For live links, click to: riverhouses.org/2019-ebird-charts 😊
May is Bird Migration Month in the River Houses — we think bird study is one of the best subjects you can take up in a homeschool environment. But how can you find out what birds are present and migrating through your local area? A good bird guide will give you a general idea, but what about week by week in your specific state, county, or town?
For that information you can turn to the wonderful eBird.org website, sponsored by Cornell University. eBird is a big site with many features and services, and it will not only let you record your own bird observations, but will also show you summary data for any part of the country (or the world).
Suppose you’re a homeschooler in Minot, North Dakota (to select a random location). Minot is in Ward County, so if you use eBird’s geographical browsing tool you can navigate your way to the seasonal bar charts for Ward County, North Dakota. Here’s a sample of what they look like:
Can your students see how to interpret this chart? (That’s an important basic academic skill right there.) Each row represents a species of bird: Bobolink, Western Meadowlark, Eastern Meadowlark, and so on. The columns represent the weeks and months of the year, from January to December. The thickness of the green bars indicates how often each species is reported during a given week. For example: the first few Bobolinks begin to arrive during the first two weeks of May (where we are right now); they become more common by the end of the month and are regularly seen through June and July; and then by August and September they’re still present, but not as often reported. By the end of September they’re gone (except for an occasional stray).
So if you’re a homeschooler in Minot, North Dakota, the Bobolinks have just arrived in your vicinity, as have the Baltimore Orioles; in a few more days the Orchard Orioles will join them. Western Meadowlarks, Red-winged Blackbirds, and several other species arrived earlier in the season and by now have settled in for the summer.
But where can you go to see these birds? Switch to the map view in eBird, and you’ll get something like this — it’s this week’s map for Western Meadowlarks in the Ward County area:
This map shows all the Western Meadowlark observations that have been entered into eBird for this region of North Dakota. The red symbols stand for observations made the last 30 days; the blue symbols for observations older than 30 days. The larger symbols are eBird “hotspots” — public locations such as parks or wildlife refuges that anyone (including you and your students) can visit and explore.
But what if you don’t even know what a Western Meadowlark is? 😊 We do recommend an excellent bird guide for all homeschool families — printed books are often the best educational tools, especially for young people — but that information is also available online in eBird. If you click the species name in the bar chart, you’ll get a detailed profile that looks like this:
eBird is a wonderful resource that can become a regular part of your homeschool science and natural history studies. Bookmark it and give it a browse, and see what avian visitors are passing through your homeschool neighborhood this month. 😊
❡ Books in the running brooks: Our recommended homeschool reference library (riverhouses.org/books) includes an excellent bird guide that would serve your homeschool well. Many other similar guides are also available — find one that’s a good fit for your family and take it with you on all your outings, whether far afield or just out to the backyard. 🦉
❡ Nature notes: This is one of our regular Homeschool Natural History posts. Add your name to our free weekly mailing list (riverhouses.org/newsletter) and get more great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 😊