This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic, focuses on patch birding. The idea behind patch birding is to pick a location and bird it frequently. By carefully checking the same area repeatedly, you will notice species and behaviors that could be easily missed. September is one of the most exciting months of the year and careful checking of the same location is sure to reveal a wide variety of species. To sign up for a patch, click on the Add a Patch link from the My Patch Lists page and select the locations that are part of your patch. If you already have a patch, there is no need to register. This month’s winner will be drawn from eBirders who submit at least 20 complete checklists from a patch this month (September 2014). Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month (Including our August winner from our team of reviewers). Read on to find out more.
A patch is meant to be a fairly small area that you cover regularly or where you really care about tracking your bird lists. A patch can be your local park, neighborhood walk, favorite lake or sewage plant, or wildlife refuge. It can consist of a single eBird location or a group of locations. Since we always appreciate fine-scale submissions, we encourage you to keep track of multiple locations.
Size of your patch: In order for patches to be comparable, it is important to set reasonable guidelines on how big a patch should be. We don’t want anyone to create an ‘Arizona-California’ patch! In general, your patch should be a combination of sites that you can cover fairly thoroughly in a morning, or a few hours of birding on foot or by car. These can include transects of up to about five miles or areas up to four or five square miles. These are rough guidelines, but our intent is to discourage the creation of patches that cover entire counties, multiple widely-separated hotspots, or exceptionally large areas.
Many birders already have a “patch”, whether or not it is registered in eBird. Patches often consist of a natural and well-defined area, and often the boundaries are set by the property limits or habitat breaks. Examples such as Huntington Central Park in Huntington Beach (California), Montrose Point in Chicago, or Central Park in Manhattan. Small islands form other well-defined patches: we look forward to seeing eBird Patch totals for Southeast Farallon Island off San Francisco or Monhegan Island off the Maine coast.
Most eBird hotspots could be considered a patches too, although these hotspot points can represent anything from a single point (e.g., Avalon Seawatch in Cape May, NJ) to a refuge (e.g., E.B. Forsythe NWR). With larger patches, make sure to use smaller sublocations for you bird recording, and then aggregate these to form the patch. Some eBirders regularly survey stretches of shoreline, such as Park Point (Duluth, Minnesota) or Plum Island (Massachusetts): these linear transects are certainly fair game, but try to keep your transects to less than five miles (OK, Plum Island is seven miles long from the refuge gate, but it’s in the right ballpark and is about 4.8 square miles). If you do want to survey a larger patch, like Plum Island, break out your eBird submissions into several distinct locations.
What birds count?: For patch lists, count anything seen or heard from within your patch. Fly-overs are fair game. In other words, the bird need not actually be in your patch, as long as you are.
Each month we will feature a new eBird challenge and set of selection criteria. The monthly winners will each receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular and a selection of books from another great eBird sponsor, Princeton University Press.
Carl Zeiss Sports Optics is a proven leader in sports optics and is the official optics sponsor for eBird. “Carl Zeiss feels strongly that by partnering with the Cornell Lab we can provide meaningful support for their ability to carry out their research, conservation, and education work around the world,” says Mike Jensen, President of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, North America. “The Cornell Lab is making a difference for birds, and from the highest levels of our company we’re committed to promoting birding and the Lab’s work, so there’s a great collaboration. eBird is a truly unique and synergistic portal between the Lab and birders, and we welcome the opportunity to support them both.”
Princeton University Press publishes many of the best books about birds and natural history, including the popular new “Warbler Guide” from Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. “We are delighted to be able to support the Cornell Lab’s innovative and ambitious range of programs in science and conservation,” says Robert Kirk at PUP. “The rapid expansion of eBird has had a major impact on our understanding of bird populations and movements in North America and beyond, and is a testament to the Lab’s commitment to game-changing citizen science.”
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