Soon after I arrived in State College a year and a half ago, I took on the task of reviewing eBird sightings. Along with that I encouraged area birders to submit more lists to eBird. Last January I began to make a concerted effort to get more people submitting more checklists of their Centre County birding excursions to eBird. More checklists means better documentation of the birdlife in the county and more info on both resident and migratory species. Now 2011 is over it is time to see if people actually submitted more checklists.
The graph on the left shows the number of checklists submitted by month in Centre County for 2009-11. It is pretty clear that there was a large increase in number of checklists in all months and some months had 2x-3x as many checklists as the year before. There are obvious peaks during spring and migration season as more people were out birding in hopes of catching all the migrants. December and January also had a peak, presumably from Christmas Bird Counts and early year listing.
The graph on the right shows the number of species reported during each month over the three years. Each year, the increase in checklists submitted has led to an increase in the number of species seen. One thing that would be interesting to know is how many more people are submitting lists in Centre County. One way we can sort of get at that is by comparing the number of people that averaged at least one checklist a week each year. In 2009, only 5 individuals (out of 42 people that entered checklists for Centre County) entered more than 56 checklists, and the highest number was 139. In 2010, 9 (out of 72) individuals submitted more than 56 checklists and the highest number was over 400. Finally, last year, 18 (out of 69) individuals submitted more than 56 checklists and 6 people submitted over 200 checklists. I imagine that the numbers will only increase as more people start using eBird and new birders come through Penn State. I think that 2012 shows great potential because Alex should be around all year, likely meaning a new record number of checklist submissions. He is a bonafide checklist-making machine.
One thing that is evident from these graphs is that we need to get out in the field and report more stuff during the breeding season. Getting more data on the breeding species in our area is terribly important, even if it doesn’t garner quite the excitement that migration does. You can now enter breeding codes into eBird, similar to the Breeding Bird Atlas, and this additional information can provide quite the dataset for scientists to pick out trends from.
eBird keeps getting better and easier to use; I hope more people join and start entering their observations. If anyone has any questions about eBird, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the comments on this post.