The idea of the Rusty Blackbird Hot Spot Blitz January 30 to February 15, 2010 is to harness the observational power of the birding community to learn more about rusty blackbirds. Researchers are interested in knowing where, when, and how many rusty blackbirds you see, as well as more specific information about habitat and sex.
The field protocol for the Rusty Blackbird Blitz is simple: get out to your local birding areas and record the birds you see, but also tell us how you went birding. We're not telling birders to survey specific areas. Instead we'd like you to look for rusties in areas you think might be appropriate. Wet woods are a good start!
We're asking birders to do traveling counts at each location to survey for rusty blackbirds. Traveling counts can be short, or longer, but preferably always 5 miles or less. The length is up to you, just make sure to record it and tell us the distance traveled during data entry. Counts should be conducted on foot where possible, and might consist of walking a nature trail, or birding at your local park.
If birding by car, consider getting out of the car and conducting a count at periodic intervals, or wherever you want to count birds. It is important to record your location as accurately as possible, and plot your point at the mid-point of your traveling survey. So if you covered 1 mile on foot, plot your location at .5 miles.
Try to stay away from countywide surveys, or excessively long traveling counts. An important factor for understanding the needs of rusty blackbirds is understanding the habitat they use, and by sampling smaller areas, we can better link the birds you see with the habitat on the ground.
The idea of the survey is to find rusty blackbirds, but we strongly recommend that you record all the species you observe. This will give the context within which rusty blackbirds are observed. It also provides a snapshot of the overall avifauna of the area sampled, and helps generate baseline data for all species.
Providing numbers (or estimates) for each species is also very helpful, much like the Christmas Bird Count, but don't let that distract you from searching for rusty blackbirds as your primary target.
Record your observations in the field (you may print and use the data forms provided), making sure to include the following information: date, location, the time you began each survey, how long you were birding, and how far you traveled.
If you encounter rusty blackbirds, be sure to record the number of birds (flock size) and how you generated that number (estimate vs. direct count of individual birds). It is also highly recommended that you record the following information relating to your observations of Rusty Blackbirds, if you are able to do so:
In addition to rusty blackbird data, recording the following information is preferable if it is possible to do so. Record each species encountered (numbers for each species are also appreciated). For all blackbird species, record the number of birds (flock size) and how you generated that number (estimate vs. direct count of individual birds).
Once you've collected the data, visit eBird (www.eBird.org) to submit your observations. Note: It's important to submit your observations even if you didn't find rusty blackbirds! Negative data is incredibly valuable and it tells us a lot if you specifically went out searching for rusty blackbirds and did not find any.
eBird (www.ebird.org) is an online tool that allows birders to keep track of their personal records while making them available to scientists. If you already have an eBird account you can simply log in and enter your data. If you are a new eBird user, you'll have to click the "Register as a new user" link at the top of the page to create an account.
Once you're registered you can simply click on the "Submit Observations" tab at the top of the page.
The first question is "Where did you bird?" If you have coordinates for your location simply click the "Use latitude and longitude" option. If not, use the "Find it on a map" tool to plot as accurately as possible the location where you collected your data. You can quickly zoom in to a county by filling out the 'county' and 'state' options. Zoom in as far as possible using the tools at the upper left, remembering that the more accurately you plot your location the better.
The red markers on the map represent 'eBird hotspots' or public birding locations from which others have submitted data. You can click directly on those markers to select one, or simply click on the map to create a new location. A new marker will appear at your new location. Click the map again to reposition the marker as you see fit. Don't forget to name the location in the box above! Click 'Continue' when you're satisfied.
This is the "Date and Effort" page that helps us understand 'how' you went birding. Select the "Rusty Blackbird Blitz" protocol from the options at the top. Then fill in your date, start time, duration, and most importantly, 'distance covered'. Number of observers and elevation are optional, but please record these if possible.
This the fun part! This is the eBird checklist page. After you tell eBird when and where you were birding, it will give a checklist to fill out of the 'most probable' species to occur in the area on the given date and location. At the top of the checklist page there are two very important questions.
The first is 'Are you submitting a complete checklist of the birds you saw/heard?' This is a critical question, and here's what it means: We want to find out whether you are reporting all the birds you were able to identify to the best of your ability. Answer "Yes" to this question when you submit more than just the highlights of your birding event, and try to note every species present (even starlings and house sparrows). More info about this We realize that all birds are not identifiable and user abilities vary. You should always answer "Yes" to this question unless you are purposefully excluding some species (e.g. European starlings) from your checklist. You do not need to count all the individuals to answer "Yes" to this question." For the Rusty Blackbird Blitz we are asking birders to report all species when possible.
The second question is "Do you want to report age/sex information or add species comments?" Answer 'yes' to this question if you were able to collect data on the number of male and female rusty blackbirds.
Next enter the numbers for each species you saw or heard into the corresponding boxes on the checklist page. If you don't have numbers an 'x' will do to indicate presence. If you did not encounter any rusty blackbirds, it is important that you report this information by recording a count of zero for the species.
Click 'Continue' when you're satisfied. On the next page you can record sex for rusty blackbirds, and provide more information about your rusty observations in the comments field for that species. We are asking observers to record the following in the comments field.
When you're finished click 'Continue' at the bottom of the page.
This is a simple confirmation page where you can check over your submission for accuracy. When you are satisfied click 'Submit' at the bottom of the page. Check the 'email me this report' box if you'd like a copy of the submission sent to you.
Go to 'My eBird' to see your results, and to have fun exploring your lists. These get better over time as you add more data!
Repeat this process for each discrete location you sampled for rusty blackbirds. The general rule is that more checklists from more refined locations is better.
Information and instructions will also be available on Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's e-Bird site: ebird.org
Sponsored by International Rusty Blackbird Technical Working Group, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's and National Audubon Society's eBird