Tuesday, February 19, 2008

citizen science research with many uses, and other news

If you have not heard about the Great Backyard Bird Count, you are surely missing out on a citizen-science research project with a multitude of uses and applications. Go here, to learn more about it.

Whether or not you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, you can see the results very quickly. One excellent way to visualize the distribution and abundance of birds right now is to look at the maps that result from these data. Go to the maproom.

Click in the box for the species list, and scroll down until you get to the species you are interested in. In the next drop-down list, choose the year (you can look at the data for previous years, as well, of course...but I am interested in the current year, so I am choosing 2008 in this instance)

Then go to the next drop-down list, and click on Great Lakes Region (or any other region you are curious about).

Then click on "View Map", and wait a few seconds for the map to be displayed. If you wait a couple of days, you'll get the map for the entire Great Backyard Bird Count period. If you look today, you'll get the data/map for the results entered up to the last 30 minutes.

Fascinating to see where the Pine and Evening Grosbeaks are this year, for example. The northeastern states and New England have large numbers of both.

Remember that there can be errors in these data! Some beginning backyard birders may misidentify birds. Many people who do this for the first time mix up two species. Lots of folks for example, tell me that they have a "Red-headed Woodpecker" in their yard, when what they REALLY have is a Red-bellied Woodpecker (---surely an easy mistake for beginners to make, considering the amount of red on the heads of these two species), etc.

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