Wednesday, June 26, 2013

eBird: Citizen Science at its Best

Do you like looking at birds? Do you already keep bird logs on what species you see on your hikes/walks/kayaking/driving adventures (nerd)? Interested in a way to easily keep records of bird species you see without dealing with excel formating nightmares and hardware crashes? Want to know what bird species are in your area at a specific time of year? Want to get updates on when rare species are seen in your area? Want interactive tools to look at recent sightings of birds in your area? Does the sound of tracking which species you have seen over time give you chills down your spin? Want to help out ornithologists (bird scientists!) study migration patterns, biodiversity, vagrant species, conservation of threatened species, and so much more?

If any of those ring a 'yes' from your mouth... why haven't you checked out eBird yet? If you have, I commend you on your service.

Developed in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, eBird in a free, online, interactive tool that allows you to record the birds you see around the globe, keep track of you many, many bird lists, explore dynamic maps and graphs, share your sightings and contribute to science and conservation all in one place.
You are able to explore interactive maps and charts to look at real-time recent sightings, what birds to expect at certain times of year, and range maps based on actual sitings people like you and I (O.K. and scientists) submit.
Range graphs allow you to input a desired species and zoom in and out on a "google-map" style interface. The darker the purple, the more sightings in that area.
As you zoom in, you can also view checklists of individual sites where the species was seen. Many sites are pre-determined "birding hotspots" but you can also create custom sites for your individual use. Red means recent sightings; blue means sitings in the past.
Bar graphs allow you to see which bird species (and the frequency!) are sited in your area throughout the year. Have a camping trip to California and have no freaking clue what you might see? Check out eBird before you go and study up on your west coast birds!
Another great feature is it tracks your sited species and checklists. No more having to keep hard copies or crazy excel files for your sitings, eBird does it all for you. 

The best part of it all is what you see and report actually makes a difference.  To quote the website directly,
... it is amassing one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence... in March 2012... more than 3.1 million bird observations across North America!... eBird then shares these observations with a global community of educators, land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists. In time these data will become the foundation for a better understanding of bird distribtuion across the western hemisphere and beyond.
So go check out eBird my fellow bird nerds. Can't get much better than this!

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