Thursday, June 25, 2009

eBird - Under the hood


This summer we're working on performance issues at eBird. Some birders who have lots of checklists are seeing really slow load times for things like the My eBird page, and we need to make sure that as eBird grows we can scale our tools up to meet user needs. What this means is that most of our development time will be spent on improvements that might not be obvious at first, but that should reap rewards for all users in the long run. We expect this to take a few more months.

We do have a few exciting developments that are about to be launched. The most important of which is a series of eBird APIs that feed data out to outside developers that want to make tools that use eBird data. These could include iPhone apps, Facebook apps etc. These should be launched in the coming weeks, and we're really excited about it.

We hope that you'll be patient as we go through this back-end development phase, but we do look forward to pushing out new and better tools for birders on the other side of this period.


Brian, Chris and Marshall (and Tim who is sequestered in his cube)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Check out eBird's most wanted counties...


We're in the process of developing ways to try to inspire people to get out to different parts of the country and collect eBird data. Birders are often creatures of habit, which is a good thing, but it's also important for us to gather a wider spread of geographic data for analysis. We've beat around a few ideas, one of them called gBirding (more on that later), but we've also thought of trying to engage birders by showing them where the counties are with zero or one eBird checklist. Because the Top 100 tool works for counties, it's pretty easy to go out and become number 1 in a heartbeat. In any case, thoughts on how to engage people to get out to different parts of their own counties, or states, would be welcome. What would drive you to go birding somewhere that didn't necessarily have great birds (but might!)?


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Migrants in June--Yes June!

I think a lot of birders tend to think of June and July as the quiet season for migrants. These are certainly the lowest months for participation in eBird (in terms of the number of checklists submitted). Brian, Marshall and I have long wondered, what's the reason for this drop-off. Yeah, we know that it can be hot, humid, and buggy--and anyone who could see me now would know it's also allergy season. But, it's also an incredibly good time for birding. Most of us know that it's a great time to find nesting birds, but these months are under-appreciated in terms of finding migrants.

With that in mind, I decided to check some of the landbird locations around Braddock Bay, New York this morning. Firehouse Woods can be a spectacular location for birds in migration. Nestled between Lake Ontario, several smaller lakes and a bit of suburban sprawl from Rochester, the small woods here are a haven for migrants. If you come in here from mid-April to mid-May the woods are teeming with birds and birders. But by late May, there is almost no one birding. And in June? No one at all--the eBird bar charts are almost empty for the summer months!

With that in mind, I've decided to spend some time checking local migrant traps (both landbirds and shorebirds) from mid-June to mid-August to see what birds may be passing through that we don't notice. It would be great if others gave it a try--I think we'll all be surprised by how much is going on.

I'm already off to a great start with a NORTHERN PARULA today--a bird that was last reported to eBird from here on 17 May (and certainly doesn't breed near here). Where was it headed?

My complete eBird list is below.

Good eBirding,
Chris Wood, Ithaca New York (currently near Braddock Bay, New York)

Location: Firehouse, Long Pond Rd (Monroe Co., New York)
Observation date: 6/14/09
Notes: I checked both sides of the woods going as far as the loop in the trail on the south side.
Number of species: 32
Great Blue Heron 1
Mourning Dove 2
Downy Woodpecker 4
Eastern Wood-Pewee 2
Willow Flycatcher 2
Eastern Kingbird 1
Warbling Vireo 7
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 3
Barn Swallow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 7
House Wren 3
Marsh Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
American Robin 10
Gray Catbird 7
Cedar Waxwing 2
Northern Parula 1 **RARE at this season. I'm not sure what direction this bird was headed. A single bird came in silently to my pishing--it appeared to be an adult male with a bold complete breast band and brightly colored throat and upper breast. No sign of molt. I only saw him for about 15 second before he disappeared.
Yellow Warbler 18
American Redstart 2 Two singing males--the one that I saw was a first year male with one black feather on the breast, dark lores, a couple black feathers on/near the malar and a bit more orange color to sides of breast.
Common Yellowthroat 2
Chipping Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 4
Swamp Sparrow 5
Northern Cardinal 4
Red-winged Blackbird 12
Common Grackle 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 4
Baltimore Oriole 5 As with most birds that I have seen around here, all individuals (including two females) had a lot of red in the plumage--males on breast, females on sides of breast, sides of the uppertail coverts (tract, not individual feathers).
American Goldfinch 8
House Sparrow 2

Monday, June 8, 2009

Should this blog be an open forum?


Concerning Dany's recent post that the eBird Blog is boring, well, the other option here is to open this up to the eBird community for posting messages, asking questions etc. of each other. We don't have a problem with that, but we also don't want this to turn into a discussion about how to ID birds, travel tips, etc, that are found elsewhere.

We really wanted to keep this related to eBird as much as possible, but I agree that this could quickly get stale if all we do is ask for help and then tell you "Oh yeah, we already thought of that--it's on the list". The reality is that we HAVE thought of lots of things to develop, but time, money, personnel and having to prioritize limit what we can get done quickly.

In any case, I put the question to the crowd: should this be a public blog for eBird users to post stories, insights, bird info etc?


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