Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Episode 440 (10-1-18): eBird Helps Birders Deliver the Data

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:15)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

Except as otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 9-28-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 1, 2018.

This week, we feature a series of sounds for a science-project mystery.  Have a listen for about 20 seconds to a Great Egret, Common Eider, and Bald Eagle, and see if you can guess what the names of these three water-related birds have in common.  That will give you a clue to the name of a worldwide collaborative project to gather information about birds.

SOUNDS - ~18 sec

If you guessed that the names all start with “e,” you’re right!  Not many bird names do, but any feathered creature is an object of interest to eBird, a bird-data-gathering project managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  According to the project’s Web site, eBird.org, “eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen-science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by hundreds of thousands of users.  eBird users provide records of observed bird species, location, numbers, and associated habitat. Such data from so many users give scientists valuable information for identifying large-scale bird-population trends.  Besides its scientific value, eBird helps birdwatchers share information and experiences, including participating in large-scale observation events like the Cornell Lab-sponsored Global Big Day, taking place next on October 6, 2018.

eBird is just one of many examples of citizen science, where citizens have opportunities to contribute to scientific information by recording their observations using established protocols.   For example, one center for citizen science, at Colorado State University, is involved with almost 700 projects worldwide.  Activities in Virginia include the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Frog and Toad Calling Survey, the Virginia Herpetological Society’s BioBlitz, and a variety of projects conducted by the Virginia Master Naturalist Program.

Back to birds in the sky, trees, waters, and other habitats, if your interest is in watching them and keeping track of what you see, eBird might be the tool for you.

Thanks to Lang Elliott for permission to use this week’s sounds, from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs.  We close with about 20 seconds of music inspired by birds. Here’s part of “Geese Piece,” by Torrin Hallett.

MUSIC - ~ 18 sec


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.   In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The sounds of the Bald Eagle, Common Eider, and Great Egret were taken from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs-Eastern Region CD set, by Lang Elliott with Donald and Lillian Stokes (Time Warner Audio Books, copyright 1997), used with permission of Lang Elliott, whose work is available online at the “Music of Nature” Web site, http://www.musicofnature.org/.

The Great Egret was featured in Virginia Water Radio Episode 277, 8-10-15; the Bald Eagle was featured in Episode 375, 7-13-17.

“Geese Piece” is copyright 2016 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission.  Thanks to Torrin, a graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio, for composing the piece especially for Virginia Water Radio.”  More information about him is available online at https://www.facebook.com/torrin.hallett.  “Geese Piece” was previously featured in Virginia Water Radio Episode 335, 9-26-16.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at http://www.bencosgrove.com.


Screen shot of eBird’s map of records around the world, as of 10/1/18, 4 p.m. EDT, accessed at https://ebird.org/explore.

Screen shot of part of eBird’s bar graphs of bird observations at Back Bay in southeastern Virginia, as of 10/1/18, 4 p.m. EDT, accessed at https://ebird.org/explore.

An observation entered into the “My eBird” records of the host of Virginia Water Radio: Great Blue Heron in a stormwater pond at the Virginia Tech Inn in Blacksburg, July 28, 2015


Used for Audio

Colorado State University and Citizen Science Central, CitiSci.org, online at https://www.citsci.org/CWIS438/Websites/CitSci/Home.php?WebSiteID=7.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “E-bird,” online at https://ebird.org/home.  Information on the October 6, 2018, Global Bird Day is online at https://ebird.org/news/october-big-day-6-october-2018.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Frog and Toad Calling Survey,” online at https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/frogsurvey/.

Virginia Herpetological Society, online at https://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/.

Virginia Master Naturalists, “What You’ll Do,” online at http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/what-youll-do.html.

For More Information about Birds

BirdNote®, a daily broadcast/podcast on birds, online at http://birdnote.org/.

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “All About Birds,” online at http://www.allaboutbirds.org.

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “Merlin Photo ID.”  The application for mobile devices allows users to submit a bird photograph to get identification of the bird.   Information is available online at http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/.

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and American Ornithologists’ Union, “Birds of North America Online,” online at http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna (subscription required).

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Fish and Wildlife Information Service,” online at http://vafwis.org/fwis/?Title=VaFWIS+Species+Information+By+Name&vUT=Visitor.

Virginia Society of Ornithology, online at http://www.virginiabirds.org/.  The Society is non-profit organization dedicated to the study, conservation, and enjoyment of birds in the Commonwealth.

Xeno-canto Foundation Web site, online at http://www.xeno-canto.org/.  The site provides bird songs from around the world.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).   See particularly the “Birds” and “Science” subject categories.

Following is a link to an episode on the Virginia Herpetological Society’s survey activities.
Episode 371, 6/5/17.

Following are links to episodes related to Virginia Master Naturalist activities.
Episode 81, 9/26/11 – on stream assessment with aquatic macroinvertebrates.
Episode 172, 7/29/13 – on methods of fish sampling.
Episode 241, 11/24/14 – on fish classification.


This episode may also help with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs.

Grades K-6 Scientific Investigation, Reasoning, and Logic Theme
1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, and 6.1 – Gathering and analyzing data. 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, and 6.1 all also include “Current applications to reinforce science concepts.”

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decision, hazard mitigation, cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
5.5 – cell structures and functions, organism classification, and organism traits.

Life Science Course
LS.1 – understanding of scientific reasoning, logic, and the nature of science, including current applications to reinforce science concepts.
LS.4 – organisms’ classification based on features.
LS.11 – relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Biology Course
BIO.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2015 Social Studies SOLs.

World Geography Course
WG.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship.

Government Course
GOVT.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250 (1-26-15) – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255 (3-2-15) – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282 (9-21-15) – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309 (3-28-16) – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 332 (9-12-16) – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403 (1-15-18) – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404 (1-22-18) – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade. Episode 406 (2-5-18) – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407 (2-12-19) – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.