Archive for the ‘Audubon’ tag
See that partridge in a pear tree?
Make sure you count it for Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, one of the largest and longest running citizen science projects in existence today. It’s a 112 year tradition, with upwards of 60,000 person-days of effort and more than 60 million birds counted each year.
“Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action.” –CBC Blog
From December 14 through January 5 each year, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in this adventure. Volunteers follow specific routes within a 15-mile diameter circle, counting birds that are seen or heard. It’s not just a species tally—all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day. If you’re curious about the data and research from last year’s count, that’s available on the website too! The results of the bird count will be published in various scientific publications, most notably American Birds.
This is an ideal project to participate in with friends and family during the holiday season. Join thousands of others participating nationwide this year! Find a count happening near you.
Photo: State of Nebraska
The first blog post in our new series titled “Citizen Science Test Drive,” (where we present first-person reviews of citizen science apps, tools and platforms) featured reviews of three nature apps by SciStarter contributor Lisa Gardner. Today, we bring you Kate Atkins, a regular SciStarter contributor and avid birder. Here, Kate shares her list of personal, favorite apps for birding. If you would like to contribute to this series and share your experiences with our community, email email@example.com.
The best citizen science apps for birding used to be iOS-only. I’ve known many an Android birder to switch to iPhone or buy an iPod Touch because the apps on that side of the divide were so darn good. But with Android smartphones now commanding more than half of the market, the gap is starting to close. Here’s the best of both worlds.
BirdsEye is precisely a bird-finding app, based on the citizen-driven eBird database. Want to see a specific bird? BirdsEye will show you the most recent, closest sighting and give you directions. Want to see what birds have been observed at a specific hotspot over the last 30 days? What rare or notable birds have been seen near you recently? Done and done.
While helping people find and view birds, this app also teaches newer birders which birds can be found where and when. Yes, this one is still iOS only, but an Android version is likely to materialize soon.
The Audubon Birds app recently added bird-finding functionality via eBird to their existing field guide app. Study birds at home, on the subway, or in the park, then go find and observe birds in the real world with a little help from your friends at Cornell and Audubon.
A good birder keeps field notes. A citizen scientist shares the data. Cornell’s eBird is the key crowd-sourced database, so the ability to either directly submit to eBird or to export lists in eBird format is a must-have feature for any logging app.
If you are not familiar with the project and wish to report your bird sightings using one of these apps, I strongly urge you to first create an eBird account and use it in a browser before taking the plunge with mobile data-logging.
Very simply, this app records and uploads sightings to eBird, from your fingers straight to Ithaca. I’d like to see it more deeply connected to my eBird account, but for base functionality and total simplicity, BirdLog is indispensable.
A nice option if you want the bells and whistles BirdLog lacks. This app is pre-loaded with US, Mexico and UK bird lists. Add your locations via GPS, and list for them again and again. Exports to both eBird and Google Map formats so you can easily share your adventures.
The developers have carefully crafted interactions for use in the field. Big day and group count usage is well thought-out, and as your list archive grows, the more fun it will be to study your own patterns. This app makes a compelling case to trade in your notebook for your phone.
Study & Skill-building
Before, during, and after birding, reference materials and study guides are key elements to the birding life. Most marquis field guides have wonderful app versions with extra illustrations, photos, audio files and links to web resources.
Each is a little different, so it’s worth some thought before purchasing one over another. I’m partial to the Sibley guide for its illustrations, audio files, and side-by-side bird comparison, but beginners may prefer iBird for its guided search.
- The Sibley Guide to the Birds of North America
- iBird Explorer
- Peterson Birds of North America
- National Geographic’s Handheld Birds
Birding by ear
- Nemesis Code’s Bird Codes and Band Codes apps. If you want to be a real ace in the field, these apps will teach you the 4-letter banding codes for birds. Learning these will cut your data entry time, and help you interpret bands if you see them on birds in the wild.
I use some non-birding specific apps to enhance my days in the field. If you’re as phone-fiddly as I am, and like tramping around outside, find out what my home screens hold at Birding Philly.
On the morning of Friday, February 17, I will wake up before work, pour myself a cup of coffee, and stare out my window for 15 minutes. As long as I submit my observations to the Great Backyard Bird Count, my 15 minutes of zone-out time before I jump in the shower will qualify as productive science.
The Great Backyard Bird Count runs from Friday the 17th through Monday the 20th, and it’s as easy as using a few pajama moments to participate.
Wherever you are, simply stop in your tracks and take a look around for birds. You can in your backyard, outside of the your local cafe, at the playground, or around your driveway — anywhere! Anyone can participate, and the coolest part is that even a report of a single robin matters more than usual, because people across the world will be observing and reporting all at once. In 2011 alone, this huge concerted effort yielded 1,044,346 robins alone!
The data are collected by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, The National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada, and are used to gauge how birds have fared over the winter. With the help of citizen scientists everywhere, researchers get a widespread snapshot of bird abundance and distribution right before migration heats up.
If Santa had time during his busy holiday schedule, there is no doubt he would join the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, an annual event that dates back to the year 1900! That’s right: a citizen science event 110 years in the making!
From December 14 to January 5 each season, volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day.
Why has the Christmas Bird Count been such a huge success over the years?
First, you don’t need to be an expert to participate. Families, students, and birders at all levels are paired together with seasoned Christmas Bird Count veterans. You’ll be supplied with binoculars, bird guides and checklists — all you need to participate in a successful count.
Second, the counts take place all over the world. To get involved in a count near you, visit the Christmas Bird Count Get Involved web page.
Finally, the data collected through the Christmas Bird Count has been extremely useful to researchers, conservation biologists, and others interested in studying the long-term health and status of bird populations. In the 1980’s, for instance, data was used to document the decline of wintering populations of the American Black Duck. As a result, conservation measures were put into effect to reduce hunting pressure on this species.
Visit the Christmas Bird Count website to learn more about how you can participate in the longest-running wildlife census this holiday season.
HO HO HO!
Scientists all over the northeast want to know more about where native owls live and roam. By keeping mice and other small rodents in check, owls perform a critical function in suburban ecosystems. But researchers don’t yet understand why owls survive well in some suburban areas and not in others. So, all you citizen scientists living in Massachusetts, New York, and Maine, your owl-spotting and listening skills are needed!
How do you know if there are owls around? One great way is to listen for them. The Massachusetts Audubon Owls Project needs volunteers year-round to report when they notice native owls, from Great Horned to Barred to Eastern Screech. The Mass Audubon website lets you listen to sample calls and includes pictures of the various species so that you can determine which kind of bird you encountered. Once you spot an owl, use the website’s electronic Owl Reporter form to record your observations.
(Here’s the call of a Barred owl. If you listen closely, it sounds a bit like: “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”) Barred owl call
Meanwhile, researchers on another project, “Who’s Whoo-ing” in your backyard?, figure that citizen scientists can increase their odds of hearing an owl by giving a shout – in “owl-ese” that is. Volunteers living near the Mianus River Gorge Preserve in Bedford, New York, are needed year-round to call to Screech and Barred owls in their backyards. You won’t need a perfect owl-accent – simply download calls from the website and play the sounds on a boombox in your yard. Scientists hope that any owls of the same species living in the vicinity will call back, and this information can help establish population and migration information.
Finally, researchers at the Maine Owl Monitoring Program are listening for summer nightbirds (whip-poor-wills and common nighthawks) as well as owls. Because these scientists want to make sure their data are consistent, their owl-documentation program is the most detailed, including routes for volunteers to follow, and specific time and weather requirements for conducting listening surveys. Though the summer listening windows just closed for this year, the project will need volunteers in the fall and winter. If you would like to get on board and go for a night-time listen, sign up at Maine Audubon.
Your help on these projects will assist owl researchers in determining “whooos” out there!