Sean Sparrow, July eBirder of the Month

By Team eBird 21 Aug 2023

Please join us in congratulating Sean Sparrow of Costa Rica—winner of the July 2023 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Sean’s name was drawn randomly from the 7,664 eBirders who submitted at least 31 eligible checklists in July. Sean will receive a new ZEISS SFL 8×40 binocular for his eBirding efforts. Here’s Sean’s birding story:

I’m honoured to be selected as eBirder of the Month!  I moved to Costa Rica about a decade ago, and was always interested in nature and learning about the flora and fauna here. Before I knew about Merlin, I would go out and look for animals, but I felt that Costa Rica had so many birds that it seemed like a gargantuan task to try to learn them all.  Then, a friend told me about Merlin and eBird, and I was instantly hooked!  I suddenly had a versatile and reliable resource to begin learning all the birds in the country.  I am constantly driven to “Catch ’em all”, traveling to new places whenever I can to see new birds.

Fiery-throated Hummingbird © Sean Sparrow / Macaulay Library

eBird and Merlin are so jam-packed with information that it has really helped me learn a lot in a short amount of time.  When planning a trip, I always research the Hotspots on eBird before I head there, and it has never let me down!  I instantly know where to look for all my targets, and even what other birders to try to connect with while I’m there.  Sometimes I even spend an hour or two looking at random hotspots I’ll probably never visit, just out of curiosity.  Like, what birds could you see in northern Chad?  What different species do you see on either side of the Caucasus Mountains?  What lives in the Gobi Desert?  Does Hainan have any island endemics?  The info is all there on eBird (and constantly being added to!)

Slaty Flowerpiercer © Sean Sparrow / Macaulay Library

I consider myself a pretty avid birder at this point, and that is in large part due to the tools that Cornell has developed to help birders record information and learn more about birds– and it comes full circle as all the data for this platform comes from random birders like me and you, just going out and doing what we love.  It’s win-win-win, and I love it.  A lot of the most magical moments I’ve had over the past few years have been thanks to birding (I even met my wife on a birding trip), and eBird is an integral part of the experience for me.