eBirding is the new phenomena of birding through the electronic medium. Modern day birding involves not just field birding but a huge paraphernalia of related internet based activities. Sharing bird photos, posting on forums to identify/ help identify birds or share information, blogging, following other blogs and being alerted about bird sightings are just some of the above activities.
I`m no expert to the bird watching arena and am very much a beginner but over the past year have had to rely a lot on the internet for my birding needs. So I thought I`d share a few tips I`ve picked up: All the tips I`m sharing are freely availabe on the net and I wont be covering paid services:
1.Follow the Bird Blogs:
Firstly, birding related blogs have become the in thing. Blogs have become the place to both showcase your spottings as well as keep track of what fellow birders are experiencing. While one option is to find individual bird blogs, bookmark them and return to them every now and then. However, for those who are not aware, there is a smarter way –through RSS feeds and RSS feed readers. RSS feeds are the in thing these days. Instead of email subscriptions, these days most blogs offer RSS/ATOM feeds. Look for this sign somewhere on the blog page to check if the site offers RSS feeds . In Firefox, such sites are automatically detected and the sign is detected on the address bar.
One can subscribe to the RSS feed by clicking on the feed and adding it to your feed reader. The RSS feed is updated as a blog is updated and the new post can be picked up in your RSS feeder, therefore you don`t have to constantly check blogs to see if it has been updated.
There are many Free RSS feeders available online. This link provides a list of some popular ones. However, my favourite one is Google reader. For those who need a tutorial on using Google reader here is a good one I found:
Now arises the question of where to find bird blogs. That’s easy, find one and it will more often than not link to several other bird blogs, which in turn will have links to others. Choose the ones you like and add their feeds to your reader.
However, if you are looking for a lazy and easy solution to add a variety of the most popular bird blogs to your reader in one go, I have one: Try this : "Birdwatching " via the powerguides publisher. It has a concoction of the most popular bird blog feeds in it. You can directly add it to your reader by clicking this:
For that rare occasion where you badly need to follow a blog that doesn’t offer RSS feeds, a service like Dapper comes in Handy. Its a little complicated but is currently the best solution there is out there. A demo video for Dapper is available here.
2. Write your own Bird blog:
Hosting your blog on the former two will give you a lot more flexibility and a wide audience from many backgrounds, while latter two will bring your blogs to attention of a targeted birding community, already signed in to use the respective services of the above websites. I would recommend the earlier two, but you can always be smart and duplicate your post on more than one site. If you are smart enough you can even set it to publish automatically on a secondary site while you publish on your main blog. This will enable you to reach out to your specific bird community and also enjoy the benefits of the larger blogging community being aware of your blog.
3. The smart way to write your Blog:
One reason why manny people dont write blogs is because of the hassles involved in setting it up and the fear of having to do coding in HTML etc. However, all that is a thing of the past. These days you dont really need to know any HTML. For instance the writing interface of most blog platforms includes a WYSIWYG (pronounced /ˈwɪziwɪg/ or /ˈwɪz
ɪwɪg/ What You See Is What You Get,) editor which makes blogging very simple.
However, there is a tool which simplifies blogging into child’s play – the desktop blogging platform/editor. These software not only allows you to tinker with the arrangement and layout of you post effortlessly but it also allows you to write a post offline and then publish it when you get online. Imagine going to a remote area for birding and you have no access to the internet. You could easily write your posts, include your photos each night and save it offline. When you get back home all you would have to do is hit publish. (That is assuming you will have access to a laptop).
The best software I have discovered for this is called Windows Live writer. It is so good that it has no close competition. It allows you to insert pictures, videos, various HTML scripts (if you need to) Maps, links from Wikipedia, hyperlinks to other sites, screen captures of other websites etc. It can dowload your blog’s template and give you an exact preview of what your final post will look like, even as you are writing. It also allows you to save local drafts as well as a draft on your blog or publish instantly. Some of these and other features are done through additional plugins which you can download from here or here. For beginners here is an instructional video:
4.Online birding help:
Now that you have a blog, where do you get help in bird identification, recording and managing bird lists before you share it on your blog. Two sites that are particularly helpful in this regard are eBird and Birdstack. However, eBird is largely US centric while Birstack is good for other countries too.I would highly recommend Birdstack.
You can record your observations based on trips, location,year or any conceivable delimiter. You can then combine the lists and also create new lists out of the existing lifts. Adding birds is a simple affair and the site offers suggestions even as you type. but best of all you can also embed your list on your blog and have it update automatically as you add new birds after each birding trip.
Another site along these lines is the newly introduced birders social networking site – Birdpost.
I haven’t used this site much and from what I`ve read a lot of birders don’t seem to care much for it, but if this is your taste, go for it.
Flickr is primarily a photo sharing site where one can upload all photos, but it also hosts specialised groups and forums, including localised groups on birding. People can upload bird photos and share them with other birders or ask for help in identification. There are some very experienced members out there who are more than willing to help out. These forums also have active discussions on other birding related activities.
I mentioned BirdForum earlier as a Blog host, but it is chiefly what its name suggests, it has active forums discussing every aspect of birding you can think of. Its well worth registering here, you will surely find it useful at some point. I cant tell you how much it helped me when I wanted specific information on buying my dSLR for birding.
I suppose this much information is good enough for one post. I thought of a few more tips but that can wait for another post. I hope this will help others, especially beginners in ebirding. If you think I`ve left out a vital point leave me a comment.