Friday, December 13, 2013

Using eBird Maps to Prepare For Your CBC

Check out this map of recent sightings of Brewer's Sparrow in Tucson. (Click on it for a larger view.)

Rather alarming, isn't it? This sometimes abundant winter bird has been very scarce these past couple of weeks, hinting that we might actually miss it this year. In fact, we did miss it in 1991, and four years ago we had but seven. Compare that to a maximum of 727, seen in 1999. But today I got word that some have been in the upper Rillito River wash, so fingers are crossed. I have an amazing team of over 100 field observers gathered, and I have high hopes.

But that's beside the point – what I wanted to show here is how useful eBird is for studying up on what's been seen in your area.

First, navigate to eBird's amazing mapping tool at

You then need to do three things: 1. Enter the species you want to search, 2. Change the date, and 3. Zoom in to the Tucson area. (In the example screen shot above, I used Photoshop Elements to add a circle that approximates our CBC circle; this won't appear on eBird.)

Entering the species is straightforward. As you begin typing in the search field in the upper left, options begin to appear; click ONCE on the species name you want, and then wait for the map data to appear.

Then to change the date option, I suggest limiting it to sightings from this month. Click once on the downward arrow to the right of "Year-Round, All Years." You're going to change these two options to "Dec-Dec, Current Year." In the last of the monthly options for Custom Date Range, click on the bullet next to the fields that let you change the months. Change the first one to Dec. Then click on the bullet next to "Current Year," then finally click on the green button at the bottom. Remember: these are links on a web page, not an icon on your computer's desktop – you click only ONCE, no double clicks yet.

Now come the double-clicks. Every time you double-click on the map it zooms in one notch. Alternatively, you can try to center Tucson by dragging it to the center of your screen and then use the plus-and-minus scroll bar in the upper left. Eventually you'll be zoomed in close enough so that the icons for individual locations appear, and you can get more information by clicking on them. There's also the "Show Points Sooner" option on the right, which brings up those icons when zoomed further out.

Have fun with eBird!

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