Thursday, February 21, 2013

Totally blown away while analyzing GBBC data!!!

OK,  fine...  I guess I should not be so totally blown away. I knew the technology was there, but ...

I just spent the last two hours playing with data from this year's GBBC - an annual great fun thing to do!  I told y'all about it before and encouraged participation. This year GBBC and eBird are "talking to each other" with data. I say "about time" - after all, they are from the same great bird-famous university (Cornell). Data entered into either GBBC or eBird for the GBBC weekend from Feb. 15-18 is tracked in both. No need to enter  the data twice as in past years. Hooray! Cornell has done an admirable job (BTW - I know from my IT experience that this was not a small task indeed!) of making them work together.

For awhile, I just played with bird data. Where were what birds sighted in my local areas during GBBC? That in itself was quite amazing! I could "slice" data by species, or by counties or yards or patches (gotta see eBird about creating yards and patches for your areas...), or see maps of reportings anywhere in the world (!), or ... I guess I could go on...

And, I could see my results compared with others in my state or my county. I guess I do have somewhat a competitive spirit, but really never went out and about much to "compete" for GBBC. Yes, I looked for birds, but I was just doing as I normally do over the weekend.  Mostly my recordings were from my deck (Hey! That is quite sufficient y'all newbies - it really means a lot!), but besides deck records, Judy and I also dropped in at Stoney Creek Metro Park Nature Center to check out their feeders and dropped by "Dutton Fields" to see if my sowing of seeds (OK, this is a family show - I mean sowing seeds literally...) the days before had brought in any winter birds.

With reference to (WRT)  bird sightings, I was very happy to see so many "new birders" (i.e., names I did not recognize from eBird or know from the Michigan birder's list ) posting results along with so many of my birding "heroes" for the two local counties (Oakland and Macomb) in Michigan we frequent. I was a  tad disappointed that I did not see some of my relatives or neighbors posting, but I will keep pestering them. Really the GBBC is a great way to start learning about birds and sharing birding results! Pass it on for next year!

OK, so far (your results can still be posted until the end of February - do it!), my (quasi-competitive) standings for the four days are (as of 2013-02-21):

Michigan: I rank 77, with species recorded 26. Total birds recorded in area: 135. Top birder saw 68 species.

Oakland County:  (where I record deck birds - it also includes a wonderful trip to Dutton Fields where we saw a huge flock of Snow Buntings) my rank 14, species 18. Total birds recorded in area: 67. Top birder saw 43 species. I posted a blog about the Snow Buntings. It was fun that GBBC/eBird asked me to verify the Snow Bunting entry! It is so rare that I ever record something where I am questioned about my entry!!!

BTW, I truly appreciate the unsung local referee eBird heroes who spend so much time verifying possibly discrepant records based on eBird flags so that folks like me do not pollute the data base!!! Yes, Judy and I indeed enjoyed the sight of a huge flock of Snow Buntings ("if you seed it they will come". I "seed(ed) it" and they came!) And, just to clarify, we normally do not feed birds beyond our deck! Not good for birds ... (another story ...). Dutton is the only spot and only time we do it - just to catch a glimse of special winter birds of the fields. WOW! Just like two years ago, a huge flock just dropped out of the sky! Drop in, leave; drop back, and so on - what fun!!!

Macomb County (we made one trip to Stoney Creek): my rank 14, species 14. Total birds recorded in area: 165. Top birder saw 42 species. Y'all know we are fair weather birders, but the short walk in cold temps to the Nature Center picked up some good records. It included the most Juncos we ever saw together at one time and the regularly-now-present Pine Siskins that have so far chosen not to visit our feeders this year.

I cut the data "this way and that". Oh, so amazing! BTW, interestingly, if anyone chooses to really get out and about as well as record feeder birds, I suspect it would be relatively easy to get a species list that will beat my measly number of species per county. Do it next year!

Then, while picking a few species I had recorded, I delved further. For example, Dark-eyed Junco. Where in my local area? I had one. Who else? Zooming in, I found "Dr. Bob's Deck" by clicking on a flag. Switching  to satellite mode, I was able to zoom farther and see my Jimmy (truck) in the driveway of my house! Cool! I also recognized that the photo was taken before last summer before they fixed the driveways in the neighboring court (yuk! - Van Hill needed fix!) and when we had just gotten new concrete driveways in front of our garages and a totally new asphalt resurface to the whole court. WOW!!! Amazing!!! A photo from space with a snapshot of our place at a point in time!  Yes, I have known the power of Google Maps/Google World since the beginning of Google World, but to see it in combination with requesting where a bird was sighted ... priceless (as the ad says ...). And, yes, you probably never will see your house as it looks today, but just to see a satellite pic from space of your place at all is incredible!

I printed off pics of our new driveways and the flag for "Dr. Bob's Deck" - I think from 2012 - to share with neighbors.

I remember it was - maybe 7-10-more years ago? - I printed pics of our condo complex from Google World as gifts for neighbors (before Google Map).  Yes, amazing! And I also remember, printing a pic of my "other mother" (aged mother of my best high school friend who lived down the street. She taught me how to cook.) sitting in her front yard at the same time the Google 360 degree camera car passed by. I could "walk around the block" in 3D on the internet and relive great memories!  What a treasure!!! Ah, technology!

But tonight, I was again totally blown away!!!

I asked GBBC about birds. I got a map. By switching to satellite mode (or similar hybrid mode but with street names) I could zoom in on any location in the world after asking GBBC to show me "X" species for a certain area. For example, I chose Snow Buntings in Oakland County.  It was easy because GBBC only had records for the four days. It would have been a tad more confusing from full eBird for other dates, but would have had similar results. I was shown all of the sightings (personal as well as hotspots) for these days (I think the GBBC difference is really great by including personal spots and allowing click-on details!!!) .

By using the "grabber hand" I could move the map of sightings. Then I could use roller mouse to enlarge (zoom). Soon I had Dutton Fields in view. I could keep "rolling and scrooling" until I reached the max limit of satellite imagery. By then, I could see the actual concrete pipes upon which the Horned Larks and Buntings retreated away from the road two years ago!!! Whew! The area was cleaned up this year, and all trailers and construction remains are gone, and all that is left is a newly graded site that will probably be put up for sale and developed, but what memories! And ... what technology!!! Here is a pic of the exact location where I seed (and see/saw) winter birds at Dutton Fields. Tonight I realized I intitially had "stuck the pin" at the intersection of Dutton and Lapeer Roads two years ago, but with better zooming and resolution tonight, and with knowing that others had chosen "Dutton Fields" as their name for the same spot, I was able to stick it at exactly the spot where I had seeded and observed birds. I also was able to move my personal pin to this spot. I renamed it to "Dutton Fields" becoming more in line with the site by with others (like Mike Mencotti and Ed Lewandowski know it and record birds). Cinchy! All my former data followed as I made the updates! BTW, some of y'all asked about the exact site for Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs and I told you in words, but here it is in a satellite pic! So cool!

Amazing!!! I think, if the satellite had taken the shot in winter, I might have been able to see my own car there - and maybe even the birdie flockers themselves!

Not just species lists, but actual sites - with satellite photos!

Blown away again ... and I even knew the technology! What fun!

What a wealth of data now exists that none of us will fully be able to explore! But just ask a question, and see what amazing results happen! And shortly you will be flooded with memories of places and birds you have known.

Warning! You just might start to ramble ...!!!

I thought I would "ramble" tonight and share...

- "Dr. Bob"


Kenn Kaufman said...

Great story, Dr. Bob! It IS amazing to see what we can do with the technology these days. And it's definitely interesting to see all the information coming in through eBird. Thanks for the post!

"Dr. Bob" said...

Thanks Kenn for your comment! You add even more excitement to my blog with your note!
I only "played with" GBBC/eBird data for a couple of hours, but could easily see spending a huge amount of time just asking different questions. In the process I would not only learn about birds and their distribution over time, and would learn where/when to schedule trips. I would learn about - and see actual photos of - USA and world geography both "in the large" and zoomed in to find details on local areas (like the pond at Dutton Fields) that I had not seen before. I can easily see this as a huge geography and biogeography learning tool for kids while also teaching them about birds. Indeed, truly amazing!