Friday 20 January 2012

ebird presentation for Kingston Field Naturalists club

Something I have been working on a lot lately has been getting naturalist and birding clubs in Ontario interested in using ebird as a tool for sharing and keeping club bird records.  To this end I was invited to give a presentation to the Kingston Field Naturalists club about ebird.  It was a great opportunity to "spread the word" about ebird, especially since the KFN has created a group ebird account and is now asking ebirders and club members to share their ebird checklists with the club account. (For more about checklist sharing in ebird check out the news item from ebird Canada). If you have ebird checklists for the Kingston Birding area to share with the KFN ebird account, contact Mark Conboy, you'll see his weekly posts on Ontbirds.

Anyways, I wanted to share some of the things I showed in my presentation, so here they are:
Number of ebird observations for Ontario by year 2002-2011
This is a pretty impressive figure showing how ebird is growing in Ontario.  By these figures, since 2006 the number of observations has had an average annual increase of 50%, with over 1000 different users submitting almost half a million 2011 observations in Ontario. This is more impressive when you consider what the figure really shows isn't actually the number of observations submitted by year (i.e. in 2011 users might have submitted 200 000 observations for the year 2010). Unfortunately I wasn't able to get this data by submission date, so we can only guess how quickly ebird use is actually growing in Ontario, but this represents a bare minimum.
All-time checklists per county across Ontario

The ebird team recently released updated stats for all of the counties (or equivalent in Canada) in Canada and the US, and for all of the countries in the world showing number of all time checklists. It is with the hope that ebirders will take on those areas that are lacking data. Ebird did a story about this, but it was limited to the US
All-time checklists per county across southern Ontario.
 Not surprisingly, most of northern Ontario has relatively little effort.  But the trends in southern Ontario may be a little more surprising.  Of course not surprising is the high number of checklists in traditionally birded areas like Toronto, Ottawa, and Essex (although Essex has a very high proportion of checklists only from May).  There are perhaps a couple of surprises though - Algoma, Waterloo, and Northumberland
 all show up higher than you might expect. The reason? Those areas have had large databases uploaded from a person or organization (for example Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists Club for Waterloo) that have kept historical bird records.  The same is true for Toronto (the Toronto Ornithological club uploaded almost 9000 checklists in 2011).  I am a big supporter of this since it makes that data available for anyone- including the very people that have been committed contributors of records over the years. The KFN is dedicated to getting their data onto ebird too, but it has to first be digitized.  I'm hoping to convince more clubs and organizations this is a great place to store records.

Frequency of detections of Cerulean Warbler at Erica's cottage
I showed this figure to illustrate how simple observations in ebird can add up to show neat trends.  At Erica's cottage, we are lucky enough to have Cerulean Warblers breeding and anyone who knows Cerulean Warblers knows they are almost impossible to find on the breeding grounds when they stop singing.  But when does that happen? Well, from the figure you can see they are easy to detect (80-100% of checklists) from mid-May to mid-June.  From mid-June to mid-July the are less easy to detect (about 50% of checklists) and after that time they pretty much shut up and are usually missed.  You can see from the sample size at the bottom that it wasn't a lack of effort on my part that resulted in missing them.

A portion of the barchart for the three counties around Kingston
Here's a sample bar chart from a search I did for the three counties surrounding Kingston (Lennox and Addington, Frontenac, and Leeds and Grenville).  It's a nice summary of the seasonal status for different species. Here's a link to the full bar chart.
Frequency of Cerulean Warbler observations in June by county in southern Ontario
I popped some frequency data out of ebird and put it into a GIS to produce this map which gives you a good idea of where to look for Cerulean Warblers in Ontario during the breeding season.  Your best bet? Kingston area or else Lambton/Middlesex or Norfolk.

White-winged Crossbill sightings on ebird December 2008-May 2009
The same thing but for the period September 2009-May 2010 (for comparison)

This is my favourite example of ebird data exploration. It shows the massive White-winged Crossbill irruption into the lower Great Lakes and northeast US during the winter of 2008/2009 compared to the following winter.  Pretty awesome! You can see a similar trend from CBC data, but ebird allows you to refine your searches and look over a longer or shorter period of time.  Try checking out the maps in ebird during this time for White-winged Crossbill and restrict it to a single month and watch the progression of the irruption through the winter.

There were lots of other ebird features I shared, including some new things like the rare bird, year needs, and all-time needs alerts (you can subscribe down to the county level for any of these), the ebird top 100, patch and yard games, and ebird animated occurrence maps.

If you aren't using ebird yet, what are you waiting for?


  1. I was apparently waiting for you to post this blog entry? Entering my lists since 2006 has now swallowed a whole day...

    Not sure why I didn't do this before, but I think it was your infographics that finally pushed me to it, and now I am in love. Now I just have to find my Cuba and Panama lists... I know they're *somewhere*...

    1. Hi Kiirstin, glad to hear I had one ebird convert! Let me know if you have any questions about using ebird...

  2. Great post Mike!
    I'm trying to convince people in Singapore to start using the program (they don't keep any of their data whatsoever!)
    I'm trying to invite myself to one of their meetings so I can present the program. Maybe I'll steal your ideas/maps/data etc!

    1. Alvan, feel free to use this stuff...I can send you a copy of the powerpoint too if you want.