The importance of using online databases: time to exploit the power of personal birding records

I’ve been following many national and regional e-mail groups, community websites or individual blogs for a long time and I am thrilled by the incredible number of informations circling around in a single day. Everyone loves to share what was seen on the actual day on the local paths. The gathered information what birders own is egregious. On the one hand this is nice and a positive indication of the potential of the birdwatching world but I am pondering if the tremendous amount of data would ever be used for a purpose.

I think it is not a question that data collection on regional level has different goals and outcomes as it would be on international level. I strongly believe that organisations and authorities running worldwide bird databases can make a difference on a global scale what has an impact on regional level as well.

I am not an anti-database guy. I’ve been keeping my own records in a spreadsheet database for many years but I soon realised that those records would die with me in a couple of decades (hopefully) and nobody will care about the incredible number of records I will have collected in my whole life. There are hundreds of birdwatchers out in the fields on a daily basis and at their return the field note is placed to the drawer and will never be used for any further purpose. Others are sharing data completely unorganised. So what’s then?

These days it is not a challenge to find a perfect online database where we can share our records. “Perfect” doesn’t only mean it offers a seamless data entry process but means the records are used for birds. That simple! Wouldn’t we be happy by knowing that our records helped saving a bird population of crashing as data prepared and used properly by decision makers? Of course we would be happy. We have to be happy as we wanna see healthy bird populations. We, birdwatchers, field workers, hate witnessing disappearing species or once common species being evaluated endangered. The good news is that we can do something against it. Anyone can make a difference by simply following his/her daily routine in the field but take a bit more care of data storage.

Many of us are complaining that data submission is time consuming what is crucial in the rushing lifestyle. Well, here I point to my very first paragraph when I’ve written about the hundreds of different sources where birdwatchers are sharing their daily observations. And they do it without caring much about the time while typing. The only problem is that those records are completely unorganised and not usable for a good purpose (there are exceptions for sure!!!).

It is widely known that I am running the WorldWaders database for shorebirds with a few like-minded friends, and we see what regular data submission means and how well this process could be copied by our friends, and our friend’s friends. This global database targets to support and initiate shorebird conservation activities where it is needed. Since the launch of this project hundreds of users have signed up and most of them started submitting data collected in the field. I share my shorebird records as well. I also share all the other records of mine with another global database, the eBird.

eBird is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society and now works globally. I don’t intend to make a comprehensive review of the ease of use of this online database but I intend to encourage those who took time of sharing data but did it unorganised yet. It is the best time to launch either WorldWaders and (!) eBird website and start thinking different. I know what you think now “One swallow doesn’t makes the Summer” – as we say it here. Luckily there are more swallows out there so be optimistic and do believe in others’ joining as well. The number of database users will grow from a few dozens to a few thousands soon. Just be among them and help the initiatives to grow big being able to make a real difference – for BIRDS and indirectly for us, HUMANS!

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Don’t wait till Eurasian Oystercatcher is becoming a threatened bird species – add you records to our databases to be able to identify any decrease of its global population instantly. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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9 thoughts on “The importance of using online databases: time to exploit the power of personal birding records

  1. Dear Gyorgy, It was my pleasure reading your work and it feel in line with what i am looking forward to do. i Benjamin Jayin Jomi Tourism & Car Rental Dept. Kerlj Travel Agency. Co.Ltd. P.O Box 324 Limbe. Cameroon Tel: 237/33 33 33 82 Fax: 237/33 33 33 83 Cell: 237/77 24 61 05 Email:sales@kerljtravel.com/kerljtravel@yahoo.co.ukprivate:benjijayin@yahoo.com Web site: http://www.kerljtravel.com                http://www.birdingpaltours.com Your satisfaction is our goal. If you are satisfied, go tell others. If not, then tell us !—

  2. Lieven, absolutely perfect database. Lots of information. I hope WorldWaders can cooperate with Waarneming.nl soon. 🙂

  3. I agree in principle with you Gyorgy; but I have still to find a global easy-to-use database. I gave a look to ebird but it is clearly USA-geared, even in the communication used. Observado is rather complicate (time-consuming) to use. Worldwaders is indeed very user-friendly. Most difficult is to record common species (seen often at short distances over a route or a region) or when it is not possible to ascertain a precise locality. Is this perhaps easier with worldwaders because waders are usually concentrated at certain spots (more or less defined wetlands)?

  4. Maybe I should think about the release of a non-worldwaders version of the same software for all the birds. A team could nicely develop it for common use. 🙂

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