Category: Listing (Page 1 of 4)

eBird Mobile’s New 5MR Tool

California Gnatcatcher Culver City California

New to the 5MR list: California Gnatcatcher

eBird Mobile Feeds 5MR Fever

It’s been a great start to the 5MR this year. I’ve added 3 new 5MR lifers already – Tropical Kingbird, California Gnatcatcher, and Swainson’s Hawk. Another bird never before seen in my 5MR, a Red-whiskered Bulbul, was spotted four miles from my living room couch a few days ago. I struck out looking for it a day later. But they seem to be slowly expanding westward. It’s just a matter of time before it’s added to the list.

But the greatest 5MR development is a new feature on the eBird Mobile app I recently discovered. [Warning: what follows lays bare the depth of my birding illness. Only the similarly afflicted, or real nerds, should keep reading.] eBird Mobile can now draw your 5MR for you, and will list the birds reported on eBird within the 5MR that you haven’t seen. You can set it for birds you haven’t yet seen ever, this year, or this month. If for some reason you’re into radii of a different size, you can set it to draw circles with a radius of 1, 2, 10, or 30 miles.

To access it, open the eBird mobile app on your phone, and click “Explore” at the bottom of the screen. It draws a 5-mile circle around your precise location by default. So if you do it while actually sitting on your living room couch, you’ll get your exact 5MR. It then tells you which locations have been visited recently (the red pins), how many species in total have been observed in the last 7 days in your circle (who cares), and–most importantly–the species reported in your circle that you haven’t seen. These are the “targets.”

In the screenshot above, you can see my 5MR, and you can see that there are 20 species reported in my 5MR in the last week that I haven’t seen yet. If you tap the “20 targets”, it brings up the screen on the right, which is a list of the species. Tap on the individual species, and you get taken back to the map, this time indicating just where those species were reported. It’s almost perfect for 5MR birders trying to max out their 5MR year lists.

Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t solve a major limitation of using eBird to target 5MR year birds. It uses the entire county, not just your 5MR, to determine what you’ve seen and what you haven’t yet seen. So if you report in eBird a Wrentit you saw on a hike outside your 5MR but in L.A. County, Wrentit reports in your 5MR won’t show up as targets you haven’t yet seen. I figure it’s a coding nightmare, if not impossibility, to use anything but your county (or state/country/world) list to determine targets.

A way around that is to hold back eBird reports of some birds if seen outside your 5MR. That way, if they are spotted in your 5MR, they’ll show up as a target. You can also tap on the total species seen in your circle, and then scroll through the list for birds you know you haven’t spotted in your 5MR. Neither of those solutions is ideal, but I still love this new feature. 

Here’s the other 2 birds I added to my 5MR list so far this year. The Swainson’s Hawk is a rare bird anywhere in L.A. during the winter, but was especially surprising on the west side. Usually, they’re seen along the foothills further inland. The Tropical Kingbird was reported 4 blocks from my house. I found it later that same afternoon just a few houses down my block! 

2020: My first eBird chart-topper

eBird glory

2020 Still Sucked, but I’ll Take the Win

2020 started off so well. We rang in the new year in the Yucatan, spotting Turquoise-browed Motmots and Bat Falcons at the incredible Chichen Itza  and Keel-billed Toucans from the top of a Maya pyramid at Coba. Despite a pandemic, I managed to add 11 lifers during 2020 after our Yucatan trip. They included a booby (Masked), a hummingbird (Calliope), a duck (Harlequin), a flycatcher (Sulphur-bellied), a sandpiper (Curlew), and my first longspur (Lapland). Every new species is a delight. But the highlights were finally seeing California Condors and stumbling into a Northern Goshawk and a trio of Canada Jays. I also added 9 species to my 5MR life list, including a rare sighting of Semipalmated Sandpiper away from the L.A. River.

Canada Jay Thousand Lake Mountain Utah

One of my favorite pictures of the year

For a change of scenery, and to flee virus outbreaks in Los Angeles, we made 3 trips to Torrey, Utah between July and December. Those getaways were life sustaining. On top of that, they produced a small victory in 2020. For the first time ever, I topped the leaderboard for a county in eBird. I saw 110 species this year in Wayne County, Utah, more than any other human being on the planet. It was actually the second best year in the under-birded Wayne County ever (the champ saw 122 species in 2017). It was only the third triple-digit year on record in eBird for Wayne County. I did it by spending less than 30 days in the county all year. And none of them were during spring or fall migration.

Below are a couple of scenic photos from our last trip of the year to Utah. We arrived the day after Christmas, and were greeted two days later with a big snowstorm. It was enough snow, and it was cold enough, that it stuck around for a few days. It turned the already beautiful scenery into a winter wonderland. There were not many birds around (and no Black Rosy Finches), but it was a fantastic way to end the year.

Grand Wash Capitol Reef National Park Utah

Grand Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Wayne County, Utah winter scene

A surprisingly popular spot with Dark-eyed Juncos and Mountain Bluebirds

Chimney Rock Capitol Reef National Park winter

Chimney Rock, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

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