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Birding goes digital

Good Birding

The traditional view of the birdwatcher as “a little old lady in tennis shoes” has taken a few hits in the last decade as the hobby has moved into the digital age on many fronts. Binoculars are still de rigueur, of course, but for many younger participants, the field guide book has been replaced by cell phone apps that have all the information found in the book along with the songs and call notes of all the species. Record keeping has moved from written log books to software.

One of the most significant recent developments has been the arrival of a project sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society called eBird. At the eBird site (, birders can enter their daily sightings, and all kinds of wondrous information becomes almost instantly available for analysis at a continental level. There are similar programs such as eFlora for botanists and eButterfly for lepidopterists.

On May 9, eBird organized a worldwide event called the Global Big Day. On this day all birders worldwide were encouraged to enter into the eBird database all birds they recorded on that single day. At the end of the day 13,664 birders had entered their data and 6,013 different bird species had been recorded worldwide. (There are just over 10,000 bird species in the world.)

Sunshine Coast birders participated in this project and three parties were afield all day in Roberts Creek, Sechelt and Halfmoon Bay. Within these three areas, all habitats from the ocean to the heights of Tetrahedron and Spipiyus provincial parks were covered. A total of 113 species were reported for the day. The breakdown by community was Sechelt 89 species, Halfmoon Bay 83 species and Roberts Creek 70 species. The differing numbers largely reflect the presence/absence of different habitats. For example, Sechelt is blessed with the bird-friendly mudflats of Porpoise Bay and the Wilson Creek estuary that are lacking in Roberts Creek and Halfmoon Bay.

To report your sightings or questions, contact or 604-885-5539.

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