Sunday, January 13, 2013

Biographical eBird Map (eBird LifeMap)

This frigid, icy weekend my get-up-and-go got-up-and-went (to more or less quote from an American folk song), and I found myself bird-surfing the WEB. I stumbled upon the eBird LifeMap. This app converts your eBird data to a Google map, connecting your locations by date of observation with red lines. The result is a birding travel log. I will provide you with a link to this WEB site at the end of this post.

I assume you are familiar with eBird. Last year I entered almost all my bird records into eBird, beginning from 1960 when I was a 13-year-old. The records fall into three categories: life list records, miscellaneous birding lists, and current eBird submissions. The compilation of these 35,053 records can be seen in this first map.
Life-list records tend to give you the cleanest trip routes. But the routes are not always precise. Note the jags across the map of North Dakota. Erika and I drove staight across the state in 1968. I think what is happening here is that birds were seen on the same day but the computer has no way of knowing which species was seen first. A larger anomaly is the red line heading north out of the Galapagos Islands on the World map. You can only fly into the Galapagos from Ecuador. What happened here is that I left the islands, spent the night in Quito, and then returned home. The next new bird I saw was several months later in South Dakota. Thus a straight line exists between the Galapagos and South Dakota. The overall map, although not completely accurate, does give a satisfying representation of my birding career. A more practicable use for these maps might be to spot date or location errors in your eBird reporting.
The final map depicts my birding in the Minneapolis Metro Area. This map includes a year or so of almost daily eBird submissions (and no life birds). Clearly Northfield is my center of operations. The odd, comet-tail patterns at the top of the map are due to 20-years of commutes into the Twin Cites from South Dakota for birding and culture. Another possible cause of these patterns is that some of those early lists are of county birds rather than of specific locations. 
You can build your own eBird LifeMap by following the instructions at the Birdventures website.  This process is relatively simple but geared to the PC computer. Because I own a Mac, I had a bit of trouble. I e-mailed developer Zachary DeBruine for help, and was amazed by his prompt and patient responses. (You do not have to use all your eBird records. You could use, for example, the records from one summer’s travels and generate a map of those trips.)

The eBird LifeMap is not the only eBird mapping app available from Birdventures. In my next post I will review their eBird GM app that allows you to embed Google Maps directly into eBird files.

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