Tag Archive | eBird

Global Big Day, May 13, 2017

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Tomorrow, Saturday May 13, is the third annual Global Big Day, organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The hope is that birders all over the world will go out that day and report as many species as they can.

Can you find a Long-eared Owl on the Global Big Day? Fish Creek Park, November 7, 2010. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

In 2016, 15,953 birders in 145 countries contributed 43,848 checklists, and recorded a total of 6,263 bird species. Your individual contribution this Saturday is important in preserving a record of our local bird life. Here’s how to make your sightings count.

There will also be a random draw from everyone who submits at least three complete checklists on May 13, with the winner getting Zeiss Conquest HD 8X42 binoculars.

The results are already coming in from the Eastern Hemisphere, and you can watch the worldwide results as they come in here.

The Cornell Lab’s team of birders is raising money by trying to find 300 species of birds in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico in twenty-four hours. You can sponsor the Cornell Big Day team here.

Locally, many birders are making a special effort to get out and put in their three checklists. Dan Arndt and a few others are actually doing a Calgary Region Big Day, trying to see as many species as they can within the local 80-km radius birding circle. You can follow Dan’s progress and see how many species they have (and perhaps learn where some really good birds are located) by following him on his Twitter account. Dan’s handle is @ubermoogle, so follow him, or go to his page on Twitter to see what he posts.

eBird Counties of Southern Alberta

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

If you are a birder in the Calgary area who uses eBird, you may be confused about where the boundaries for the eBird Counties are. As you enter sightings from various locations in the region, you will see that some are assigned to Calgary County, and some to Drumheller, Banff, Lethbridge, or others. It is not clear at first what these counties represent. Even when we were doing the 2015 eBird Competition we were not sure what to make of the eBird Counties.

It turns out that the boundaries for eBird Counties in Canada follow the federal government’s Census Geographic Units. This is not a well-known political or geographic entity, and the boundaries are not marked anywhere as you travel around. (In the United States, where eBird started, the eBird Counties are the same as the political Counties, which are well-known and have well-marked boundaries.)

However, it is possible to see a map of our County boundaries by going on Google Earth. If you don’t have Google Earth you should download it. It is free, and very useful for birders. You can see satellite maps of the entire world down to a very fine level.

When you are on Google Earth, zoom into the region you want to see, and turn off all the layers except “Borders.” The fine green lines on the map are the county boundaries. (Thanks to Dan Arndt for finding out what the counties are, and how to see the boundaries.)

Southern Alberta, showing eBird County boundaries in green.

Southern Alberta, with eBird County names in yellow and boundaries in green.

Feel free to copy this map as a reference, but I do recommend downloading Google Earth, so you can zoom in to see the boundaries at a finer scale. You can also turn on other layers such as “Places ” and “Roads” so you can see where the towns and highways are.

Below are four detail maps of the north, east, south, and west edges of Calgary county.

The north end of Calgary County.

The east side of Calgary County, along the Trans-Canada Highway. Drumheller County begins immediately east of Weed Lake, and actually includes part of Dalemead Reservoir.

The south end of Calgary County.

The west side of Calgary county.

The eBird Counties do not correspond well to any particular geographic birding region. Many of you may keep track of sightings within the 80-km circle centered on the Centre Street Bridge in Calgary, which is used for the annual May Species Count (and for both the 2005 and 2015 birding competitions). Here is the relevant map for that:

The 80-km circle of the Calgary birding region (red), with eBird Counties in green.

If anyone would like to be able to draw the 80-km circle on Google Earth on their own computer, just email me at birdscalgary@gmail.com and I will give you instructions.

Tonight, Wednesday February 8, 2017, Mike Harrison will speak at the Bird Study Group of Nature Calgary on The Ins and Outs of eBird. If you are an eBird user or want to learn about it, please come out. See this page for details.

Birding Competition: Down to the Wire!

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

We are down to the last week of the 2015 Calgary Birding Competition, so this will be the final update before we begin to collect the results. We still have some pretty close races, and there are some good birds around that competitors may still be able to add to their year lists. Gyrfalcons, Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpeckers, and Short-eared Owls have been seen in the rural areas, and Northern Cardinal, Harris’s Sparrow, Purple Finch, and Brown Thrasher (which is easy to miss in the summer) were recorded (so far) during the Christmas Bird Count week in Calgary.

Trevor Churchill Harris's Sparrow, IGC

Harris’s Sparrow, photographed at the Inglewood Golf Course, Dec. 13, 2015, by Trevor Churchill.

Leaders, 80-km circle:

Here are the top competitors listed with their species totals and categories (the “Not Eligible” competitors are on the organizing committee). Also included is the number of complete checklists they have submitted to eBird within the 80-km circle. This total does not include “incidental” sightings.

Using the arrows you can sort the columns to see all the participants in one category listed together, or sort by number of species, or number of checklists. You can also increase or decrease the number of lines shown.

80-km Circle Leaders, December 23, 2015

Overall RankNameSpeciesChecklistsCategory
1Brian Elder275128Experienced
2Ray Woods25779Experienced
3Blake Weis256628Experienced
4Dan Arndt254264Not Eligible
5Aidan Vidal24081Youth
6 tieGeorge Best235223Experienced
6 tDan Parliament235187Experienced
6 tBirdboy Canada235180Youth
9Andrew Hart234249Not Eligible
10 tJohn Thompson232282Experienced
10 tN Denton232176Experienced
12Cindy Parliament230141Experienced
13Trevor Churchill225108Experienced
14Graeme Mudd224202Beginner
15 tAphtin Perratt222101Beginner
15 tChris Macintosh222101Beginner
17Andrew Slater219156Not Eligible
18R Painter219309Not Eligible
19 tJohn Anderson217466Experienced
19 tLorrie Anderson217463Experienced
21Bob Lefebvre214503Not Eligible
22Nicole Pellerin205164Beginner
23 tLinda Vaxvick203259Experienced
23 tJudy Swan203222Experienced
25 tPhil Cram20165Experienced
25 tChristopher Naugler20174Experienced
27Darlene Shimkiw195137Beginner
28John Bargman187130Experienced
29Janet Gill181104Experienced
30Peter Hoyer17573Experienced
31Simone Pellerin-Wood17393Youth
32 tDave Russum170317Experienced
32 tRob Worona17033Experienced
34Anne Belton16999Experienced
35Jan Roseneder153315Experienced
36Jeremy Quickfall15151Beginner
37Saravana Moorthy13375Beginner
38Joan Walker13114Not Eligible
39Sue Konopnicki12757Experienced
40Bernard Tremblay9526Experienced
41Bernie Diebolt9424Experienced
42Rachel Mackay9228Beginner
43Michael Rogers7841Experienced
44 tTony LePrieur7523Beginner
44 tByron Chu7513Experienced
46Hannah Lilles615Youth
47Robin Naugler484Youth
48Brett Lybbert4612Beginner
49David Sim3422Experienced
50Lucianna Lybbert328Youth
51Jarom Lybbert3111Youth
52Katrina Lybbert309Experienced
53Gord Newel278Beginner
54Angela Bell2111Experienced
55Lynn Wilsack2011Beginner
56Reginald Lybbert121Youth
57David Archer112Beginner
58Sylvia Checkley40Beginner
59Jim Donohue10Experienced

 

So far this year, 290 species have been reported on eBird in the Calgary county alone.

Yard Challenge Update

Here are the leaders, showing the number of species identified in or from the competitor’s yards.

Yard Challenge Leaders, December 23

RankNameSpecies
1Phil Ullman88
2 tieJohn Anderson59
2tLorrie Anderson59
4 - Not EligibleBob Lefebvre59
5 tJudy Swan55
5 tJohn Bargman55
7Dave Russum42
8Michael Rogers33
9Brian Elder31
10David Sim29
11Linda Vaxvick27
12 - Not EligibleR Painter25
13Rachel Mackay24
14 tNicole Pellerin23
14 tPhil Cram23
16Graeme Mudd20
17Peter Hoyer19
18 tSimone Pellerin-Wood18
18 tDarlene Shymkiw18
20Jan Roseneder15
21Lynn Wilsack13
22 - Not EligibleAndrew Hart12
23 tBrett Lybbert11
23 tJanet Gill11
23 tKatrina Lybbert11
26 tLucianna Lybbert9
26 tSaravana Moorthy9
28George Best7
29 tZoe Keefe6
29 tDavid Archer6
31Anne Belton4
32Jarome Lybbert3
33 tHannah Lilles1
33 tClaude Benoit1

 

We will have the preliminary final results of the competition early in the new year, and will give an update at the Nature Calgary Bird Studies Group meeting on Wednesday, January 6. The prizes will be awarded at the January Birds & Beers get-together on Friday, January 29, 2016.

Donate to the competition

Thank you to all who have generously donated money to be put towards prizes for the competitors. If you would like to support the goals of our competition, please go to Nature Calgary’s Competition page.There are instructions about how to make a contribution using their “Donate” page, and how to specify that your gift is for the competition. Nature Calgary is a registered charity. 100% of all gifts will be used to purchase prizes for participants.

 

Competition Update, October 31

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

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Rusty Blackbird, a hard-to-find autumn bird. Photo by Dan Arndt, October 25, 2015 at Lower Kananaskis Lake (outside the competition circle). ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

Leaders, 80-km circle:

Here are the top competitors listed with their species totals and categories (the “Not Eligible” competitors are on the organizing committee). Also included is the number of complete checklists they have submitted to eBird within the 80-km circle. This total does not include “incidental” sightings.

Using the arrows you can sort the columns to see all the participants in one category listed together, or sort by number of species, or number of checklists. You can also increase or decrease the number of lines shown.

80-km Circle, October 31
NameSpeciesChecklistsCategory
Brian Elder272126Experienced
Blake Weis 251534Experienced
Daniel Arndt250228Not Eligible
Ray Woods24971Experienced
Andrew Hart233241Not Eligible
Dan Parliament231165Experienced
George Best230198Experienced
John Thompson230248Experienced
Cindy Parliament 229137Experienced
BirdBoy Canada219151Youth
N Denton 217147Experienced
Andrew Slater216127Not Eligible
Aidan Vidal21663Youth
R Painter215282Not Eligible
Lorrie Anderson214392Experienced
John Anderson214397Experienced
Graeme Mudd214172Beginner
Aphtin Perratt21394Beginner
Bob Lefebvre211441Not Eligible
Chris Macintosh21192Beginner
Nicole Pellerin205165Beginner
Christopher Naugler20174Experienced
Phillip Cram20167Experienced
Linda Vaxvick199222Experienced
Judy Swan195161Experienced
Darlene Shymkiw193128Beginner
Trevor Churchill18781Experienced
John Bargman187124Experienced
Janet Gill17490Experienced
Simone Pellerin-Wood17393Youth
Peter Hoyer17267Experienced
Rob Worona17032Experienced
Anne Belton169100Experienced
Dave Russum167283Experienced
Jan Roseneder148262Experienced
Jeremy Quickfall14749Beginner
Joan Walker13114Experienced
Saravana Moorthy13071Beginner
Sue Konopnicki12754Experienced

 

If you are an eBird user you can view the current standings at any time. Go to eBird Canada and click the “Explore Data” tab. Click on “Patch Totals” and change the region to Alberta. Below your patches (if you have any) you will see a list of all patches in Alberta, which you can sort by day, month, or year. The competition competitors use the patch name “2015 Calgary Patch Challenge, CA-AB.”

Brian Elder’s Patch total of 272 species is the top patch in all of Canada. Eight of the to 20 patches in Canada belong to birders in the competition.

eBird Usage:

We continue to be among the leading regions in Canada in eBird submissions. Here are the top counties in Canada in number of checklists submitted for October 2015. (Calgary county is entirely within the competition circle, but the circle also includes parts of three other counties.)

eBird submissions by county, October 2015
Metro Vancouver6275
Camrose-Lloydminister3550
Ottawa1989
Capital1723
Cowichan Valley1517
Calgary878
Peterborough847
Toronto750
Nipissing684
Yukon679
Fraser-Fort George660
Montreal654
Essex619
Wellington612
Laval599
Halifax579
Avalon Peninsula - St. John's550
Hamilton520
Bruce493

 

With the winter birding season upon us, now is the time to get out and find the winter birds you missed in January and February. It’s a great chance to add new species for the those trying to win the Latecomer Challenge (most new species added after August 1). There are lots of winter finches around already so it promises to be a great end to the year.

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White-winged Crossbill. Photo by Tony LePrieur, Fish Creek Park, October 31. ::Aperture: ƒ/7.1|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 2000|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

Donate to the competition

Thank you to all who have generously donated money to be put towards prizes for the competitors. If you would like to support the goals of our competition, please go to Nature Calgary’s Competition page. There are instructions about how to make a contribution using their “Donate” page, and how to specify that your gift is for the competition. Nature Calgary is a registered charity. 100% of all gifts will be used to purchase prizes for participants.

 

Support the Birding Competition

The eBird Calgary 2015 Birding Competition is a year-long effort by local birders to see how many species they can find in the Calgary region. Over 100 birders registered to take part. The organizers have conducted many field trips and we have had some social get-togethers as well. You can read about the competition and the latest standings here.

It’s gratifying to see so many local birders explore our area and record their sightings in eBird. In doing so, they are contributing to the global database of knowledge about bird numbers and distribution, inspiring other local birders to get out in the field and involved in our local birding community, and raising awareness of the conservation issues that lie at the heart of why we do what we do.

We currently have prizes in place for the first-place finishers in the three experience categories, the Yard Challenge, the Latecomer Challenge, and the finder of the Bird of the Year. Thanks to all our sponsors: The Wild Bird Store, Nature Calgary, Burrcan Holdings, Phil Evans, the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society, and an anonymous donor.

We would like to be able to recognize more of our competitors, especially with some very close races and all the hard work these birders have done. It would be nice to be able to award prizes to our second-place and third-place finishers, and we would like to hold more small competitions over the last three months of the year. These would provide the incentives necessary to keep up interest through to the end of the year.

For this, we need your help. If you would like to support the goals of our competition, please go to Nature Calgary’s Competition page. There are instructions about how to make a contribution using their “Donate” page, and how to specify that your gift is for the competition. Nature Calgary is a registered charity. 100% of all gifts will be used to purchase prizes for participants.

 

Competition Update, October

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

As October begins we enter the final quarter of the eBird Calgary 2015 Competition. It will now be harder for the leaders to add new species to their lists, and for the other competitors to catch up.

Brian Elder continues to set a very impressive standard, with 270 species reported within the 80-km circle. I believe this is a record for the circle in a calendar year, and he still has three months to go. The highest previous total that I could find was 265. It will be very interesting to see how high he and the other top birders can go.

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Hooded Warbler – a rarity seen in Calgary on October 4, it would increase anyone’s species count by one! Photo by Dan Arndt

Blake Weis and Ray Woods are tied for second place behind Brian in the category of Experienced birders, at 249 species.

In the Beginner category we have a very close race, with Chris MacIntosh and Aphtin Perratt tied at 210 species, and Graeme Mudd right behind at 209.

In the Youth category Aidan Vidal leads with 216 species, and Ethan Denton (Birdboy Canada) at 212.

Latecomer Challenge: 

The winners of the next challenge will be the birders in each of the three experience categories who add the most new species to their lists from August 1 to the end of the year. This gives an incentive for those competitors who haven’t been out as much as they’d like, to go out more in that latter part of the year and see the species they missed earlier. It will be much easier to win this challenge if you haven’t birded much in the first half of the year and have a small list. The current leaders in each category will have a much harder time adding new species to their totals, since they have seen many of the species already.

Leaders:

Here are all the competitors listed with their species totals and categories (the “Not Eligible” competitors are on the organizing committee). Using the arrows you can sort the columns to see all the participants in one category listed together, or sort by number of species. You can also increase or decrease the number of lines shown.

80-km Circle Leaders, October 3, 2015

NameSpeciesCategory
Brian Elder270Experienced
Blake Weis249Experienced
Ray Woods249Experienced
Daniel Arndt243Not Eligible
Andrew Hart229Not Eligible
Dan Parliament228Experienced
John Thompson227Experienced
George Best225Experienced
Cindy Parliament131Experienced
Aidan Vidal216Youth
Andrew Slater213Not Eligible
Rose Painter212Not Eligible
Birdboy Canada212Youth
Neil Denton211Experienced
Chris Macintosh210Beginner
Aphtin Perratt210Beginner
Graeme Mudd209Beginner
John Anderson207Experienced
Lorrie Anderson207Experienced
Bob Lefebvre205Not Eligible
Nicole Pellerin205Beginner
Phillip Cram201Experienced
Christopher Naugler196Experienced
Linda Vaxvick195Experienced
Judy Swan193Experienced
Darlene Shymkiw186Beginner
John Bargman185Experienced
Trevor Churchill184Experienced
Simone Pellerin-Wood173Youth
Janet Gill171Experienced
Rob Worona169Experienced
Dave Russum164Experienced
Anne Belton163Experienced
Peter Hoyer158Experienced
Jan Roseneder147Experienced
Jeremy Quickfall139Beginner
Joan Walker131Not Eligible
Saravana Moorthy130Beginner
Sue Konopnicki124Experienced
Bernie Debolt89Experienced
Rachel Mackay86Beginner
Michael Rogers80Experienced
Tony LePrieur75Beginner
Byron Chu75Experienced
Bernard Tremblay72Experienced
Hannah Lilles61Youth
Robin Naugler48Youth
Brett Lybbert46Beginner
David Sim34Experienced
Lucianna Lybbert32Youth
Jarom Lybbert31Youth
Katrina Lybbert30Experienced
Gord Newel27Beginner
Angela Bell21Experienced
Lynn Wilsack20Beginner
Reginald Lybbert12Youth
David Archer11Beginner
Sylvia Checkley4Beginner
Jim Donohue1Experienced

 

We also have a Yard Challenge, in which participants report all the birds in their yards, or seen or heard from their yards, throughout the year. Of course the playing field here is not level as everyone’s yard is in a different location and habitat, and gets different birds. So it is more of a fun challenge, and a way for more people to get involved. Phil Ullman has a big lead in this category, and I don’t think anyone will catch him. It’s pretty impressive to see or hear 87 species of birds from your yard!

Yard Challenge Leaders, October 3, 2015

NameSpecies
Phil Ullman87
Bob Lefebvre (not eligible)53
John Bargman53
Judy Swan51
Lorrie Anderson51
John Anderson51
Dave Russum40
John Thompson37
Michael Rogers33
Brian Elder31
David Sim29
Rose Painter (not eligible)25
Nicole Pellerin23
Phillip Cram23
Linda Vaxvick22
Rachel Mackay21
Graeme Mudd20
Peter Hoyer18
Simone Pellerin-Wood18
Darlene Shymkiw18
Brett Lybbert11
Janet Gill11
Katrina Lybbert11
Lucianna Lybbert9
Saravana Moorthy9
Lynn Wilsack7
Andrew Hart7
George Best7
Zoe Keefe6
David Archer6
Anne Belton4
Jarom Lybbert3
Claude Benoit1
Hannah Lilles1

 

eBird Usage:

One of the main goals of the competition was to get more birders using eBird to record their sightings. We continue to have an impact in this. The Calgary county, which covers the bulk of the circle, has typically been in the top five counties in the country each month, in terms of number of eBird checklists submitted. In Alberta, Calgary’s 11,020 checklists submitted this year up to October 2 was 43% of the Alberta total of 25,569. We are really contributing to the knowledge of bird numbers and distribution in our area.

Patch Lists:

The 80-km circle is a Patch on eBird, and although it is very large for an eBird patch, it is nevertheless impressive that of all the patches listed for this year in Alberta, the top 41 all belong to birders in the competition (some of these are smaller patches like the Calgary city limits or the Weaselhead area). Half of the top 18 patches in Canada are also in our 80-km circle (including Brian Elder’s in top spot), and here we are competing against some other large areas and well-known birding hot-spots like Point Pelee.

Donate to the Competition:

It’s gratifying to see so many local birders explore our area and record their sightings in eBird. In doing so, they are contributing to the global database of knowledge about bird numbers and distribution, inspiring other local birders to get out in the field and involved in our local birding community, and raising awareness of the conservation issues that lie at the heart of why we do what do.

We currently have prizes in place for the first-place finishers in the three experience categories, the Yard Challenge, the Latecomer Challenge, and the finder of the Bird of the Year. Thanks to all our sponsors: The Wild Bird Store, Nature Calgary, Burrcan Holdings, Phil Evans, the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society, and an anonymous donor.

We would like to be able to recognize more of our competitors, especially with some very close races and all the hard work these birders have done. It would be nice to be able to award prizes to our second-place and third-place finishers, and we would like to hold more small competitions over the last three months of the year. These would provide the incentives necessary to keep up interest through to the end of the year.

For this, we need your help. If you would like to support the goals of our competition, please go to Nature Calgary’s Competition page. There are instructions about how to make a contribution using their “Donate” page, and how to specify that your gift is for the competition. Nature Calgary is a registered charity. 100% of all gifts will be used to purchase prizes for participants.

Birding Locations: Marsland Basin

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

A little-known gem of a birding location near Calgary is Marsland Basin, a Ducks Unlimited wetland on a private farm about halfway between Eagle Lake and Namaka Lake, southeast of Strathmore. A 75-acre lake with mud flats and cattail marshes can be viewed from the edge of a wooded farmyard.

The homeowners have created a great natural environment for all kinds of birds here, and they invite any interested birders to come by at any time. There are chairs set up at the viewing area, and you can walk around the farmyard as well. Sign the guest book.

Marsland Basin

To get to Marsland Basin, take Twp Road 232 one mile east from the village of Namaka, then go north a half mile on RR 242. This road dead-ends by the yard. Just drive right up into the yard.

Birders are encouraged to enter their sightings on eBird. Use the Marsland Basin HotSpot. Having a lot of public reports of both nesting birds and migrants is a good way to ensure that the importance of a wetland is recognized, and it is more likely to be protected and preserved.

There is an upcoming Nature Calgary field trip to this location on Sunday July 26. Meet at the parking lot at Carburn Park at 8 am to carpool.

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!