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Join Us For a Calgary Region Big Day

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Next Saturday, June 18, Andrew Hart, Rose Painter and I will lead the 2nd annual Calgary Region Big Day field trip for Nature Calgary. This is an all-day trip to find as many species as possible within the 80-km-radius circle centered on Calgary. Our modest goal is 125 species.

As you can see from the map below the area is huge, and we can’t visit all good habitats in a single day. We will be focusing on a few good spots and trying to keep the pace fast to give us flexibility towards the end of the day.

80km circle - Google Earth

The Calgary Region 80-km Circle.

We will begin our day at 5:30 am in NW Calgary. This is kind of a late start for a Big Day at this time of year, so we need people to arrive on time or a little early. Note that registration is required – please call one of the leaders to let them know you are coming, so we know when everyone has arrived and can plan the car-pooling. The trip details and phone numbers are on the Nature Calgary website here.

Our destinations will include Horse Creek Road, several stops in the Water Valley area, Plumber’s Road and Brown-Lowery Provincial Park, Windy Point west of Turner Valley, and Frank Lake. There may be more stops after that if there is time. We plan to be back at the starting point by no later than 8 pm. If anyone cannot stay for the whole day we will try to arrange the car-pooling to accommodate that.

Bobolink

Bobolink – one of our target birds for the Big Day. Photo by Dan Arndt.

Nature Calgary field trips are free and open to everyone; you don’t have to be a member of Nature Calgary to attend. We hope that some birders will have their biggest day ever, and there is always a chance to see some birds that are new to you, and to learn about some new birding locations in the Calgary area.

The Beautiful Birds of Bowmont

Posted by Dan Arndt

Two weeks ago our group visited Bowmont Park, one of the few parks we often visit in the northwest quadrant of Calgary with the Friends of Fish Creek birding courses. It’s a bit of a special park, as it borders on the Bow River, but also a gravel quarry which is home to a pair of Osprey in the summer, a few small ponds, and a south facing slope allowing for a wide variety of songbirds.

Bowmont Park - May 24, 2015

Bowmont Park – May 24, 2015

This was the first week of outings where Yellow Warblers were the most visible. All spring and summer long, these little yellow fireballs will be singing all over the place until they manage to find a mate and raise their young. They’re really quite fun little guys to watch, and it’s always nice when they’re so easy to photograph, like they were that morning!

Gray Catbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Yellow Warbler
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

I mentioned the Osprey nest earlier, and this is one area where Enmax has set up an Osprey platform to prevent the Osprey from nesting inside the gravel quarry on the power lines. When we rounded the corner to check out the nest, we were greeted to this sight:

Canada Goose Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

Canada Goose
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

The platform had been taken over by a family of Canada Geese, but thankfully the Osprey had found another location to nest nearby. We walked over to the river a little before coming out underneath the Osprey nest, and found this Tree Swallow picking up nesting material right off the pathway.

Gray Catbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1250

Tree Swallow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1250

On our way out to the main pathway, we spotted this Clay-colored Sparrow finishing up his shift at the gravel quarry and heading out for the day. They’re such industrious little workers! This was just after 8:00 in the morning and already he’d put in a full day of work.

Clay-colored Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Clay-colored Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Speaking of hard workers, this Osprey was taking trips to and from the new nest all morning, each time taking more and more branches in to build up the nest to an appropriate size, wedging them into the nest each time.

Osprey Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Osprey
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

The pond at the back of the quarry which is usually unbelievably productive turned up next to nothing for us. It seemed rather unusual, so we headed further up the north slope, and found this perched Swainson’s Hawk waiting for us up there.

Swainson's Hawk Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/10.0, ISO 800

Swainson’s Hawk
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/10.0, ISO 800

While we had some good looks at a few birds on the northwest hill, we had much better looks at them a bit later on, but thankfully we did manage to get a nice close look at a Northern Rough-winged Swallow on the river near the pathway on our way back. These birds can be somewhat hard to find around the city, but often along the Bow River.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/10.0, ISO 1600

Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/10.0, ISO 1600

We gave the pond a second chance to redeem itself, but sadly it was just as empty as it had been on our first visit, so we walked along the back end of the quarry and were treated to another great view of a male Yellow Warbler singing his heart out.

Yellow Warbler Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Yellow Warbler
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Our last good bird of the day was a lone Gray Catbird, of which we had seen a few earlier in the day but at a bit further distance. This beautifully drab bird was singing his heart out over and over again from the aspens and willows nearby. The cinnamon undertail and jet black cap are the only real splashes of color on these birds, but their song is unmistakable.

Gray Catbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Gray Catbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

And that was another great week of birding. Have yourself a wonderful week, and good birding!

eBird: Setting Up Yard Lists

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The previous post showed you how to set up an eBird Patch List, like the one to be used for the 2015 birding competition. This post will show how to set up an eBird Yard List. The previous post has lots of information that is relevant to this, so it’s a good idea to read it over: eBird: Setting Up Patch Lists.

To begin with, you must simply make some observations in or from your yard, and submit them to eBird. To be counted, birds must be seen or heard by the registered participant from within the residence or yard. This includes birds that are in your yard, as well as flyovers and birds heard while you are in the yard.

When specifying your yard location, you may want to protect your privacy by not placing the location marker exactly where you live. Pick a spot a few blocks away but in identical habitat. When naming the location, give it a descriptive name so you and others know it is a yard location, but don’t use your address. In the example below, I have brought up the map on eBird to specify a new location. Suppose I live where the blue marker is in the Ogden neighbourhood. I have placed a marker in a nearby location (the green teardrop marker), and just called it “Yard.” I have typed “Yard” under “Enter Location Name” on the right. I could have called it “Calgary Yard,” “Bob’s Yard,” or “Ogden Yard.”

Location 1

 

 

Location 2

 

Then you enter your observations for the location. I’ll assume you have done that, and your location is now part of your eBird.

To set up an official Yard List that will be included in the competition, go the the “Explore Data” tab on eBird. In the right-hand box under “Your Totals” click “Yard Totals.” This is how will see all the yard lists in your region.

 

Yard Lists 1

 

This will bring up your yard lists (you won’t have any yet) and the list of leaders for the region. Remember to set the region to Alberta since some yards in the competition will not be in Calgary county, and if you set it to Canada, there will be yards from all over the country listed. (Note that the yard listed under the current leaders with my name is not the yard list I have just set up, but my real yard list.)

 

My Yard Lists 2

 

Next, click the green “Add A Yard” button on the right side of the page. This will bring up the page below, which lists your saved birding locations.

 

Add a Yard 3

 

Type in your new yard name (for the competition, use “2015 Calgary Yard Challenge”). Then check off the appropriate location box to the left of your location names. Here, I have five locations listed. Just check ‘Yard” and then click the green “Save Yard” button at the bottom.

 

Add a Yard 4 Save

 

You should never have to edit your yard list again (until you move). The page below shows your yard totals at the top, with all the leaders in the region shown below. I have set it to show the month leaders (December 2014). This yard list has 10 species from one checklist submitted.

 

My Yard Lists 5

 

That’s it, your yard is set up! Now you can explore the data whenever you want. If you click on the “10” under your species total, it will show all your species reported:

 

Locarion Year List 6

 

Now if I enter another set of sightings from my yard location in Ogden, any new species will be added to this official Yard List. (You should report all the species you see when birding, even when there are no new species to add to your year or month list.) Below shows the Yard Lists page after I submitted another checklist. I now have 18 species for the month, second in the region. (The number of my checklists should say 2, not 1; this is just due to a delay in the system.)

 

Edit Yard List 8

 

Yard birding can be a lot of fun and is one of the easiest ways to bird almost every day. If you live within the 80-km circle, enter the competition and add your yard to the list!

Link to the eBird 2015 Competition page, with all the information you need to join.

eBird: Setting Up Patch Lists

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

For those of you who are participating in the eBird Calgary 2015 birding competition, and for anyone else interested in using eBird, here is how you set up your patch list. The next post will show how to set up your yard list.

These instructions for setting up a patch will apply to any patch you might want to have, to track all your sightings in an area. An example is to have a Fish Creek Provincial Park patch, which will include every location that you have birded within the park. For the competition, the patch we are competing in is an 80-km radius circle centred on the Centre Street bridge in Calgary. This is the Calgary May Species Count circle and the traditional “Calgary region” for local birders. Several eBird users have had this patch in their lists for years. During the competition year, participants will have to call this patch “2015 Calgary Patch Challenge,” which will enable the committee and other participants to easily see how everyone’s totals compare. The name can easily be changed afterwards and the patch retained.

Besides the competition to see who can find the most species in the 80-km circle, we are having a competition to see who can record the most species in their yard. Birders can compete in either or both of these. Like the patch challenge, participants must set up a “Yard List,” which is essentially a patch that consists of just one location, your yard. The yard list must be called “2015 Calgary Yard Challenge.” (It is not enough to just have a birding location at your yard that you submit observations from. Unless you set it up as an official Yard List, it will not appear in the list of all Yard Lists in the region.)

Here is a link to the eBird page that results from doing a search of their Help file for “patch.” There is a lot of good information there and I encourage you to read through it, but I think that following the instructions in this blog post will be the most straightforward way to get get your patches set up.

You only need to set up the patch list once, and all your past and future sightings will be included in the totals, broken down by month, year, and life. eBird keeps a record of all your birding locations, and which ones are in which patch or patches. (A location can be in more than one patch; for example, my Bebo Grove location is included in my Fish Creek Provincial Park patch, my Calgary City Limits patch, and my 2015 Calgary Patch Challenge patch.) The only thing you will have to remember is that any time you go birding at a new location that is within your patch, you will have to edit the patch or patches to add the new location to them. You don’t have to do this right away but you will want to check periodically to make sure that all your patches have the proper locations included. For the 80-km circle, you may need to refer to the map for locations near the edge to see if they are in or out. For the Yard List patch, you should never have to add locations to it since it will only have your yard location.

All of this will become clearer with some visual aids. First, you will need to have submitted some observations so there is at least one location stored in your eBird. Sign in to eBird. In this example, I have clicked on the “My eBird” tab at the top of the page. My information shows that I have submitted five checklist (one was from my yard, two others in the city, one on Grand Valley road north of Cochrane, and one in Red Deer).

My eBird 1

 

Next, to set up a patch, click on the “Explore Data” tab at the top. This will bring up the “View and Explore Data” page below. Now under the “Your Totals” box on the right, click on the “Patch Totals” link.

View and Explore 2

 

The “My Patch Lists” page below will appear. At first it will say you don’t have any patches, and below that, it will list all the patch leaders in the specified region (Canada in this example). Click on the green “Add a Patch” button on the right.

My Patch Lists 3

 

The “Add a Patch” page below appears. There is a spot to name your new patch, and below that, a list of all of your birding locations from all your sighting submissions. Type in “2015 Calgary Patch Challenge” for the name, as I have here, and then check the little boxes to the left of only those locations that will be included in your patch. In this example, all except the Red Deer location are within the 80-km circle. As you check them, they will appear in the right-hand list “Currently in your Patch.” When you’re done, click the green “Save Patch” button at the bottom.

Add a Patch 5 Save

You are done! Now the “2015 Calgary Patch Challenge” patch appears in your list, with 36 species recorded (see below). Note the “Edit” button on the right of the patch name; this will be used to add more locations to the patch in the future.

The list of all the top patches in the region is shown at the bottom of the page (the “Current Leaders”). I have changed the region to Alberta from Canada, and clicked the “Month” tab, and there is the patch I created, in third place. (If I left the region as Canada my patch would be much farther down the list. For this competition, it is best to use the Alberta region to view results. You can’t use the county, since our circle is not entirely within Calgary county.) You can now click on the Life or Year tabs to see where you stand there, or click on your species totals to see the actual species you reported.

Edit Patch List 7

 

For example, here is the list of the 36 species in my patch. It was produced when I clicked on the “36” in my Species Totals, Year column above.

Location Year List 7

 

That’s all you need to get started, but I’ll show you how to edit your patch to add more locations to it. Initially I had five lists from five different locations, but now I have submitted new observations from a new location, Votier’s Flats. Below I have clicked the “edit” button by my patch name. The Edit page shows all my locations, including the new one, on the left, and the locations that are currently in my patch on the right.

Edit Patch List 8

Simply check the box by the Votier’s Flats location, and it will appear in the list on the right. Then Save the patch again.

Edit Patch List 9

 

After saving the patch, it now has 42 species on six checklists and is in first place for the month, as shown below.

10

 

Now it should be a breeze to set up your Yard List so you can compete in that competition too. That will be covered in the next post.

(Note: the lists I used were for illustration purposes only and have since been deleted.)

Getting Started with eBird

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

I have heard before from more than one birder that though they would like to start using eBird, they don’t often see any really good birds. But eBird isn’t a place to report just the “good” birds, it is for reporting all bird species, and the numbers of each species. The data collected on the eBird site is of great use to scientists studying birds and their habitats. eBird is a resource used to monitor the health of bird populations, and the changing patterns of their distribution, by amassing a huge database of biodiversity records. This is a crucial resource for conservations who are trying to decide where our limited resources can best be put to use in helping birds, and in arguing for the preservation of critical habitats. The data comes from both professional and recreational birders.

IMG_4452 2

The familiar House Sparrow has undergone a rapid population decline over much of its range. Is this continuing, accelerating, or levelling off? Is it related to gains by other species? eBird can help to answer questions like these for this and many other species.

It is easy to sign up on the eBird site and get started contributing to this citizen science project. Most birders can contribute almost every day. If you watch birds in your yard, at work, or walking your dog, you can submit your observations and help fill in valuable information on the birding map. Just get in the habit of keeping track of these birds, even if it it is just for a half-hour a day. You need to note the date, the time you started birding, the duration, and, if you are travelling, approximately how far. Then you make a note of the bird species you identify, and how many of each.

Below is a notepad page from March 19, 2014. I used to keep a notepad in the kitchen to keep track of my yard birds, and added to it through the day as I watched them through the windows. (Now I use the BirdLog app on my smartphone, which I find is just as easy, and which submits the results directly to the eBird website. See this blog post, and also see the BirdLog site.) Occasionally I  will spend an extended time of a half-hour or more watching birds in the yard and record the duration, and that is a very useful list to submit to eBird (it is a Stationary count rather than a Travelling count). But usually when I am at home I just watch intermittently, and that is recorded on eBird as an Incidental count, since I may have missed something when I wasn’t watching. On my list below, the number for each species is the highest number I am sure of; in other words, the lowest number that could have accounted for all the sightings I had that day. For example, I recorded four Black-billed Magpies. Although I may have seen a magpie eight or ten times during the day, the highest number I saw at once was four. The other sightings could have been the same birds seen again.

IMG_0003

 

For House Sparrows, I initially saw eight. Later, I saw ten birds in the yard, so I added two. Still later, there were 26 at one time, so I added another 16 for a minimum count of 26. Note that I have recorded male or female for some of those birds for which that can be determined by sight (or hearing, if the birds are singing). This is also important information that can be recorded in eBird, but in this case it also helped to determine the number of birds. I saw a male Dark-eyed Junco, then a female later. The birds were not seen at the same time but must have been different individuals, so the total is two. For Northern Flickers, I made a note of the head markings, and thus deduced that there were at least four individuals, three males and one female, not one bird returning over and over.

Here is the eBird checklist that resulted when I submitted the above list:

———————————-

Location

Calgary – Yard, Calgary County, Alberta, CA
Date and Effort
Wed Mar 19, 2014 8:00 AM
Protocol:
Incidental
Party Size:
1
Observers:
Bob Lefebvre
Comments:
N/A
Species
11 species total
2
Canada Goose
1
Downy Woodpecker
Age & Sex
Juvenile Immature Adult Age Unknown
Male 1
Female
Sex Unknown
4
Northern Flicker

1 drumming.

Age & Sex
Juvenile Immature Adult Age Unknown
Male 3
Female 1
Sex Unknown
4
Black-billed Magpie
2
Black-capped Chickadee
1
American Robin
Age & Sex
Juvenile Immature Adult Age Unknown
Male 1
Female
Sex Unknown
1
European Starling

Again appeared to have roosted overnight in the flicker nest box, emerging at 8:10 am.

1
White-throated Sparrow
Age & Sex
Juvenile Immature Adult Age Unknown
Male
Female
Sex Unknown 1
2
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)
Age & Sex
Juvenile Immature Adult Age Unknown
Male 1
Female 1
Sex Unknown
3
House Finch
26
House Sparrow

Are you submitting a complete checklist of the birds you were able to identify?

Yes

——————————-

Similarly, you could keep track  of the birds you see every day at your workplace, or nearby on your lunch break, or on your commute. If you go for daily walks with your dog, it would also be pretty easy to keep track of the birds you see. If you follow the same route or are in the same park every day, you will have one eBird location that you use over and over, and you will be able to monitor the changing patterns of bird populations through the seasons and the years, which is what eBird was designed to do.

I work outside, walking the same route over and over every day. Before getting the Birdlog app, I carried a notepad and stopped every block or two to update my list. I have found it to be pretty easy to keep track of what I see and hear (mostly hear, actually – I can’t track down every bird since I am working, but after a while you learn to recognize all the birds by voice, and keep track of where they are as you walk. It does take a little practice). You have to be careful not to double-count birds as they (and you) move around, but for most species that is straightforward. Birds like magpies that move around a lot can be tricky, but I think they tend to be under-counted anyway, since whenever a hawk enters the neighbourhood it is suddenly beset by dozens of magpies that you weren’t aware of. For eBird the rule of thumb is just to try to get an estimate that does not wildly over-count.

Here is the page of my notebook from my eight-kilometer walk on May 7, 2013 in St. Andrews Heights in northwest Calgary. On this list the totals are cumulative – I don’t add any ticks until I am sure I have seen more birds than before.

IMG

 

And below is the resulting eBird list:

———————————————–

Location

Calgary – St. Andrews Heights, Calgary County, Alberta, CA( Map )
Date and Effort
Tue May 07, 2013 10:15 AM
Protocol:
Traveling
Party Size:
1
Duration:
2 hour(s), 35 minute(s)
Distance:
8.0 kilometer(s)
Observers:
Bob Lefebvre
Comments:
N/A
Species
11 species total
2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
1
Northern Flicker
1
Merlin
Breeding Code
ON Confirmed–Occupied Nest
11
Black-billed Magpie
6
American Crow
4
Black-capped Chickadee
3
Red-breasted Nuthatch
3
American Robin
6
House Finch
6
Red Crossbill
50
House Sparrow
Are you submitting a complete checklist of the birds you were able to identify?
Yes

————————————————

It may not seem like much when you are reporting less than a dozen species on these lists, and seeing pretty much the same birds every day for long stretches, but over time the bird species and numbers change with the seasons, and you sometimes find new and unexpected species as well. Although I will typically see about eight species in the winter and fifteen to twenty in the summer in my yard or in suburban neighbourhoods like St. Andrews Heights, the year totals and life totals for those locations are surprisingly high. From 2008-2014 I submitted 366 lists from St. Andrews Heights, and recorded 67 species. I have submitted 178 yard lists in 2014 and have 56 species. Since January 2012 I have 74 species on my yard list, on 468 checklists.

I hope and expect to see more and more birders using eBird to record their sightings in the future. It is easy to use, and a fun way to contribute to citizen science all year long.

For a brief description of what eBird is and how the data is used, see this article: About eBird

There is a lot of information about how to use the eBird site on its Help Page.

Here is an excellent tutorial on YouTube which describes how to submit observations:

 

 

Here is a much fuller introduction to eBird. The video is almost an hour long. The basics of submitting sightings begins just after the 34-minute mark.

 

 

I hope that gets you started!

What’s Being Seen in Calgary?

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

How do you find out about bird sightings in Calgary? Many trip reports and most rarities and  unusual sightings are posted on the Albertabird Discussion Group. You can subscribe to get emails of the posts, or check it online regularly to see what is being reported. The Alberta Birds Facebook group is another great resource where you can see which species are being photographed in Alberta.

eBird has several search tools which allow you to search for specific birds, or Explore Hotspots or Locations to see what’s been reported there.

But there is also a great tool called BirdTrax that lets you see all checklists and all species for a particular location. I have set up a BirdTrax page for the Calgary region. It will be useful next year for the 2015 Calgary Birding Competition, but anyone can use it now to see what is being reported on eBird in the Calgary area (you don’t have to be an eBird user yourself to access these tools or their database, but I encourage all birders to sign up and submit sightings to eBird.)

Here is a link to the Calgary BirdTrax page. There will be a permanent link on the right-hand sidebar of the blog as well. Try it out!

Here is a screenshot of the page:

Birdtrax jpeg

Here is what the gadget itself looks like (a screenshot from May 7, 2014, with the rarities column shown):

Birdtrax crop

Currently the settings show all eBird reports for the last two weeks, in a 50-kilometre radius from the Centre Street bridge in Calgary. The default setting shows the “Checklists” column so you can see every individual checklist as it comes in. Then you can click on the checklist icon to see the actual trip list, and from there, see the map location. I go on here every morning to see what was reported the previous day.

You can also click on the other column headings to see either a list of rarities reported, or a list of all species reported. In each case you can go to the individual checklists to see who reported the birds and where.

We may add more BirdTrax gadgets to this page later, for other locations. The birding competition will cover an 80-km radius circle, and BirdTrax has a 50-km maximum, so we may need more to better cover the Calgary birding area.

BirdTrax is a free gadget and anyone can set up their own web page with whatever settings they want. So if you live or bird outside Calgary you might want to set one up for another area. Go to the BirdTrax page and learn how. 

Birding Competition: How It Works

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Last Friday’s post announced the upcoming 2015 Calgary Birding Competition. Today I will give details about how it will work and how you can get involved now.

waxwing1

Bohemian Waxwing, photographed by Matthew Sim during the 2010 competition

The main difference between this competition and the previous ones that Nature Calgary has held is that the recording of all bird sightings will be done using eBird, the online bird listing database. Previously birders could submit their sightings on spreadsheets or paper printouts, and the organizers of the competition would compile the results. Using eBird makes this process automatic, and the ongoing status of the competition will be visible to anyone.

There are many other advantages to using eBird, for both the birder and for anyone who wants to learn about the birds of the Calgary area:

  • eBird is a permanent, publicly available record of bird sightings
  • eBird is a searchable database
  • anyone, whether an eBird user or not, can access the database
  • it includes sightings from around the world
  • it includes historical sightings
  • sighting locations are shown on maps
  • birders can request to be alerted by email of rare bird sightings, or sightings of any bird they need for own list

As eBird use has increased, it has become a valuable tool for researchers studying the status and distribution of bird species. We feel that its importance for the birding community will continue to grow over time. The value and accuracy of eBird’s data will also increase as more birders use it.

Therefore, two of the main goals of holding this competition will be:

  1. To train a new generation of birders to use eBird
  2. To encourage veteran birders to begin using eBird, and to enter their bird lists from previous years into the database.

The Calgary area is already among the top three locations in Canada in terms of the number of sightings submitted to eBird, but we would like to see that increase dramatically from 2015 on.

It is quite easy to set up an eBird account and get started. Here is the sign-in page. We will offer help to anyone who needs it; more on that below.

To take part in the 2015 competition, you will need to:

  1. register with us (we will set this up soon)
  2. have an eBird account
  3. set up a Patch list on eBird for the 80-km circle

After that it is just a matter of entering your sightings into eBird as you make them, and making sure that any locations where you recorded birds inside the 80-km circle are included in that patch.

z - nutchatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch, photographed by Ken Johnson during the 2010 competition

Getting Started Now

We hope that many of you will get started using eBird and setting up your competition patch soon, so that we can use 2014 as a trial run to work out any problems. This way you will also be able to familiarize yourself with the process and learn more about using eBird, and see how many species you can find inside the circle this year. I will give details on how to register and how to set up a competition patch in an upcoming post.

If You Need Help

Although eBird is fairly easy to use, if you feel you need help we will offer it to anyone who wants to get started. If you have set up your eBird account but just have a few questions, you can contact us by email. Our email address is ebirdyyc(at)gmail.com.

For those of you who would prefer it, we will be holding in-person training sessions. These will take place in a state-of-the-art computer lab, where you can go through the whole process of setting up an eBird account and entering bird sightings. For anyone who uses other bird-listing software, we will also teach you how to import that data into your eBird account. The first training session is already full (it was advertised in the Nature Calgary newsletter) but we will hold more sessions as needed. If you want to take part in this, please register at birdstudy(at)naturecalgary.com.