eBird—A Great Resource for Birders
Many of you may have heard of eBird, the joint venture between Cornell Ornithology Lab and National Audubon Society that helps with bird identification and tracking. As you prepare for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) which occurs each February, you may want to learn more about this resource. The goal of eBird is “to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year” by a global network of birders—both professionals in ornithology and everyday observers like you and me—to better understand distribution and movement of birds. This is accomplished by using a simple and intuitive web-based interface. From the eBird internet site, bird watchers are asked when, where, and how they went birding and what birds they saw and heard. Local experts from partnering conservation organizations review and maintain these records, and pay particular attention to records of unusual sightings. You can also access records from other eBird users to find out what birds have been sighted in your area and where.
Are you interested in learning more about joining eBird? Here is a link to the eBird site. http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/
Another great resource from Cornell Ornithology Lab is a FREE app—Merlin—that can be downloaded to either Apple or Android devices. This is a great tool for beginning and intermediate birders. You are asked five simple questions about the bird you are observing; then Merlin gives you a short list of most likely matches based on your answers, location and time of year. From those choices you can select the correct bird and learn more about that species, including song, habitat, food preferences, and other fun facts. How cool is that! And even better, now you can take a picture of the bird you are trying to identify and send it to Merlin, and you will be shown a list of most likely suspects.
Here is a link to more information about Merlin. http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/