Tuesday, February 24, 2015

App Review: BirdsEye

I've been using many of the Birdseye Apps for a long time, and they all should be of interest to any serious birder. Awhile back, I was asked if I would do a review of the new and improved BirdsEye app and I of course agreed. I've been using the app both at home and during my many birding adventures over the last several months and would like to share with you my thoughts on this app.

First, if you are unfamiliar with this app, the basic premise is that if uses eBird data in order to provide birders with up-to-date information that will improve their birding experience. It has been expanded to include a whole host of fantastic features beyond that as well. It is available on both Apple and Android.

This app offers so many amazing features that it actually might be a bit overwhelming at first but trust me, you'll get used to it. On the main screen, there are several options for different services this app can provide you with. The first and one of the most useful is the "Nearby Birds" function. This function will access your current location and then list of the birds that have been report on eBird near you. You can control distance and time frame which helps to eliminate species that are either too far away for you to chase or haven't been seen recently enough to be reliable.

The second feature, "Browse by Location" is equally as useful as the first. This part of the app allows you to find all of the eBird hotspots near your current location (and beyond if you choose). Birding in an area you aren't familiar with? No problem - just find a hotspot near you.

The "Region Lists" allows you to select from a long list of regions of the world which will then provide you with an interactive list of the species found there. You can click on each species and, in many cases, see photos, hear the songs and calls, and find all of the recent eBird reports of the species. I've found this especially useful when researching areas before going on a trip.

I've also found the "Rare Bird Alerts" function to be very helpful, but you really need to use eBird to get full use of this part of the app. This function can show you all of the notable birds from your region as well as all of the rare birds seen within the ABA area in the last 4 weeks. What makes this extra useful is that you can click to see only the birds that you still need for your eBird list!

The Store offers some pretty great options as well. Each of the memberships for Birdseye are available. They don't offer one time pricing any more, so now you have to sign up for a monthly membership for any of the additional field guides. I find the prices to be higher than I would expect, but the content is solid and the cost worthwhile. The part that I have found most useful is the ability to purchase an incredible number of bird sounds in the store. They offer thousands of recordings from all over the world! Yes, they are expensive, but so are the CDs that you would normally have to buy to get these quality songs and calls. They can all be accessed anytime you have cellular or wifi signal but they can also be downloaded and stored on your device if you choose.

Birdseye will also keep track of your complete life list as long as you are entering your birding checklists into eBird. You can either enter your data on the eBird website or by using the BirdLog App.

Overall, the only drawback to this app is the price, but as I said before, I feel that there is enough quality content to justify the slightly higher than expected cost.

*I received this app free from BirdsEye for the purpose of writing a review.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ohio Adds Its First Snowy Owl to Project Snowstorm

Project Snowstorm is back for its second winter (learn more about the project in my post from last year) and has been banding more Snowy Owls all over the US. This year, Ohio has gotten in on the action with its first banded Snowy Owl for the project. Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Kirtland Bird Club, and the USDA Wildlife Services joined together to capture and band the owl on February 15th. Buckeye, the name chosen for the owl, was released in rural NW Ohio after being captured and removed from Detroit Metropolitan Airport for the bird's safety. The GPS GSM tag will capture the location of Buckeye every 30 minutes and these locations are transmitted to Project Snowstorm every Thursday evening, cell tower reception permitting. You can keep track of Buckeye on the Project Snowstorm website. You can see photos from when the owl was radio-tagged on the BSBO Facebook page by following this link.

Buckeye takes flight after being radio-tagged. (Photo by Kate Zimmerman)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Spectacular Snow Geese Flocks in Southern Indiana

Just a portion of a Snow Goose flock.

Rob and I, along with our friend, Landon, headed down to southern Indiana in search of a few target species.  We weren't all that successful on that front; we only saw one, a Golden Eagle.  We were very lucky with the eagle and had brief but great views.  We spent a few hours searching for a Ferruginous Hawk that has wintered at Sommerville Mines the past couple winters without luck.  But, we did have nice views of a dark-morph, western Red-tailed Hawk.  Our other miss, a Loggerhead Shrike, may have given us a brief, distant glimpse, but it disappeared before we could get an adequate look.

A closer view of the Snow Goose flock pictured above.

In the mid-afternoon we headed over to the Gibson Lake area to look for the big concentrations of Snow Geese that winter in the area.  It didn't take long to locate a large flock; we estimated over 35,000 total.  There were also thousands of Mallards, hundreds of Greater White-fronted Geese, and a spattering of other waterfowl species in the mix including a handful of Ross's Geese.  If the waterfowl numbers weren't enough, there were also a couple thousand blackbirds that included a good mix of Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds and lesser numbers of Rusty Blackbird.

Snow Geese coming down to feed in a field.
A closer view of some of the snow Geese.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Red-throated Loon in Central Indiana

Red-throated Loon-a very bad, record shot
The past few days have seen an influx of waterfowl into southern and central Indiana.  Anytime there is a large movement of birds, the chances of seeing an uncommon or rare bird greatly increases.

Over the weekend, a wide variety of ducks arrived at Eagle Creek Park and while all were appreciated, a Red-throated Loon was the clear highlight.  These birds are fairly common migrants and winter visitors only 150 miles to the north, on Lake Michigan but, anytime you see one in central Indiana it is a good day!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Northern Shrikes

Eric writes:

Each fall, Northern Shrikes migrate south from their breeding grounds, to fairly open habitats across the northern United States.  Most Northern Shrikes that migrate to the southern edge of their range are first winter birds.  Over time, due to feather wear, the barring on first year Northern Shrikes wears off.  When you see these birds early in the fall they can look quite different than what you will see in the spring!

Here are a couple photos (taken Oct. 22) of a fairly "fresh" individual. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Northern Saw-whet Owl at Maumee Bay State Park

Over the weekend, I made a quick road trip up to Northwest Ohio and was able to sneak a little birding in  while I was there. I saw one lifer during my trip, a Hoary Redpoll! You can read about that sighting here on the Birds & Blooms Blog.

After seeing the redpoll, I headed to Maumee Bay State Park to look for a Northern Saw-whet Owl. My friend Brian met me over there and took us to the spot for the owl. As we walked up, there were already people looking at the owl which made it very easy to spot!

Although there were a few branches in the way, I snapped this shot of the owl.
Late in the day, we were able to do a little more birding atthe Bayshore Fishing Access right on Lake Erie. There were tons of ducks but the real highlight was the volume of gulls in the area! In addition to the huge numbers of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, we saw a few of the more uncommon species including, Glaucous, Iceland, and Great and Lesser Black-backed. I ended up seeing 43 total species on the day!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

An Indiana Little Gull

Eric writes:

Rob needed a Little Gull for his state list, so we headed out to Turtle Creek Reservoir in western Indiana, where one has been present since November 2nd. Needless to say, this bird will probably spend the rest of the winter in this location.  We decided to stop by the Dugger Unit of Greene-Sullivan State Forest before heading over to Turtle Creek since I had birded the location a few days before with great results.

A first-year, light morph Rough-legged Hawk.  One of the many raptors we observed on the day.
It was amazing how much of a difference a few days made at Dugger; it was still great birding but the species mix was much different.  On Saturday, we had over 1500 Snow Geese but on this day we didn't come across a single "white" goose species.  However, we had a much greater diversity of ducks and a nice highlight, at least one Brewer's Blackbird.  We also had a nice diversity of raptors although we didn't end up with anything unusual.

Part of one of the Snow Geese flocks.  Can you spot any Ross's?
When we arrived at Turtle Creek, we got our fill of "white" geese, including 2 Ross's in a Snow Goose flock that flew directly overhead.  We ended up estimating a total of 2500 Snow Geese as well as much lower numbers of Greater White-fronted and Canada.  Once we reached the north end of the reservoir, where the Little Gull spends most of its time.  All of the gulls took flight after a couple minutes and we quickly located the Little but, it was only in view for about a minute before heading south.