Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bird of Years by the Numbers, Part 1

I like to make graphs; It is fun to display numbers in new and interesting ways. I can say this with a straight face because I am a card carrying scientist. The Year of Birds is about seeing the most birds in a single year, which requires Damon and me to collect data on which birds did we see when. Why not analyze our progress?

We are about 1/4 of the way through the year and we have enough data now to make this interesting. I started this analysis off a couple of weeks ago when I plotted my tally through time. Here is what this looks like when we add in Damon's data.
This graph shows our tally on any particular day during the first three months of the year. Long flat stretches occur when one or the other of us doesn't go birding for a while and our number starts to stagnate. A few observations about this graph: 1) Damon and I have both enjoyed the lead for about 1/2 of the first three months, 2) my lead is at least partly due to my trip to Louisiana, and 3) we have both increased the rate of bird accumulation over the past month (March). If you extrapolate the line to the end of the year, you can guesstimate our final tally. At this point, we would have about 300-350 bird species (assuming this rate of accumulation holds, which is a big assumption).

I next took my list of birds observed and compared it to Damon's. As of April 1, I had seen 86 birds and Damon had seen 76. How many species were common to the two lists? 
We shared 40 birds between our two lists, which meant I had seen 46 bird species that Damon has yet to see and he has seen 36 that I have yet to see. I find this result that only about half of my list has been seen by Damon a bit surprising. Are the birds in Pennsylvania really that different from what I can see in Ontario (and Louisiana and Winnipeg and Quebec)? So what birds do I have that Damon doesn't? Ok, well there are snow buntings and the gyrfalcon. There's the black-billed magpie and American three-toed woodpecker. And don't forget the brown pelican and reddish heron. And the black-capped chickadee and blue jay? Wait. What? Damon hasn't seen a blue jay? Strange. I could make a similar list like this for Damon but we could also visually assess this by categorizing the birds and looking to see who has collected more of different bird types. 
Ok, my ability to categorize the birds is perhaps a bit off. This was partly due to laziness (I didn't feel like getting up to see how the actual bird books group the birds) but also because I didn't want to have too much categories so I made some of my own up. Starting from the left side of the graph, you can see that Damon and I both have observed a lot of waterfowl but that I am winning this category. How could I not with 3 species of swans, 2 gooses, and many trips to the Lake Ontario marshes? The woodpeckers and raptors are a bit of a wash. I nailed the shorebirds in Louisiana and my lead in the crows category is because I have the blue jay, grey jay, and common raven on Damon while he can only crow about having seen a fish crow. Small birds (sparrows and such) have Damon out in the lead. And then we have small numbers of random and odd bird groups. Damon is demolishing me in the wren category but I have him on the pelicans and terns. While I could go on about this, there is one more graph to discuss.
This is how many birds of different types that Damon and I have seen in my final set of categories. Despite being in Canada, I have seen more birds with American in the name than Damon. He is ahead in the Carolina and Great bird categories. It is also of note that he is well ahead in the brown bird category whereas we are nearly tied for the red birds. And of course, I am (for several reasons) eating Damon's lunch in the snowy bird category. 

So after three months I am definitely in the lead and to keep the lead I will need to make more trips out of Ontario. Well, that and Damon will soon exhaust the wrens and brownish birds and will have to start looking for other birds soon. As noted in the post's title, this is part 1 of the analysis, which actually means we will repeat at regular intervals through the year. So check back sometime after June to see how this plays out in the months to come. Maybe we will even use statistics?

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