November eBirder of the Month Challenge

By dgross November 7, 2016

Great Gray Owl, by Robb Bell, Macauley Library

This month’s eBirder of the Month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, invites you to look at birds through what might not be your usual lens: a camera. November marks one year since we released the ability to add photos and audio directly to your eBird checklists, archiving your media in the Macaulay Library. In this first year, we have been humbled to see more than 1.5 million photos added to the collection by eBirders, documenting more than 8,250 species of birds from 226 countries. If you haven’t uploaded a photo yet—this is your chance! An added bonus is that your photos help make your eBird Profile Page look fantastic. The eBirder of the Month will be drawn from eBirders who submit 15 or more eligible checklists with at least one photo or audio recording in November. Checklists must be for observations during this month, not historical checklists entered during November. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.

A photo of a bird is a powerful thing. It has the ability to inspire interest in birds—getting people to think twice about the amazing diversity and beauty that the natural world has to offer. It helps anyone interested in birds to learn more about how to identify and differentiate species, subspecies, ages, and more. Even more importantly, when added to your eBird checklist and the Macaulay Library, each image is a building block for amazing next-generation birding, conservation, and educational tools. Many Pennsylvanians have added photos to the eBird image library that can be seen on the right side of the Pennsylvania eBird page. These photos also document rare birds for the benefit of Pennsylvania Birds county editors, Pennsylvania Ornithological Records Committee, or anyone researching these species. By adding the good image of a correctly identified species, it is more likely that a rare bird report is accepted.

Who can look at a bird as garish and ridiculous as an oystercatcher and not want to know more? Photo

Who can look at a bird as garish and ridiculous as an oystercatcher and not want to know more? Photo of Pied Oystercatcher by Malcolm Graham/Macaulay Library.

Every one of your images in the Macaulay Library serves as a “digital specimen”—the 21st-century equivalent of a scientific specimen sitting in a museum collection. As the number of these documented sightings increases, it provides an incredible dataset of objectively documented sightings. When used in concert with cutting-edge machine learning and computer vision technologies, every image paves the way to automated identification tools that can help teach and engage birders all over the world, while also ensuring that eBird data quality remains as robust as possible.

Rapidly vanishing are the days where you travel with a heavy, bulky, 30-year-old field guide that doesn’t reflect the current taxonomy of the region. All you’ll need is a smartphone, Merlin, and eBird, and identification and bird-finding will be easier than ever before.

So the next time that you see a bird, pull out your phone and take a photo through your binoculars or your scope. Bring your camera, and snap a shot or two. And when you’re done, add those photos to your eBird checklist, and know that your contributions have made a real difference in the future of birding—both for you and for generations to come.

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.

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.” These new features make it even easier for an observation to become an important contribution to ornithology.

Find out more:

eBirder of the Month