Monday, February 18, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count pushes eBird data submission to new levels

A couple of weeks ago eBird released a new data exploration tool that shows checklists being submitted  in real time on a map of the world. As each checklist is submitted, a yellow dot pops up and then fades to gray, indicating the location of the checklist. As the day goes on the gray dots overtake more and more of the map, showing just how thoroughly eBird users are sampling North American avifauna on a daily basis.

Quite a few people in the bird blogosphere were excited when this new feature was introduced and blogged (then re-blogged, and re-re-blogged) about it when it was brand new. I refrained, simply because the few times I pulled up the tool I was just not that impressed with the slow trickle of submissions. I was hoping to see the map light up like fireworks with all checklists coming in, but I was lucky to see one dot light up every 4 or 5 seconds.

It turns out that this weekend's Great Backyard Bird Count (or GBBC as it is often abbreviated) has done a lot to improve the pace. Checklists are flying in at record numbers, and the speed is generating quite a bit of excitement for those that (like me) have a soft spot in their heart for both birds and data. All of this is driven by the recent merger of the GBBC and eBird. According to eBird:
This year all data entered into eBird go into GBBC and vice versa. From now on, GBBC data entry will use the eBird checklist interface, will take advantage of eBird output tools, and will be completely integrated with your personal eBird account. 
eBird announced a couple of hours ago that they had 24,000 new users sign up in the last three days, which undoubtedly is the result of the decision to merge with the GBBC.

As the day rolled on eBird shared a few highlights on their Facebook page. After watching the map for a while this afternoon, I would be surprised if they didn't exceed the 1 checklist/second they were hoping for tonight.

eBird also announced that they were experiencing their highest volume ever, and expected to cross 50,000 checklist submissions in a single day within the next 30 minutes. Of course I had to tune in for the milestone.

I grabbed a screenshot of the instant they hit 50,000 checklists for the day. Quite the achievement!

Hopefully some of the new eBird users will see how easy and fun it can be and decide to become regular users. Plus, if people pay any attention to the alerts for their area, they just might be pleasantly surprised to learn about the amazing diversity that surrounds them on a regular basis, just waiting for them to look around and take notice.

Congrats to everybody involved in the GBBC and eBird efforts for the impressive results!

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