Friday, June 17, 2011

2011-06-17 New eBird - much nicer - a common-man review

2011-06-17 New eBird - much nicer

A couple of days ago I entered eBird to submit a new bird report and found the submittal page had changed. I knew eBird had a beta test going on, and wondered if maybe because I was a subscriber to eBird Tech Talk (a really cool idea of behind-the-scenes action) thay had pushed it on me for trial. I posted a note on the Michigan Birders list that included the question. Only one birder responded. (Thanks Sarah!) Sarah told me that the new eBird data entry had indeed gone live! She agreed that she liked it better.

I am writing now about a great new feature. When you go into "Submit my observations", on the right side you are allowed to select how to present the species list. The default is the new version of the old form. The new version is much cleaner and much easier to use in itself. It much more readily allows scrolling to visually identify the group in which the search object might appear. I had gotten used to the old form and generally had an idea of what bird group preceeded what group. The same order is maintained.  Lacking any specific info, I have always assumed it might be partially related to the evolutionary emergence of bird groups. In my case looking for a bird to record, I postulated jays are more ancient that warblers and sparrows, and that doves predeeded both of these groups. Heck, it is my blog, and this is what the eBird organization of groups told me. I would be interested to hear from ornithologists on this...

There are many other enhancements - like in the area of allowing direct species searches - but I really like playing with my quasi-phylogenetic idea right now and just want to know who is before whom.

The really cool thing (!) today is that there is an option on the right side to request the presented list to "Group by Most Likely". An underlying algorithm analyzes your most recent bird submittals, and presents these at the top of the entry page.

WOW! As a faithful procrastinator, I had finally decided to catch up on adding my daily feeders records to eBird. It was a New Year's resolution of mine to keep up with it ... so be it.

Anyway, I added the last two weeks of April, and then wondered about the new grouping thing. Couldn't hurt. WOW! The "Group by Most Likely" put all of my recent records at the top of the submittal screen. Instead of scrolling up and down all over, the most likely were all in one place. This is fantastic for birders mostly recording feeder activity. It is especially fantastic for procrastinators! I can enter a stack of feeder observations over many days (weeks...) without scrolling hardly at all. Yes, I can enter an infrequent visitor easily, but for the main part, I get about the same "dirty dozen" (or so) visiting my feeders day to day.

I already dropped in the first two weeks of May, and had to pause to write this note. I love it! Procrastination actually works sometimes.

Yes, you have to uncheck the box to see the normal entry list (phylogenetic order???) for reporting, but if the majority of your sightings are in the same area it is a blessing.

Here is a pic of the top of the entry screen I see now. Note the "Group by Most Likely" box is checked.

The list goes on to include the rest of birds in Michigan, but I really had to move away from the top only once. Cinchy! These are my normal guys. I already printed off the list so now I can just add numbers and notes daily without writing down my shorthand for each bird's name. (Pretty cool in itself!)

Another really cool feature of the new eBird is that when you enter a number for some species, you are immediately given an option to enter more data. In "the old days", you had to enter quantity data for all species, then you went to a second screen (but only if you had selected "enter more data" on the initial entry screen) to add sex/species comments/etc. info. As a "long-hand" recorder it forced me to go thru my list twice. This is so much easier. Caveat: Yet, for now, this feature is slow in response ... albeit bearable from the "old days" when I might have decided entering additional information was boring. OK, yes, my computer is "small" in RAM memory (2 gB), but I imagine many people have much smaller boxes. Newer computers might not experience the same problems.

Here is a pic of the "Group by Most Likely" with expanded options for additional data:
After you enter all your data, you get a page that said you did it successfully. It also gives you options for sharing. I successfully emailed myself the results. I also shared a recent list from Wetzel when we birded with Janet Hug, and she successfully added it to her eBird account.  Janet also successfully shared the Facebook link to our trip by clicking the button.

So far, it has not worked for me to share on FB directly as my FB status after I submitted my data. Maybe I just do not understand. Everything else works fine, and I have email anyway!

Successful submittal page:

Not a bad "ramble" for a day's work! We have a great new tool available!

Go bird. Try the new eBird!

- "Dr. Bob"

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