Wednesday, April 14, 2010

RRBO birds in eBird

My spring survey season is getting underway. My way of spreading the word about birds found on campus (and around Dearborn) has been, for many years, to update the RRBO Latest Sightings page with new arrivals and highlights. I also send updates to the RRBO email list, and to the local "Birders@umich" listserv. More recently, I have also been tweeting "good" birds on RRBO's Twitter account.

For those of you who want to know more than just the highlights -- every bird species and the numbers of each -- that I find on my surveys, you can visit eBird. eBird is an on-line database of bird observations providing real-time data about bird distribution and abundance, administered by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This is an incredibly powerful tool that is and will continue to greatly inform and influence bird conservation.

If you aren't familiar with eBird, please visit their "about" page. While I'll be talking more about the nuts and bolts of eBird in the coming months, I'll focus here on how you can access RRBO data from eBird (even without an eBird account) and how you can contribute your own sightings from the UM-Dearborn campus and Dearborn in general if you are already an eBird user.

How RRBO surveys birds
RRBO performs nearly daily bird surveys in the natural area of the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus in spring, some in summer, quite frequently in fall, and regularly in winter. Surveys are standardized. Whenever one is done, a set route is performed. If the surveyor extends the survey to different spots, each portion is tallied separately. This aids in later analyses, both for me and for the scientists using eBird data.

You can view the standard portion of the route at EveryTrail.* Here's a small version:




Other portions of the survey available to view on EveryTrail are the estate leg, floodplain extension, and south end leg.

Accessing RRBO bird data on eBird
Observations in eBird are all assigned a specific location. Users can designate whether an observation is shared with the public, or personal and private. Shared locations are known as "hotspots." The shared location/hotspot that RRBO uses for the standard route data is called "UM Dearborn--Rouge River Bird Observatory." All the other "legs" of the survey route (there are five) are private locations to reduce confusion for eBird users.

However, you can still access all the eBird data that RRBO puts into eBird, including every leg of the survey route, plus sightings other eBird users input to the shared "UM Dearborn--Rouge River Bird Observatory" hotspot. (There is a second shared hotspot in eBird, called "UM Dearborn." This data is also included, but we are working to merge the this latter location into "UM Dearborn--Rouge River Bird Observatory" hotspot.)
Just click on this link for a bar chart created for all species and every sighting in eBird for all locations RRBO has created for the UM-Dearborn campus, and the public hotspots. You don't have to have an eBird account to explore this data.
Some important things to note:
  • This is all the data for the campus in eBird. You can change the date range in just a few clicks! Go to "change date" near the top of the chart. You can pick migration seasons, years, etc.
  • You'll note gaps in the data. That's because I have been adding mostly spring data to eBird first; I'm currently back to the year 2000. Eventually, all of RRBO's bird sightings will be put into eBird.
  • Click on any species name for details. You can explore the data for each species in many ways. The first screen provides a map of the area with one or more markers on it. Clicking on the markers gives you a list of sightings, along with the date and observer. Locations are not exact.
  • Also on this page you can view various graphs, and/or change the dates, species, or locations.
eBird continually adds functionality -- keep looking an exploring, because features are added all the time!

How you can contribute
If you are an eBird user, please enter any and all of your sightings from the natural area on the UM-Dearborn campus using the "UM Dearborn--Rouge River Bird Observatory" hotspot.

To do this from the first Submit Observations screen, click on "Find it on a map." Enter Wayne for county, and Michigan for state and click "continue." A Google map will appear, peppered with markers. Red markers are hotspots, blue markers are your personal locations, if you have any. Dearborn is just north of center on the map. Zoom in until you see the green island of our campus with one (or two, see below) red markers. The "UM Dearborn--Rouge River Bird Observatory" hotspot marker is the one sitting on the north end of Fairlane Lake. When you click on it, the name will appear in the box over the map, and you can click continue and go on to add your observations.

You only have to do this once! After you've entered data into the hotspot, it will show up in the pull down menu of your locations.

As noted above, there is a second shared hotspot in eBird, called "UM Dearborn." Please do not use this site to enter data. We are working with Cornell to merge this location into "UM Dearborn--Rouge River Bird Observatory" hotspot so that there is one public, shared hotspot for campus.

Enough for one post. Later, I will provide links and details on how to access bird sighting data from the rest of the city of Dearborn.

I encourage you to explore and contribute to eBird!

*EveryTrail is a free application, and has some quirks. If you view maps there, it's likely you'll have to zoom in substantially, using the slider on the left side of the map, and set the type of map to "hybrid" by clicking on the label on the upper right side of the map.