AOS eBird Project: Go Birding & Win Prizes

Grand Prize: 2 nights on Dauphin Island during peak migration, plus other prizes….

By Ken Hare and Greg Harber

photo by Ken Hare

AOS and eBird are joining together to promote birding and eBird reports in Alabama counties with drastically low species counts and only sporadic ebird reports. In some of these Alabama counties, as few as 25 to 35 checklists have been filed at all. After eBird Project Leader Marshall Iliff spoke at a recent AOS meeting about the need, AOS developed a three-pronged strategy to improve reporting: 1) organizing periodic AOS field trips to some of the targeted counties; 2) recruiting experienced birders to “adopt” one or more counties;** and 3) creating a partnership with eBird to offer prizes to birders who file complete eBird reports from these counties. Every complete checklist entered from one of the counties AOS targets would provide a chance for the eBirder filing it to win a prize. The more checklists one completes, the more chances to win. Ebird will monitor the lists and randomly select the winners. Anyone who files a complete checklist beginning May 1 and continuing through the remainder of 2017 is eligible. eBird will inform the winners. There will be five winners. First prize is two nights’ lodging on Dauphin Island during April or October, 2018, when bird migration on the island is at its height. In addition, all five winners will receive a free year’s subscription to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s highly respected Birds of North America website, ‘the most comprehensive reference for the life histories of over 760 bird species that breed in the US and Canada’. Second and third place finishers also will receive gifts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

**Birders adopting counties as of June, 2017 are:  Neil Gilbert (Bibb & Greene); Judy and Don Self  (Choctaw); John Trent (Crenshaw);  Ken Hare (Lamar); Ken Ward (Marion);  Geoff Hill (Pike & Randolph); Jordan Broadhead (Walker); and Larry Gardella (Washington). As of June, 2017, the species totals for each county are:

Bibb 141 (417 checklists)

Blount 144 (473 checklists)

Chilton 138 (186 checklists)

Choctaw 128 (117 checklists)

Coffee 133 (240 checklists)

Conecuh 133 (66 checklists)

Crenshaw 118 (66 checklists)

Fayette 117 (47 checklists)

Greene 146 (300 checklists)

Lamar 110 (40 checklists)

Marion 121 (138 checklists)

Pickens 137 (127 checklists)

Pike 127 (110 checklists)

Randolph 150 (259 checklists)

Walker 141 (131 checklists)

Washington 150 (288 checklists)

Our goal is 150 bird species for each county.

AOS Organizes to Increase Alabama eBird Reports

by Ken Hare and Greg Harber

In January, the Alabama Ornithological Society’s board decided  to partner with eBird to increase reporting of bird species from counties in Alabama with drastically low species counts.  It didn’t take long for AOS members to start making a difference. Reports from these counties by individual AOS members, reacting to the need, quickly started to show up on eBird, even while a formal strategy to improve reporting was being developed.

Then on May 20, the first new tactic to improve reporting kicked off with a field trip to Fayette County led by Greg Harber. Called Birds and Barbecue Blitz, this is the first of several trips that AOS will sponsor to counties that have fewer than 150 species reported on eBird. These trips will focus on finding new species and Hot Spots for birding, as well as a stop at a good barbecue joint in the targeted county. A report on the Fayette trip will appear on the AOS Facebook page and in a future Yellowhammer.

At the spring AOS meeting on Dauphin Island, the board approved two new tactics — a partnership with eBird to offer prizes to birders who file complete eBird reports from these counties, and the recruitment of AOS members and others to “adopt” a county and to bird it regularly.

AOS President Anne Miller has written articles in past issues of Yellowhammer on the need to increase reporting from these counties to improve the scientific research that is based on eBird data, so we won’t dwell on that except to underscore its importance.

THE CONTEST

First, the contest: Every complete checklist entered from one of the counties AOS targets (see list below) would provide a chance for the eBirder filing it to win a prize. The more complete checklists, the more chances to win. eBird will monitor the lists and randomly select  the winners.

The contest will not be just for AOS members or even just Alabamians — anyone who files a complete checklist beginning May 1 and continuing through the remainder of 2017 would be eligible (even if they don’t know about the contest). EBird will inform winners.

THE PRIZES!

There will be five winners. First prize would be two-nights lodging on Dauphin Island during April or October 2018 when bird migration on the island is at its height. In addition, all five winners would receive a free year’s subscription to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s highly respected Birds of North America website.  Second and third place finishers also will receive gifts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Again, please note that only a “complete” checklist from these counties will qualify as an entry. Complete checklists are those in which the birder attempts to identify all species seen or heard in a given area. See eBird for details.

THE ADOPTION

Now for the “adoption” process: AOS will be asking its members and other birders to adopt one of the under-reported counties and to bird there regularly and file brief reports on the birding.

Those who adopt a county and file complete checklists from them would be eligible for the contest, of course, but the prime motivation will be the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to improve future ornithological research on Alabama.

Adopters would be asked to:

— Agree to bird in their adopted county or counties on at least two different occasions on 2017 filing at least a total of eight complete checklists on eBird. The more birding in the adopted county, the better, of course.

— Agree to email Greg Harber or Ken Hare with AOS with a list of the species, dates and locations of the checklists for each visit soon after the visits. That way we could monitor the impact that the “adoption” program is having, and use that impact to get publicity both for more reporting from these areas.

— Agree to provide a short narrative (with directions) to promising birding locations in their respective counties. That way we could begin to build an online report that we could use to promote birding in these counties on our Facebook and web pages. We hope that these reports would: 1. Help us to identify new eBird Hot Spots in those counties; and 2. Allow us to write up a description of the best places to bird in these counties that we could post on the AOS web site.

If you are interested in adopting a county, please email Ken Hare at khare@wsfa.com and Greg Harber at gharber@mindspring.com.

Current AOS eBird committee members are: Ken Hare and Greg Harber, co-chairmen; Anne Miller; Sue Moske; and Ken Ward. If you would like to help with the work of the committee, contact any of the committee members.

THE COUNTIES

The AOS eBird project originally found 17 counties with fewer than 150 species identified in them on eBird. Thanks in part to AOS members who on their own have increased reports from these areas, one county — Clay — already has topped 150 species.

So the list of targeted counties, and species in them as of 2-17-17, are: Bibb, 140; Blount, 144; Chilton, 129; Choctaw, 122;  Coffee, 133; Conecuh, 131; Crenshaw, 104; Fayette, 111; Greene, 133; Lamar, 96; Marion, 118; Pickens, 137; Pike, 125; Randolph, 139; Walker, 139; and Washington, 147.

Please consider adopting a county. But if you can’t do that, then try bird there on your own and file eBird checklists, or join AOS on future field trips to under-reported counties. We thank those who have already started to bird in these counties, and ask you to continue to do so.