In book The Big Year (the patron saint book of this blog!) they refer to a service where pay to call into a hotline to hear about rare bird sightings. Yeah, it was in the movie too, but Paul and I both read the book years before the movie came out, so we will reference the book to remain cool and hip on the cutting edge of birding in popular culture.
Anyway, that hotline where people would find out about rare bird sightings? Yeah, not needed anymore because of The Internet. Sure, the internet is good as a reference and knowledge base, but the best part of it is that it allows free and easy exchanges of information in real time. Want to know where the Pink Footed Goose sightings have been? It is easy to type it in Google and find out.
Or you can just hop on over to eBird.
I resisted eBird for awhile (as had Paul) for many reasons, but the main one was the same reason I don’t like to go birding with other people: I want to find them not just have them pointed out to me. With eBird (and note how I try not to start a sentence with it due to its odd capitalization), all you need to do is type in a bird and, ta-da, there it is telling you where it is. I didn’t want that to kill the fun; birding is not just following a set of directions to places. So I resisted.
But then I found out that if I simply used eBird as a resource and not a guide, it will help me find places to go looking for birds, which is helpful since I’ve only lived in the area for six months. Sure, I knew I could do some birding at my work, but how would I have known that there is some good birding in some crappy little parks nearby in Delaware? How else would I have known that the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge would be such a good birding spot? Oh, besides it being a “Wildlife Refuge” and all, which sort of gives it away.
So I’ve been using eBird to locate places that are good spots to go birding. I don’t care about the Anna’s Hummingbird location in Delaware (well, maybe one day I’ll go) as much as I do about the places where I can go hiking around and be in a nice wild place and maybe pick up a couple species I wasn’t necessarily expecting.
I also have signed up for the rare bird alert for my county and a couple around it. Yeah, I probably am not going on some wild goose chase for many of them (though Brants are spotted in Delaware across the border), but it gives me options and destinations. Of course I also signed up and occasionally input birds I’ve seen in my trips (you might remember when I first started doing that).
I’m not an addict to eBird, and I haven’t officially joined the local birding club, but I will use things around me to help me improve as a birder and to find places to visit. Heck, Tyler Arboretum just posted a picture of a pine siskin on their Facebook page, which means I am so there. But when I get an eBird email alerting me to a Baltimore Oriole in Philadelphia, I am not going to be driving to the city to see it.