Sunday, March 20, 2011

Make your Birdwatching Count with eBird

Part of "Spring into Citizen Science" is helping you fully enjoy the season.  It's not just new projects...but helping make the most of your existing activities.  So today I've been looking at eBird, a project that takes observations birdwatchers already make for fun and uses them to advance science.  Of course it's also a useful way for new birders to take up the hobby too!

One of the best parts of eBird is it doesn't get in the way of what you are already doing or dictate any specific style of birding.  So whether you are part of a coordinated bird census, keeping track of birds in your backyard, or even if you just seen an interesting bird while on vacation, eBird welcomes your data. The program can even utilize data collected from the many different birdwatching programs already on the market you might already be using.

Once collected there are a wide variety of useful things scientists can learn from the data.  Are endangered species recovering or declining?  Are bird populations shifting from area to area?  What are the migration patterns of different birds?  Is climate change impacting birds in a local area of in the world overall?  All these questions require extensive observational data, and birdwatchers like us are in a perfect position to provide it.

Getting Started is Easy:
  1. Visit the eBird homepage and Learn About the program.
  2. Complete the brief Registration required to set up a birdwatching account and get credit for the data submitted.
  3. Click on the eBird: Submit Observations tab to start the quick 4-step data process.  The data being colelcted is actually quite simple...just the location of your observation, the style of birdwatching (organized birdwatch, local observation, etc.), the species of bird, and how it was identified (by sight or by sound).  That's it!
As an added bonus, after submitting your observations check out the analysis tools also available on the site.  Just click eBird: View and Explore Data and look through the graphs and maps your data fits right into.  Currently you can look at bird observations for any given area on the map, see charts of bird activity for any particular area, or view migration patterns as inferred by worldwide bird observations.  There is even a section for understanding how the recent Gulf Oil Spill has impacted ecologically significant birds in the area.

So for all you birders (and soon to be birders) out there...don't just fill a bird logbook for bragging rights.  Share it with the rest of the world and help advance our understanding of the creatures we love to watch.  And most of all, have fun!

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