Wings Big Year: Retooling

As I inch towards a big project that marries birding to writing, something I’ve toyed with for years, it’s time to retool. Most birders keep lists – it doesn’t make sense (at least to most birders I know) to watch the bird life around you and then consign the experience to fickle memory. We’ve been using purchased software, a program called Birders Diary, for a number of years. It’s comprehensive, allows for different taxonomies (official bird lists), and has good reporting. But it’s clunky and fully private without any sharing.

On impulse a few years ago, I did a course on shorebird identification (it didn’t take, I still can’t ID them!) at the Broome Bird Observatory. I remember being blown away by the dedication and professionalism of the staff there. They constantly logged their sightings using eBird, an app and immense database managed by Cornell University. I recall they recommended using eBird, if only because all my observations would go into a worldwide pool and contribute to knowledge.

So … let’s grab eBird. How impressive it is! The website is stunning and motivating. The homepage doesn’t need to sell much because these are the numbers: eBird has data on 10,423 bird species (which is about the official total, are there are any species eBird hasn’t captured?) gathered by half a million birders who have submitted 37 million sessional checklists.

In the late morning, on the wonderful Mangrove Boardwalk at East Point in Darwin, I christen eBird with 17 observed species. A small step…

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