Adding Your CBC Data to Vermont eBird

By Kent McFarland December 1, 2017

Barred Owl hunting rodents at a bird feeder. Photo by K.P. McFarland

The Christmas Count is the largest and longest-running ornithological citizen science project. Its data are a great complement to what we are collecting in Vermont eBird, and indeed the CBC has paved the way for Vermont eBird in many respects. It is not a problem to enter data in Vermont eBird and then submit it for the CBC too, since the two projects are collecting data in similar ways, but at different scales. eBird can be a great way to store your data and compare it from year to year.

As you head out to do Christmas Counts this season, please remember the following:

1)    Entering data for the CBC and for eBird presents no problem at all. Indeed, one day we envision the possibility of entering your eBird list and having it automatically contribute to the CBC.

2)    Most CBC circles are divided into multiple sectors, with teams of people (“parties”) covering each sector. Remember that eBird counts are single-party counts, so any data collected during the CBC season should be entered for single parties only, not parties that spend a lot of time split up. (See more here on the problem with multi-party counts being entered in eBird.)

3)    The official CBC effort does not permanently store information at the “sector” level. eBird provides an opportunity to permanently record those data. For example, most coastal counts will have a substantially different mix of birds on the open beach versus areas 5 or 10 miles inland. eBird thrives on location specificity, so stores these data at a finer scale.

4)    While eBird works best with location specific sightings, it can be time consuming to enter multiple lists from a single day. We certainly appreciate those who take the time to break a day of birding into discrete stops, especially from hotspots like parks and refuges. However, a day-long traveling count or area count is not inappropriate. The important thing is that you describe what you did (accurate mileage, duration etc.).

5)    If you do use a day-long count to enter your count, please give some thought as to the location that you use. Please do not plot your point at a ‘hotspot’ if you spent significant time birding outside of the hotspot area. It is far better to plot a new point to represent the CBC sector, and to name it in a way that makes it clear what it represents — such as “Lakeville CBC–Sector 5”. Since hotspot summaries depend on data collected at the actual point, the bar charts and other summaries become much less meaningful when they include data from outside the location.

6)    Traveling counts with accurate mileage and duration are preferred over area counts. Most CBC territories encompass much more area than you are able to cover, so the mileage is a better measure. Unlike the CBC, you should subtract your miles spent backtracking. eBird just wants the one way distance of the mileage you covered.

Many thanks in advance to all those who participate in both eBird and the CBC. Our collective knowledge of birds has grown exponentially thanks to the efforts of citizen scientists like yourselves. Everyone at Team eBird enthusiastically participates in our local CBCs, so please get out there, have fun, and enjoy the compilations!

While you are at the compilation, try to think about what patterns are emerging this year. Are a lot of late-lingering summer and fall species occurring? Are northern species occurring in good numbers? What finches are being found in your area this year (Red and White-winged Crossbills, Common Redpolls. Evening and Pine Grosbeaks)? Are Bald Eagle numbers continuing to increase and kestrels continuing to decline? How are the half-hardy wintering birds like catbirds, Winter Wrens, and Yellow-rumped Warblers? Then, when you get home, try ‘View and Explore’ in eBird to see if you can learn more about these questions!

Read more at eBird Help: