My Challenge: eBird Checklist Per Day For a Year!LAb

My 2023 challenge is to submit an eBird checklist per day for this entire year. I am now halfway through the year and realize what a challenge this is, day in and day out!

When I am at home, comfortably looking at the birds visiting our various backyard bird feeders, it is simple to record my observations! Always a minimum of 15 minutes per observation, I easily knock off my daily checklist challenge. When a greater roadrunner or other bird captures my attention, I can find myself spending more time watching their behavior from the comfort of my armchair. 

While traveling, I scope out nature centers, local parks, wetlands and any place where I know other birders have made some interesting observations. Visiting 27 different states during this current trip allows me to add 43 new birds to my life list. None of this is as easy as observing birds at my home feeders and recording my list there.

Once I know where I will bird on a particular morning, I try to arrive in the early morning when birds are most active. Often I am walking a few miles with my camera on a tripod. I like to stop and listen for about 5 – 10 minutes before moving on. I use a 200 – 500 mm lens on my camera since birds are often at tree tops, on electrical lines, or so small within tree branches the zoom lens is best for any photo. Other times it may be the middle of the day because I had to travel to a location a distance from my campground. 

After a couple of hours birding, I download my photos, process any photo I am interested in, and record the number of species and photos in The Cornell Lab’s eBird for my daily checklist to be complete. Depending on the day and my plans for the rest of the day, it varies where I get all that accomplished. I sometimes do all that work in my van and use my iPhone as a hotspot. Other times, especially if I am very hot, I may complete it all at a Starbucks while also enjoying an iced mocha! Whatever the location, there is plenty of work to be done. Some birds l know as I observe them, but others I will photograph even when unsure of their identification. For those, I thankfully can use the Merlin Bird Photo ID to help identify a bird for me. If I did not have that Merlin Bird ID app, I would be spending many hours flipping through bird guide books to identify those birds! 

Another benefit of the app is the Merlin Bird Sound ID! How many times have I arrived at a location, heard birds, but seen none? That is the perfect time for me to set my camera on its tripod, turn on the app, and simply relax. At some point, birds will fly to another tree or walk on the ground so I can see them and maybe even take a photo. It’s important to see the bird that is listed on the app and not assume the app has the correct sound identification.

Of course many times I think to simply list the birds at the campground. I could do that, but only a few times did I do that. They were days I had many miles to drive or the weather was going to be stormy, rainy or a challenge and I wanted to get my checklist completed for the day. Otherwise, off to find a new location!

So I am halfway to completion of my 2023 challenge … just another 182 days to go! See you at the end of the year. Aren’t challenges fun? Do you have any challenge keeping you busy this year? Let me know … please tell!

Common yellowthroat

My 2023 eBird Challenge

I decided to challenge myself and take on a challenge listed on eBird. Could I observe birds everyday and submit a checklist per day in eBird? Don’t know, but I am on my way to attempting the challenge … to be done every day in 2023!

With this challenge, there will be no difficulty in completing a checklist per day when I can observe birds at our home feeder. Then to enter the list in eBird, simple. The challenge will increase when I am not at home, yet there should always be a parking lot, campground or wherever to observe birds and then submit the list. 

I meet the challenge with 2 submissions in one day when there is so much bird activity at our feeder! It happened recently as the morning crowd of birds finished off some of the bird seed. After I replenished the feeders many more birds came by! Word was out … new seed at the scene!

It is interesting to watch the house finches calling others … I even heard the Gila woodpecker, first at a distance and then it flew in to check out the new cylinder of seed. 

So many birds crowd in on the feeder! They seem to take turns, but every so often a couple of lesser goldfinch would challenge each other to a perch. It was fascinating to watch. Exciting at times when a yellow-rumped warbler or a ladder-backed woodpecker would show up. Unfortunately I could not get my camera in place fast enough to capture good photos of them. 

We have railings and plenty of trees near the feeders for birds to simply sit and wait their turn or to call in other birds before that bird went to a feeder. I will continue this challenge … 365 checklists to be done during 2023 … on my way!

Bird Documented in a Photo!

Most birds I observe are flying by so quickly I only see their overall body shape. I consider myself an advanced beginner birder. My challenge, and goal set for myself while bird watching now, is to catch sight of the bird’s head, specifically its eyebrow and eye ring. For some birds it will be the difference in being one bird or another. I am improving in noticing beak, wing bars or not, and tail shape, but have to look closer and faster to see more and then picture it all as I consult my field guide book.

The other day another bird watcher, 6 feet away from me due to Covid-19 physical distancing, told me I was looking at a MacGillivray’s warbler. I would have loved to add the bird to my life list, so I asked how do you know it is that bird, I only see its rear end? Notice its split eye-ring. Even as I used my binoculars the bird kept its rear end toward me so I saw no eye ring. I knew I would never be able to identify this bird from its tail end, so I did not add the bird to my life list.

This past month I have seen birds, photographed some, and later identified them thanks to Cornell Lab’s eBird and Merlin Bird ID. Female birds are often drab-looking and it is difficult to catch subtle differences between species. Other times I know I am looking at a new bird and yet I have not perfected the note-taking necessary to remember what it is I am looking at, so a photograph is my go-to method of capturing my sighting.

Digital cameras are fantastic! Years ago I used to budget money to purchase film, more money aside to develop the film, and finally more money to print some of the photos. Now-a-days I can take hundreds of photos on an SD card. I look forward to the time at home to see what looks like a good picture and to delete many other photos.

Here are a couple of birds I observed, photographed, and when home I used Merlin Bird ID to help me identify these two different species of female hummingbirds.

When bird watching you always need to be ready. All of a sudden I saw a bird I knew I had never seen before and it was so cute! I had to capture a photo of it and later discovered with Merlin Bird ID it was a pygmy nuthatch.

Pygmy nuthatch

While looking through all my photographs, I discovered another bird that looked different to me. Unsure of what this drab female bird would be, I put the photo in Merlin Bird ID and it identified as a blue-throated mountain gem. I knew these blue-throated hummingbirds were in the area, but during my observations I was looking for the blue throat of the male. The female is not so colorful, but I did notice an eyebrow or facial stripe I had not seen before, so I snapped a photo or two. I also listed the bird in eBird for my life list, yet received an email questioning if I did see the bird.

Blue-throated mountain gem, female.

The blue-throated are the largest hummingbirds species in the US and I waited to hear back from eBird staff to learn if they agreed with the Merlin ID. Fantastic news, yes they agreed with the identification! I am so thankful to have had the photo and now have also learned how to add my photos to eBird!

No doubt, bird watching and bird photography are lifetime hobbies. In time I can only improve with patience while learning both skills. Wish me luck!