Saturday, November 15, 2014

eBird Makes County Listing (Even) Easier, Again

Every county lister knows eBird makes their lives easier. There is no way we'd be able to keep track of our totals for every single county we've visited so efficiently. Well, now the folks at eBird have outdone themselves again, with the freakishly-useful eBird Targets function. It was the one thing this phenomenal website was missing (other than a County Ticks Top 100), and it has finally come to fruition. I could always see what birds I have seen, but now I can quickly and easily find out what birds I haven't seen, too.

After enduring a scary accident on I-40 that changed my birding plans for the weekend, I opted to take this new function for a field run. The testing grounds: Ebenezer Point on the shores of Jordan Lake. This is in Chatham County, close to my home in Wake County but relatively "undiscovered" by me. I'm trying to get up to 100 species in as many North Carolina counties as possible, and Chatham seems like an easy target - a huge reservoir, extensive woodlands, and a 20-minute drive from my house all make it ripe for the taking.

A quick walk through the forested margins of Ebenezer Point produced the usual Winter fare. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet here, a Hermit Thrush there. The Bonaparte's Gulls were out in force, and an American Pipit flew by and landed on the point for a few brief moments. I submitted my 26-species list, then checked Targets on my phone, setting the date range to include November only. I was still missing some easy birds - things like Eastern Towhee, Mallard, European Starling, and Winter Wren. So I headed to the other shore of the lake, looking for these birds I needed. I managed to find a Winter Wren and a Starling in just a few moments, and submitted another list.

My November needs chart for Chatham after today.
This technique may be critical in big day efforts as well - a quick check of eBird Targets after submitting a checklist from BirdLog will reveal the easy birds you've missed for the day. (Edit: This may be difficult to glean this information off of Targets unless they add a "day" filter option, I now realize. Nonetheless, it could still be useful.) Oftentimes, it can be hard to figure out that you've missed, say, White-breasted Nuthatch, but now it's easier than ever. I love eBird, and now I love eBird Targets.

I bet I can get 17 of these species in the coming weeks to get me to my goal. Eastern Towhee, I'm looking at you! Who knows, maybe Chatham will be a 200+ county for me. And I'm sure I'm not the only person who will benefit from this newfound technology.