Field Trip Reports MBP Field Trips

Field Trip Report: Citizen Science for the Birds 2023!

The focus of the morning was learning how to conduct a breeding bird survey and how to do so using eBird on our smartphones. You can see from the group photo of the team in action, that it was a chilly morning (30’s) as we were bundled up in hats and gloves at High Ridge Park in Laurel.

Citizen Science group.
Team in action © Sue Muller

Our field class began with a lesson on how to use the “Merlin” app from Cornell  Lab of Ornithology to help us identify birds by song (https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/sound-id/). We were quick to pick up some common birds like American Robin, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Red-winged Blackbird.  It was nice to hear the forest come alive with bird songs once again after a quiet winter.  Carolina Wrens and Northern Cardinals were singing especially loud and proud!

We then moved on to learn the ins and outs of using eBird to conduct a breeding bird survey as part of the Maryland/DC Breeding Bird Atlas (3), https://ebird.org/atlasmddc/home. This citizen science project is mapping the distribution of breeding birds every 10 square miles across the state. The group learned a lot about observing breeding behavior and how to apply appropriate breeding codes in their eBird checklists.  We were able to give three species breeding codes:

Carolina Wren – “S”-singing male

Tufted Titmouse – “S” – singing male

Carolina Chickadee – “H” – in habitat

We were constantly being teased by the call of a Red-shouldered Hawk.  With several pairs of eyes looking, we finally got to see one.

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk © Sue Muller

At the end of our walk, the checklist had 20 species including the three species that received breeding codes.  The highlight was at the end when we heard the squeaky whistles of a young Cooper’s Hawk!  It was the sharp eyes of Kingsley Simons that spotted the bird, not one but two!

Cooper’s Hawk
A young Cooper’s Hawk © Sue Muller

Finally, everyone successfully submitted an eBird checklist into the Maryland-DC Breeding Bird Atlas portal in eBird and passed the class with flying colors! More Breeding Bird Atlas field trips will be scheduled!

Thanks for reading!

Sue Muller

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