What is black and yellow and white, flies over 12,000 miles per year, and weighs a little more than 3 Oreo Cookies? A Bobolink!. The bobolink is a strikingly beautiful bird with a really cool song that nests in grassy fields in Ohio. But for how long? It is still easy to see here. But, is it in trouble?
Bobolink Abundance in Ohio by Decade. Data from eBird 1900-2012 as of 8/16/2013.
The above chart paints a sad picture for the status of the bobolink in Ohio. But is this really true? Has the bobolink declined in numbers by over 80% since the 1980s? You be the judge. I discuss this data (caution–lots of data and discussion ahead–like 18 pages worth of discussion).
You can find out more about the bobolink in this handy dandy .pdf file:
Uh-oh. A little bit–ok, A LOT–of eBird geeky stuff lies ahead…
I spent the last few days wrangling some eBird data for the state of Ohio. I processed year list data for 10 individual years, 2003 through 2012. What comes next is me…tinkering with data I downloaded from http://ebird.org on 6/26/2013. eBird is a Citizen Science online project containing over 100 million bird sightings worldwide. And it is growing every day. eBird allows ordinary birders to enter their bird sightings online and stores them in a database. I downloaded data from this database into spreadsheets to create the final report available as a free download below in .PDF format.
A total of 32,307 checklists were submitted to eBird for the state of Ohio in the 5 years 2003 through 2007 representing 339 species. For 2008 through 2012, 97,837 checklists were submitted to eBird for the state of Ohio and a total of 357 species were recorded. The combined total number of species for the 10-year period 2003-2012 was 368 species of birds.
Of the 368 species, 274 species were recorded in each of the 10 years between 2003-2012. In fact 28 species were reported in every week for the entire 10-year period.
Of the 368 species reported, 241 showed an increase in % of checklists. In other words, about two thirds of these species were reported on a higher proportion of checklists in the second 5-year period than in the first 5-year period. Some of this may be attributed to the large increase in the number of checklists between the periods. But 127 species showed a decrease despite three times the number of checklists in 2008-2012.
The 10-year Difficulty Code is a number derived using the logarithm of the percent of checklists for a species for the entire 10-year period. So a Code 1 species is up to 10 times more common than a Code 2 bird. Likewise, a Code 2 bird is up to 10 times more common than a Code 3 bird. That same Code 3 bird is up to 100 times less common than a Code 1 bird. And when “common” is used, it isn’t true abundance. First, frequency of checklists is only the percent of checklists on which a species is checked as seen. Also, this represents what is submitted to eBird. Not everyone uses eBird so the data that exists there is but a sample of reality. Still, over 100,000 checklists represents a body of data that is quite superior to “I am pretty sure there are a lot less Canvasbacks in Ohio. I don’t see as many as I used to.”
I just finished this report and have not had much time to review it yet. But, I was so excited about it that I decided to make it available for others to look at it. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
Tax Seq: Taxonomical Sequence 2003-2007 Rank: 5-yr ranking for 2003 through 2007 2008-2012 Rank: 5-yr ranking for 2008 through 2012 Chg in Rank: Change in ranking positions from 2003-2007 to 2008-2012 10-yr Diff Code: Difficulty Code for 2003-2012 as reported in eBird % of checklists submitted; 1 is most common; 2 is up to 10x less common than 1; 3 is up to 10x less common than 2, and so on Species Name: Species Name 2003-2007 % of Checklists: total number of checklists for a species submitted to eBird during 2003-2007 divided by the grand total number of checklists submitted 2008-2012 % of Checklists: total number of checklists for a species submitted to eBird during 2003-2007 divided by the grand total number of checklists submitted Actual Change: the difference between the two 5-yr % of checklists % Change: the rate of change as a percentage from the first 5-yr period to the second 5-yr period 2003-2007 Weeks Reported: number of weeks a species was reported in eBird 2003-2007 2008-2012 Weeks Reported: number of weeks a species was reported in eBird 2008-2012 2003-2012 Years Reported: number of years a species was reported in eBird 2003-2012
Throngs of birders came to Northwest Ohio to catch a glimpse of the magical spectacle of birds on their epic journey from as far away as South America on their way to their breeding grounds in Canada. Birders here are on the famed boardwalk at Magee Marsh near Oak Harbor, Ohio.
The last day of Biggest Week was chilly with winds out if the North–not prime migration conditions. But, the cold wind kept the insect-eating warblers low and conditions for photography were excellent. This Cape May Warbler looks like it could have used an extra layer of clothing. Continue reading →
I am arbitrarily interrupting my posts from my trip to South Texas to present the results of more of my amateur research from the data at eBird. If you are not logging your sightings into eBird, 2013 would be a great time to start. It is easy to do and is fun. For me, it was this tinkering around with data that got me hooked on eBird. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of data on a very wide scale. Besides, if you think about it for very long, you should come to the conclusion that if you care about birds, you should be reporting your sightings to science. This is our Citizen Science project. (and here you thought your Science Fair project in high school would be your last). Continue reading →
Scarlet Tanager with food – Biggest Week 2012 – Magee Marsh OH – 2012-05-07 photo by: Greg Miller
A Do-It-Yourself Personal Ohio Big Year? Ok. You’ve thought about it and then shoved it to the back of your mind. Too much responsibility and not enough time, you tell yourself. Or maybe you’re a birding novice and just need a place to start but you don’t have any idea how to go about this. Or maybe you’d like to do a personal big year but don’t have any inclination to make it competitive at the extreme level. Whatever your thinking, I am hoping to give you at least one or two angles on strategies for making your goals a reality.
Aaack! I’m not keeping up with this very well. Sorry for the long delay in posting. My recent trips to Chicago for Birding America and the Big Year events in Grand Island, Nebraska went really well! These trips were super enjoyable to me. I only hope everyone else had as much of a good time as I did.
Now I’m trying to cram in my regular day job work as a computer consultant (haha, did you expect something different?) before I run away and do more birding/speaking/guiding again.
Did someone say running off? Yes. Yes, they did. Where will I be in late April and May? Oooh. Good question. How about this?
April 24-27 – Florida Keys & Dry Tortugas with Wes Biggs and Florida Nature Tours (check out the $200 discount posted on Wes Biggs facebook page!)
May 4-6 – Southern Ohio for Flora-Quest (botany, butterflies, and birds) with Cheryl Harner
It’s gonna start soon. It happens every year. Spring! Warblers will be everywhere again decorating the trees like Christmas ornaments and filling the area with a cacophony of glorious song! I can’t wait. It’s my favorite time of year! Ohio is home to an extraordinary warbler experience. Some of the best opportunities to be amazed by the event we call migration can be found right here in Ohio.
People from around the world will come to visit Ohio. The best time to come? May. If you only have a short time to visit, why not base your visit around the events of Biggest Week in American Birding? Yes, there will be lots of people. And for good reason–they are here for the birds. My favorite family of birds, the wood warblers, will be here in full force. How many species of warblers can you see? Well, technically 36 species occur regularly in Northwest Ohio at places including Magee Marsh, Crane Creek, Ottawa NWR, Maumee Bay State Park, and Oak Openings. I usually count a good week as about 28 species of warblers. Some of the southern species are harder to find here. But, this year I am leading a road trip to Southern Ohio in Scioto and Adams Counties. We’ll have a chance to see 9 species of warblers that are easier to find on their nesting grounds in the forests near the Ohio River than as rare over-shots in Northwestern Ohio. Some of you may come away with nearly all the wood warblers found in Eastern North America.
I’ve included some charts here on my website of relative distribution for 37 species of warblers. Check out the tab under Ohio Warblers in Spring.
Time to learn some songs, brush up on plumages, and read up on warbler habits. Warbler Mayhem will soon be upon us!
Young Barn Owl - Tuscarawas County, OH photo: Greg Miller
Last night, Paul Boyd of Holmes County, Ohio passed away after a long bout with sickness. Paul Boyd is maybe Ohio best ambassador for Barn Owls. His contribution to Ohio’s birding community is very special. Many of you visited his farm and got to see your first-ever Barn Owl perched in a barn. Paul designed and built many nest boxes. He was instrumental in passing along his knowledge of nesting Barn Owls to many Amish farmers. Ohio birders still enjoy coming to Amish Country to visit local farms hosting these intriguing creatures.
I can remember one Spring when his son installed an infrared camera inside the Barn Owl nest box. For me, getting to view the owls so close and personal–well, it was especially fascinating. I recall being totally surprised to see one of the baby Barn Owls swallow an entire rat…WHOLE! The rodent was as large as the owlet! How amazing!
Paul lived less than a mile from where I grew up. He was my father’s friend and classmate in high school. And he was also my very first employer. Paul was a farmer and I baled hay for him for six summers between school years. And no, we handled square bales with twine–not the large rolls of hay you see on farms today. Those were long, hot summer days with lots of physical labor. But I have fond memories of finishing and the feeling of great accomplishment.
I remember taking Paul out to Killdeer Plains and we found a Northern Saw-whet Owl. Paul was elated to see this teeny owl. It was a joy to show it to him. Paul Boyd loved owls and gave much of his time and lots of effort in the nest box program and working the with State in banding and tracking the owls.
I don’t have many flowery words of prose to describe how blessed I was to know Paul. But I am sure the Barn Owls will miss him.
This is a rhododendron at mom’s house in Ohio. It is where I grew up. The building in the background is the old Boyd School House. It’s a one-room schoolhouse that is no longer in operation. My grandfather taught here for many years. The woods behind it is my “home woods”. It’s where I spent a lot of time birding as a boy.