Monday, June 7, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill - eBird and Birds of North America Online

I am sure nearly every person in this country is aware of what is likely the biggest environmental disaster in the history of the United States - the Gulf Coast oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig. While it would be redundant at best to detail or discuss the events in this space, I found a couple of interesting changes in two programs that should be well known to birders and scientists alike.

eBird (which everyone should be using each day!) has two new tools to help in the effort to save Gulf Coast birds and track the devastation. The first is the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Bird Tracker, which you can find on this blog at the bottom of the right vertical bar. It displays point data from the five Gulf Coast states for 10 widespread species of particular conservation concern. Its intent is to help steer relief efforts to concentration of birds and the most important habitat while acquiring more data than usual on these particular species.

The next tool created by eBird is the ability to record the number of oiled or sick birds. While entering data in the typical way users can select yes to the question "Would you like to provide comments or more details about a species (e.g., if a bird is oiled, age/sex, etc.)" and proceed to indicate what specific species and individuals they found oiled or sick. All regions will see this change in their data entry form, even though it may not be applicable to their area. I hope that Connecticut will not end up needing to use this option. Nevertheless, it is an invaluable method to track birds affected by the disaster. Below is a screen shot I took while entering eBird data earlier.

Finally, Birds of North America Online is providing free access to full species accounts for "15 species of critical interest in the Gulf Oil Spill". These include Brown Pelican, Wilson's Plover, Clapper Rail, Royal Tern, Reddish Egret, American Oystercatcher, Roseate Spoonbill, Snowy Plover, Seaside Sparrow, Red Knot, Tricolored Heron, Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Sandwich Tern, and Sanderling. Connecticut birders will notice several species we are very familiar with. Take the time to examine these accounts. You will definitely find it worth your while, especially if you are not familiar with Birds of North America Online.

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