Kevin et al,

It sounds fantastic, but even though I'm no Luddite, I am clinging to my
flip phone as if my life depends on it, reluctant to have a smart phone and
yield to the mind-control powers of the big tech giants like Amazon,
Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple.

I will be traveling and would love to avail myself of the benefits you
described, but I fear my birding will be constrained by my fear of big

Still no Fox Sparrows (satisfying bird content protocol).

On Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 8:35 PM, Kevin J. McGowan <> wrote:

> I've still got a few Fox Sparrows, too. I can't ever remember waking up to
> them singing in my yard for over a week before. It always seemed that a few
> would be present a few days in the spring and fall, and that was it.
> No doubt our lingering winter is to blame. They don't go far south for the
> winter, but they go pretty far north to breed, so it makes sense that they
> should be aware of local weather and be cautious before they make the final
> move.
> A fun new addition to the Merlin app (free!) for your phone is that when
> you browse birds in a specific area, you see bar charts of the likelihood
> of occurrence for the whole calendar year. You can find the same
> information in eBird, but it takes more finagling to find it there. In
> Merlin, go to "Explore Birds" from the main screen, go up to the icon at
> the top that looks like lines and spots, click "Likely Birds," then filter
> by your current location and date. I suggest using "Family - Most Likely."
> That puts all the sparrows together, all the ducks, etc. Scroll down to the
> sparrows, and there, 11th on the list is Fox Sparrow. You can see by the
> bar chart that it's never abundant, but that it's usually seen in March and
> April, and that we're getting to the end of the narrow window when they
> normally occur.
> If you browse the sparrows, you see that the next most/least likely
> sparrow here this time of year is White-crowned. But, comparing the two bar
> charts shows that Fox Sparrows should be on their way out, while
> White-crowns should just be coming in.
> Also interesting, if you browse farther down the list, is that we have
> just gone through the peak time of Vesper Sparrow reports. And, unlike the
> other two species, they breed here! But, apparently they show up more on
> eBird checklists during April as they arrive and can't get to their
> breeding grounds yet, what with the snow and all, and show up in parking
> lots and roadsides the way they have done this last week or two. There have
> been dozens of Vesper Sparrow reports all over the county this last week
> and a half, and that perfectly reflects the bar chart in Merlin based on
> ebird checklists.
> I've been a half-hearted endorser of Merlin over the last few years
> because, frankly, I don't need the help identifying birds. But, the app is
> becoming much more than what it started as, and it's growing all the time.
> It's now one of the fastest and easiest portals to finding what birds are
> to be expected at a specific time of year, pretty much everywhere in the
> world. Soon it is going to be a reference source for birds all over the
> world, with photos, songs, and maps. Already it covers all of the US and
> Canada, Mexico, and most of Central America, as well as parts of Colombia
> and northwestern Europe. And it's growing every day.
> I did a West Coast business trip in February, and I used Merlin to tell me
> what birds to expect in the places I visited. I went to Oregon, and Merlin
> told me that Acorn Woodpeckers would be common in Medford, west of the
> Cascade Mountains, but would be rare in Klamath Falls, east of the
> mountains. It told me that I'd be seeing California Quail all along most of
> my drive to San Diego, but when I went to Joshua Tree National Park, I
> would be seeing Gambel's Quail.
> So, just a head's up to the birding community. The Cornell Lab's Merin app
> is not just some cute toy for beginners. (Although, it did get my
> bird-averse sister to start liking looking at birds.) It's becoming a
> powerful tool for traveling birders to use all over the world. Currently,
> it only has photos, maps, and information for the areas I mentioned above.
> But, it already can give you a list of the most likely birds you will see
> anywhere on earth. Well, anywhere there are eBird checklists. But, every
> eBird checklist you put in from some exotic locale helps the program refine
> its results and improve the accuracy of its predictions. And, every photo
> you upload to an eBird checklist from a foreign location gets Merlin closer
> to being able to identify that species from photos, and closer to having
> photos available in the app.
> Latin America has an avid and active birding presence, so we can expect
> big strides there in the near future. But, it also has the most diverse and
> complex suite of birds on the planet, so, that's a hurdle. I personally
> hope that southern and eastern Europe will be covered completely soon (I
> have a trip there scheduled in late June), but it seems that India is going
> to jump ahead in the line ahead of other expected regions.
> Indian birders have enthusiastically embraced eBird the last couple of
> years, and they're pumping sightings and photos into the database. I spoke
> to someone in Oregon at the bird festival I was attending (Winter Wings)
> who was from India. He wanted to show me his photos from birding in India
> (very nice), and I told him to put them into checklists in eBird because
> every photo uploaded for a species (especially good ones like his) put
> Merin a step closer to getting the identification program to being able to
> ID it, but also that every photo gets the bird guide portion closer to
> being able to offer it to the regular folks. He responded that he thought
> that was awesome, and that he knew that the people in the bird clubs in
> India would be excited to contribute.
> So, as New Yorkers say, Excelsior! Ever upward! Honestly, I've been
> birding since the lat 1960s and early 1970s, about 50 years. There has
> never been such a great time to be a birder as right now. You can get
> spectacular binoculars and scopes for relatively cheap. Birding references
> are abundant (including the courses I've created at
> You can find out almost
> real-time information about what rare birds are where. You have information
> on your phone about what birds are likely anywhere on earth, and you can
> actually have your phone make a tentative identification from a photo you
> took with that phone. As he said in the Princess Bride, "Inconceivable!" We
> may very well be living in the best of all conceivable worlds.
> Kevin
> Ithaca, NY
> Learn More About Birds with These Courses | Bird Academy ...
> <>
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> ------------------------------
> *From:* <
>> on behalf of Carol Keeler <
> *Sent:* Friday, April 20, 2018 6:58 PM
> *Subject:* [cayugabirds-l] Fox Sparrows
> I now have 2 Fox Sparrows!  They’ve been here for two days now. I had one
> about five years ago which stayed for minutes.  I don’t get great numbers
> of birds like you do in the Ithaca area.  I’m delighted.
> I also just had a flock of Cedar Waxwings sitting in a tall maple.  Now
> and then they would hawk insects .
> Sent from my iPad
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