree weather and two feet of snow? That was so much fun!”
Thank you so much to Team eBird for all of the fun and adventures you’ve helped me enjoy over the past few years, and to Zeiss for my brand new bins!