An Interview with Greg Miller about his 2016 Big Year

Following is an interview between Greg Miller Birding (GMB) and Greg Miller (GM). Recorded on 11/2/2015 in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

Greg Miller planning on doing a Big Year in 2016. photo by Greg Miller

Greg Miller planning on doing a Big Year in 2016. photo by Greg Miller

[GMB] In 1998 you did a Big Year in North America and racked up 715 species. It was a crazy year and your story was part of the book written by Mark Obmascik that came out in 2004 and was later made into a Hollywood movie starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson. And Jack Black played your character. The movie was released in fall of 2011. Rumor has it that you are doing another Big Year in 2016. Is this true?
[GM] Guilty. Yes, it is true. I am doing another Big Year in 2016. Continue reading

eBird Ranked List of North American Birds

A couple weeks ago I posted the Top 100 Most Reported Species in eBird in North America.  It was data from all years 1900-2012 as of 2/22/2013.  I actually summed up the total of all positive checklists for every species in North America reported to eBird (restricted to only species listed on the American Birding Association’s Checklist of Birds of the ABA Area). Today I am making a file available that lists all 932 ABA species reported to eBird during that time period.  This is a CSV file (comma separated values) so you can download it and put it into most spreadsheets.  Even if you do not have a spreadsheet, you can still view the file as a text file.

North American Species Ranked By Positive Checklists 1900-2012

More about this to come. I gotta to pack to head to Florida.  See you all at Space Coast!

Top 100 Most Reported Species in eBird in North America

Have you ever wondered what birds were most commonly reported to eBird?  I have collected data from eBird for the years 1900-2012 (all months/weeks) as of 2/2/2013. Data has been rolled up by State/Province for the Lower 48 States, all of Canada, and Alaska (but not Hawaii).

Yes. I know 2015 is almost here and this is data through 2012. But I’ve done all this in my “spare” time. I will update it when I get a chance. For now, I find this stuff still very fascinating.  Oh, one other thing.  This is still 2012 taxonomy, too.

The number of positive checklists (those checklists submitted indicating a positive sighting–either 1 or more birds) has been summed for each species out of nearly 6 million checklists.  Want to know the species with the most positive checklists?  The birds that are most commonly reported in all of North America?  Here you go! Continue reading

North American Birding Macro Trends – November

Macro trends?  What??!!?  Haha.  I will get to that in a moment.  It’s been a month since I last posted here.  Sorry.  In that month I drove from Colorado to Virginia for the Eastern Shore Birding Festival.  I had a great time in Cape Charles, VA.  I drove home to Ohio and worked for a week and then headed back south to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for the Wings Over Water Festival.  It was a terrific week packed full of fun events and lots of birding.  I worked last week and my schedule finally caught up with me.  I was down a couple days with a cold.  Ok.  I still have a cold but I’m functional…sort of.  When I finish this week I will drive to Massachusetts for Athol Bird and Nature Club meeting and some New England winter birds.

Have I forgotten about Panama in January?  No.  I have not.  In fact, there are still several openings available.  You should consider coming along with me (and Wildside Nature Tours) to the Tropics during January!  More information can be found here: Panama Canal Zone and Pipeline Road Birding with Greg Miller, January 18-25, 2014.

North America Macro Trends - Nov 1-7 - eBird - 1900-2012 as of 2013-02-22

North America Macro Trends – Nov 1-7 – eBird – 1900-2012 as of 2013-02-22

Continue reading

2014 Panama Target Birds 11-20

I hope you enjoyed the Top 10 Most Frequently Reported Birds in Panama in late January that I posted last week.  Again, I am using eBird data for the entire country of Panama, the last 2 weeks for all years.  There is not a ton of data, but it is way better than nothing!  I am using data I collected July 13, 2013 (last month).  And all of this is preparation for my trip to Panama January 18-25 with Wildside Nature Tours.  You can sign up for the trip and come birding in Central America with me at this link: Panama Canal Zone and Pipeline Road Birding with Greg Miller

As I said before, some of Panama’s most common birds are birds that you will recognize from North America.  Like this one:

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican in flight – South Texas Coast – Dec 2012. Photo by Greg Miller

Continue reading

2013 Impatient Birder’s Mini-Almanac to North America!

Here is part 2 of a series I am working on for rolled up eBird data from all the States and Provinces for North America from 1900 through 2012.  A few days ago I introduced the 2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America.  It was a list of species counts by State and Province (with corresponding month & week).  I wanted to have something that gave me an idea of when the best time to go birding was for each State and Province.  Pretty cool stuff.  So cool I decided to share it with everybody…for free.  See my previous post for this brief, but information-filled table in PDF format.

Today, I am introducing the follow up report using the same data.  The previous one listed species counts by State and Province.  It is good for planning travel to those areas.  But what if you are an impatient birder like me?  And you have a very limited schedule so you might not be able to take off all those spring dates which happen to be most of the “best” times listed in the previous post.  Sigh.  Such is the time-crunched day and age in which we live.  Enter this new document, the 2013 Impatient Birder’s Mini-Almanac to North America.  This is a list of the top places to go birding by month & week of the year.

2013 Impatient Birders Mini-Almanac to North America Continue reading

2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America!

It is now ready!  What?  The 2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America!  Umm.  What is that?  And why should anyone be excited?  Well, on a cold day in February in Sugarcreek, Ohio, some guy got a hair-brained idea to download eBird data from every State in the Lower 48 States–and every Province in Canada–and Alaska.  Then he tinkered with the data for the next 6 months in his spare time with nearly 6 million checklists.  The result of all this?  Well.  The first information to really come out of this that may be useful to other birders is the 2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America.  It is a roll up of all this data at the State and Province level in a handy, little 3-page format.  Use it to plan where you want to go birding!  I will explain.

2013 Impatient Birders Cheat Sheet to North America

Checklists Submitted:

From January of 1900 through December of 2012, birders submitted 159,869 checklists
into the eBird database.

Total Species:

The total number of species recorded in eBird from January 1900 through December
of 2012.  Note that this number is filtered using the ABA Checklist v7.4 (from the American Birding Association  For Ohio, a total of 402 species have been reported to eBird.

Total Species (>=2%):

The total number of species recorded in eBird from January 1900 through December
of 2012 that have a Frequency of Checklists value greater than or equal to 2%.  The
eBird Frequency of Checklists represents the number of checklists reporting a species divided by the total number of checklists.  Say, for a bobolink, it is the percent of the total number of checklists that reported a bobolink.  For Ohio, the number of species reported that have a percent of checklists value of 2% or more is 230.

Best Week for Total Species:

This column is a month_wk#.  EBird splits each month into 4 weeks.  So an eBird year
is only 48 weeks.  The 1st week represents days 1-7, 2nd week is 8-14, 3rd week is  15-21, and the last week is the 22nd through the end of the month.  So the peak weak
for total number of species recorded in Ohio (from 1900-2012) is April_wk4.  But, of course, you can’t come to Ohio and realistically expect to see over 300 species of birds.  But this does give you and idea of the trend of the number of species reported over time.

Species Count for Best Week:

This is the maximum number of species recorded for any week of the year in Ohio and corresponds with the previous column for month and week.  A total of 302 species have been recorded in the 4th week of April in Ohio.  That is about 75% of all the birds recorded in eBird for Ohio.  Again, one cannot expect to see 300 species of birds if they spend a  week in Ohio during the 4th week of April.  But what can be expected? (this is why there is
more data!)

Best Week for >=2% Species:

Remember the Frequency of Checklists described before?  This is the peak time when the number of species meeting the 2% or more of checklists criteria is recorded. This is May week 1 for Ohio.  This is a much better number for a one week trip to Ohio.  Why 2%?  It is completely arbitrary.  If you are a good birder or you have local information you number could be higher.  If you birding is more limited and you do not get out as much
your numbers may be lower.  According to eBird data, your best bet for a trip to Ohio should be May week 1.

Species Count for >=2% Best Week:

This is roughly the number of species an average birder on a week-long birding trip could see.  Again, your numbers may vary but this at least gives you an idea of what to expect.  The very best part of this is that the same measure is used for all the states and provinces.  Of course, you need to think about the size of the area–birding all of Alaska or
Texas or Ontario would be right out.  The area is just too large to cover in a week.  But, this is the best measure this amateur researcher could come up with in his spare time.  Enjoy!

It is completely free for download in PDF format.  I did the research for myself and figured there may be a few other birders (like maybe 5…or 12 folks, or so) who might be interested as well.  Here it is:

2013 Impatient Birders Cheat Sheet to North America


Is the Bobolink in Trouble in Ohio?


Bobolink photo: USFWS

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 by Decade in Ohio

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:

Bobolink in Trouble in Ohio


Data Wrangling with eBird – Part 3

Please.  Oh, please.  Not another post with geeky, nerdy, techno-garble!  Yes.  Another one.  Relax.  I will get back to different material soon.  I just want to finish what I started here–and that is how to use eBird to help plan the birding portion of my trip to Valley Verde Birding Festival next spring.  Oh, sure.  I can just print off last year’s bird list.  But that won’t tell me much about which of those birds is the most likely to be seen.  That is where eBird is an absolute treasure trove of information!

In the first tutorial I showed you how to get data out of eBird and into a spreadsheet.  In Part 2 I showed you how to clean up the data and highlight the expected species for the 4th week of April in Yavapai County, Arizona.  In Part 3 I want to show you how to list the 25 most common birds for my upcoming trip.  Ready?  Here we go.

First, open up the spreadsheet we’ve been working on.  Now add a new sheet to the workbook.  I am using the spreadsheet LibreOffice Calc.  Just click on the little “+” sign at the bottom:

01 spreadsheet insert a new sheet Continue reading

Data Wrangling With eBird – Part 2

In my previous post I made a tutorial how to get data out of eBird and into a spreadsheet.  With the intent of using eBird to plan a trip to the Verde Valley Birding Festival in Cottonwood, AZ during the last week of April.  This tutorial will give the first steps in how to find out what species to expect on the upcoming trip.  Let’s get started.

Look at #1.  The number shown is 375.  But if you remember when we were downloading this information it only had 342 species, right?  Where did the extra species come from?  Ah, I am glad you asked.  Look at #2.  See the “(Domestic type)”?  Yeah.  That counts as “taxa”, but not as a species.  First on our list will be cleaning up our spreadsheet and filtering out the non species.

01 spreadsheet Continue reading