Please join us in congratulating Dan Rottino of East Haddam, Connecticut, winner of the 2016 eBirder of the Year challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Our 2016 winner was drawn randomly from eBirders who met all 12 eBirder of the Month challenges in 2016. More than 13,500 eBirders qualified for at least one of the 12 challenges, and 1,567 qualified for half of them. Dan will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for his eBirding efforts. We asked Dan to tell us a little more about himself, his use of eBird, and his love of birds – read on for more.
I have been birding since I was about 10 years of age, but I began birding more intensely in 2012 after some enjoyable out of state birding in Florida. I discovered eBird at that time and the missing birds on my lifelist started to become easier to find as a result. From the Explore Data page (which I have bookmarked on my iPhone) I frequently use the Species Map to show me the best places to find the birds of interest. Combined with the Explore A Region feature, I often use eBird as a trip planner. eBird Alerts I receive have helped me grow my lifelists time and again, and the adventures can be an experience of a lifetime. eBird helped alert me and my family to this rare Brambling early in 2016 at Allardale Park in Ohio.
In 2015 I took a Big Year family camping vacation trip around the entire perimeter of the United States. I used eBird to help find the best locations for the target species, and then planned the most efficient routes accordingly. In 2016 I did the same on an incidental trip to Texas and never missed a bird. Here is one of my favorite checklists from Anahuac NWR. Camping the National and State Park systems is a great way to bird. After doing our eBird homework to find target birds, our typical strategy was to bird on the way into a park in the afternoon or evening, then camp overnight and bird there again the next day. You get extra birds this way because you are there for more hours and you are in the great outdoors where the birds are!
We camped at Lassen Volcanic National Park because there were many eBird reports of White-headed Woodpeckers there. Birding is sometimes an adventure waiting to happen. The rangers gave us tips on where to find them, but we hiked to no avail. We even met other birders who had seen them, but there were none at the moment. I was getting tired and about to give up when still another birder said he was looking for them as well. He was going to where I had already been, but he said he would yell across the lake if he got one. No sooner than we had returned completely to the starting point did we hear him yelling loud and clear “WHITE-HEADED WOOOOODPECKERRRRR!!!. The echo across the still lake started a thrilling adventure. Immediately the whole family began running back on the trail and we got awesome views and pictures of this unique wonder. We made friends with this birder from British Columbia and have birded with him and his family several times since. The awesome bird is in the eBird checklist here.