Wednesday, June 3, 2009

3 June 2009 - eBird questions, comments and suggestions


It's great to see so many comments and interest in eBird. I'll try to keep the blog fresh with periodic posts like this so people can pose questions (about eBird only please!), comments and provide suggestions for improvements. It is our hope that you, the eBird users, will help others by responding to questions as well. We will, of course be monitoring and chiming in when we can. For technical eBird issues, there is a Google Group called "eBird Tech Talk" run by Charles Swift. That is a great forum for trouble-shooting eBird techincal problems.


Team eBird


  1. Here's a question for the audience. How can we get more of our fellow birders using eBird?

    I started using eBird after participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count several years ago. I was always interested in birds, but that got into be a real "birder".

    What I find baffling is the large number of active birders in my local area who just don't use eBird. I always mention eBird when I run into them on the trail at a local hotspot, yet I still don't see them contributing.

    Unfortunately, I travel 5 days a week so it's difficult for me to particiapte in local organizations. I guess that's one way to get the word out.

    What does everyone else think?

  2. eBirders

    What we've found is that when we sit down and take a group step-by-step through the process of eBird, show how easy and useful it is, that many people get hooked. But it does take one-on-one time, and there are only three of us!

    Perhaps we should post eBird promotional items on the website so that people interested in eBird could download and present a Powerpoint presentation at local bird clubs etc. We could also post a PDF of our eBird brochure that local bird clubs could print out and pass out to their constituents. What other types of promotional stuff would be helpful to spread the word?

  3. Having an "official" eBird Powerpoint presentation available would be great. I've created my own, but it's really wordy and even I get bored with it! Our local Audubon chapter would like to have regular workshops to teach the use of eBird and a good presentation would really make a difference for us.

  4. I wouldn't want to cause litter issues, but some official promotional material would be nice, as it could be left at nature centers, etc. (with their permission of course).

  5. An I eBird window clig?
    Work with those who lead field trips to enter the field trip into eBird and then send it to participants.

  6. I would like to see eBird become even more valuable as a birding tool. When entering a checklist I would like to have the ability to add notes next to each species reported, or at the very least maybe an optional dropdown box with a few choices - Seen, Heard Only, or Photographed - would be of great use to me.

    I still have to export the eBird spreadsheet and add this information later, so I am almost doing double work. I would also think that the first two options would be valuable to scientist and chasers, especially for the rarer reported birds.

    As most (if not all) of you already know, keeping field notes is a great tool for future reference. If there were a way for eBird to capture you notes along with your species it would be of even more value to a wider scope of birders.

  7. A bit off-topic, but this is the most recent post, so I'll add it here.

    This is in regards to the Top 100, and how there are eBird accounts for individuals as well as Nature Centers, Observatories, Misc Locations, and previously collected data. I think it would be nice to see two different types of the Top 100 list: one for all data sources and one for named individuals.

    I would guess an option in the user profile/preferences would be a check box along the lines of "Is this account used to track an individual's observations?" or something like that. It would be nice to see the individuals in the Top 100, not organizations or historic data, which, for the most part, individuals will not be able to "dethrone"; after all, a list of users is seen by some as competition, and as long as the observations are correct, usign that as a reason to submit more observations is not that bad of an idea.

    In effect, I've managed to tie that in to the actual post topic, as that might make people mroe likely to submit observations, if it is viewed as a challenge.

  8. For those of us who don't consider ourselves expert birders, I suggest a link for each bird on the checklist that shows ID data. For example, you have listing for both "mallard" and "mallard, domestic type". None of my birdbooks show a differentiation there.

    How do I differentiate a mallard from a 'domestic type'?

  9. I wonder also why eBird is used by the few. While I have suggested to many, only a few accept the suggestion and use it. A down load able brochure would be helpful to give out. I have also taken email addresses and used the "share" function several times with one person using eBird.

    One personal observation is pertinent. I make field notes as I go. While I bird from time to time with well know birders, I seldom see anyone else making field notes. I did have to train my self on the how to of a field journal. Perhaps an article on the subject would help to fill in this gap.


  10. On additional Notes and Weather.

    eBird does provide a place to record one's field notes and weather observations quite nicely.

    In the "Submit Observation" one can enter pertinent additional information about a particular species in "step 3 What did you see/hear?" Answer "Yes" to "Do you want to report age/sex or add species comments?" One can use this to elaborate on the species observed in the box provided.

    In "Submit Observations" "step 4 Confirmation and notes" one can find the "Add a note... Would you like to add a note..." Here is a handy place to enter weather observations and any other pertinent and helpful information that a person would like recorded.


  11. I like the idea that there is an eBird blog, but honestly, it's pretty damn boring so far. Instead of just text and ways to utilize the site better (which is obviously important), but it would be great to add more of a personal touch from it -- reports from birders in the field, interesting trip reports that are not just a list, but a story of their "adventure" in the field for a day/weekend/week, and a localised foucs on different Audubon societies from around the country, and there's plenty of ways to utilise eBird with all of this.

  12. I just was reading a BNA species account for ROSP and had the idea of making a space in the submission form for birds on nests. Has this been discussed? I have found nests many times of many species, some of which are possible range extensions. I would love to share this exciting information with Ebird(ers). and it could be one more way for the masses to contribute to science!


  13. A few answers/responses:

    Sean: yes, it would be good to weed out the 'institutions' and historic datasets from the Top 100.

    Anon: we have tested this on our Puerto Rico eBird portal by linking to All About Birds from the checklist page. Maybe it's time we make it more widespread.

    Roy: Great idea on the "Field Notes Article" we should definitely do that.

    Abram: Yes, adding breeding info is on our plate of development items. Too much to do, too little time!


  14. Here are a handful of suggestions.

    I really like the Top 100 Feature but would like it expanded a bit to allow a list to be generated for a range of years. This would allow eBirders to compare the years they have been active instead of having to see others who have been birding or listing much longer. In addition perhaps you could also add a “current month” and “current year” list, maybe just Top Ten for these and give users the ability to set an area for this to display by default when they sign on.

    I would like to see some changes to the personal reports to allow looking at high counts. Ideally I would like the individual species listing which merges species and count into one field split into two fields with the count being sortable. This way I could sort by the count and get my high counts for that species. If this can’t be done then I would like a way to list my top ten counts by species. I don’t want it to just be my highest count because I find it interesting to see the spread of the high counts to see how unusual the top ones are or aren’t. I would also like to see a report that allows me to compare months from different years, for instance show me the last three Mays on one report.

    I would love to have the ability to import and/or create GIS shape files that could be used to run reports against. For example CBC Count Circles or just an arbitrary area of personal interest.

    This one I mentioned to Brian quite some time ago but I will repeat it. There are some discrepancies between how the My eBird page counts and how the Yearly report counts and I would like these reconciled. I would also like the ability to choose what I want counted, e.g. include hybrids/domestics in my totals or not.

    I would like the eBird Gadget to be enhanced so that I can limit the sightings to county level with the ability to have multiple counties displayed at the same time.

    One final comment for now which is that I think eBird is excellent and I want to commend all of those involved in its development and growth.

  15. Just one comment concerning johnsep's suggestions. The top 100 feature does allow you to view the lists by year, though not a range of years. Just to the left of the submit bar is a drop down list from which you can select a single year. It defaults to "all time"

  16. Sometimes I wish we could report what we don't see. eBirding since 2005, I basically know now what I should be seeing. Often enough, it's what I'm not seeing that I'd like to report. For example, if I report between two and ten Wild Turkey every day for a month, and then they vanish, wouldn't that be helpful? If I report a Summer Tanager for two days, and then it's gone on the third day... wouldn't that be helpful?

  17. I see several interesting bird photos at the top of ebird web pages. Could you make the species name available somewhere? Perhaps have a listing of all bird photos shown on ebird pages. It may be useful to show the location and photographer too.

  18. Is eBird going to be an iPhone app? Where you can enter birds on it when you are out in the field, and it would automatically get the location using the compass/coordinates? It would be awesome to have a way to record it out in the field straight into eBird.

  19. > I wonder also why eBird is used by the few.

    Regarding the overall question of why so few use eBird: Maybe my experience can give insight. In the past few months, I found my focus has changed from searching for what birds are around me to recording a particular species of bird. As such, I'm focused on finding only that species. Actively searching for all birds in an area, and keeping track of "what and how many" has taken a back seat. As such, my entries into ebird have fallen off dramatically.

    Maybe once fall migration sets in, and the bird I record leaves, I'll go back to keeping track of the whats and how manys. I ~suppose~ until then I could switch to putting Xs for what I recall, but that's not the kind of standard I wanted to keep for myself.