eBird citizen science

Red-bellied woodpecker ©Janet Allen Red-bellied woodpecker

eBird is a joint project of Cornell's Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society.

I started by using eBird as a convenient way of recording my weekly observations. I have records going back many years now. Every year of data collected in my yard makes the data more useful, both to me and to scientists. It's interesting to see the trends and eBird is a great way to do it since they can display your data in various ways.

You can note the location and distance and/or start time/duration and count the birds you see during each outing. Or you can choose "Casual" observation to just record what you've seen. I've always used the "Incidental" (formerly called "Casual") option since I'm just entering a summary of what I've seen throughout the week. I always enter a comment in the Notes section indicating that I'm summarizing the week rather than reporting a single day's total.

Here are my eBird results from 2000 - 2012.

The magic of apps

BirdLog©Janet Allen Smart phone apps

We finally gave in and converted our landline to a smart phone. Though I can't say that these cell phones are as good a phone as our landline, they certainly have other advantages.

One of my favorite apps is BirdLog. What a difference it makes! Theoretically, it's not that different jotting down the birds I saw on my customized bird list, then entering them online later, in practice, it makes all the difference. It's just so easy to grab my phone, open up BirdLog, then enter the birds I see as I see them. When I click Submit, I'm really done. They're already entered!

Even more important, this method provides more information, and in a more timely fashion. For example, it calculates exactly how many minutes I observed. I also now use the "Stationary" count rather than the "Incidental" category I used to use to enter an entire week's summary of my bird sightings. (I have since learned that despite my note indicating what I was doing, that method is not an appropriate way to enter the data. I now enter my weekly summary only on my own webpages.) If I'm out and about and spot a bird, it can create an exact location of the sighting as I enter the report.

And if I can't identify a bird, I have the Merlin app as well as the BirdsEye app right there. I'm amazed at how much it changes the citizen science experience!