On the 21st of January of this year I began keeping track of all of my bird sightings on eBird, the online checklist program that was launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.  Why did I decide to use eBird?  Well, since you’ve asked, there are several reasons.  First, keeping notebooks of lists of birds grew tiring and annoying.  Second, retrieving the data that I laboriously entered into said notebooks was not easy: if I wanted to see what birds I had seen in a particular location at a particular time of year I would have to dig out my notebooks and pore through them, also tiring and annoying.  Third, eBird allows me to see at a glance how many species I’ve seen in a particular location, be it a park, a county, a state, or whatever, without any difficulty whatsoever.  Fourth, by logging my sightings into eBird I actually contribute some data that can be used by those trying to figure out long-term changes in bird populations and migration patterns.

House Wren

Take, for example, the House Wren.  I can say with confidence that I have encountered House Wrens on 21 birding excursions this year, the first on the 26th of April in Central Park and most recently the one above at Jamaica Bay on the 10th of August, and it took me about five seconds to gather that data.  Not only that but I can then see that on the outing to Central Park where I spotted my first House Wren of the year I was joined by Mike and spotted a total of sixty species, including a Prothonotary Warbler.

Or, as another example, let’s look at my home borough, Queens.  I have seen 184 species of bird so far this year in Queens, with 110 of those species being spotted in Forest Park and 139 species at Jamaica Bay!  In fact, Queens is one of three counties that I have seen 100 or more species in this year, the other two being New York (Manhattan) and Albany (Nassau County has almost crossed the line with 97 species spotted so far).

Of course, the list that matters most to me this year, my Anti-Global Warming Big Year list, is not something I can figure out through eBird, not unless I note the mode of transport used for each individual outing, which I haven’t done.  Nonetheless, all of the birds I have seen during my efforts have been reported to eBird and now next year when I am wondering what I am likely to see in Forest Park in late March I can check eBird and see that this year I had a fly-by Osprey and a lingering Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, among a bunch of other species.

So consider using eBird or one of the other excellent online listing programs (like Birdstack or Bubo Listing): you won’t regret it!

Ring-billed Gull

According to eBird I’ve seen Ring-billed Gulls like the one above in 41 locations this year!

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.