• Atlas progress update: Spring migration, top confirmations
  • Atlas skill: Using Merlin to augment your atlasing
  • Call to action: Nightjar surveys
  • Species spotlight: American Three-toed Woodpecker
  • May challenge: Wetland birds
  • Crossbill extravaganza: Final reports
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May 2022

It’s the season many birders live for–spring migration! It’s a really exciting time to be out atlasing and birding in general. Don’t forget to add breeding codes when you head out. While some birds won’t stick around, many establish territories and begin courting mates as soon as they arrive. 

May is the last chance to get any early breeders you may have missed, start looking for young raptors and corvids, and focus on nest building for recent arrivals. 

In the past month, the following species were confirmed breeding in 30 or more new blocks: 

  • Canada Goose (76 blocks)
  • European Starling (51)
  • Red-tailed Hawk (43)
  • Common Raven (36)
  • American Robin (32)
  • Black-capped Chickadee (30)
  • Blue Jay (30)

Happy atlasing!

Atlas Skill: Use Merlin to Aid Your Atlasing
Merlin © R Miller/Macaulay Library (ML443683181)

Merlin is a tremendously impressive resource for identifying bird sounds. Simply aim your phone's microphone at a bird you aren't sure about, and the app is likely to pick it up and identify it. But like anything, it is not perfect. Here are some tips from eBird to help make the most of this new tool and avoid common mistakes.

  1. Verify each identification Merlin provides. Try to see the bird, if possible. Always consider the suggested ID and how likely it is before reporting it.
  2. Set your location. Enable location services or enter the location manually so that Merlin’s suggestions are more accurate.
  3. Include the recording in your checklist. This simultaneously provides documentation for your sighting, helps improve Merlin, and contributes to the sound library for that species. Win-win-win!

If you can’t verify Merlin’s identification, you should treat it like any other bird you can’t identify and either omit it from the checklist or report it at the family level. If you include a recording as documentation, include timestamps of the relevant sounds in the comment box.

If you haven’t heard of Merlin before, it’s a bird sound identification app created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. While recording sounds, the app suggests identifications for any bird sounds it detects. These suggestions are impressively accurate, but they are not always correct. Verify any identification before reporting it to eBird, especially if it seems unusual. You can download Merlin from the App Store or from Google Play.

Read the Merlin Sound ID best practices guide

Call to Action: Nightjar Surveys

Fledgling Common Nighthawk © Derek Rogers/Macaulay Library (ML356563281)

NY is home to three species of nightjars–the Common Nighthawk, Eastern Whip-poor-will, and Chuck-will’s-widow–and all of them are experiencing steep population declines. In order to better conserve these species, we are seeking information on remaining populations.

We are looking for volunteers to spend two evenings listening for these species. The surveys are roadside and conducted in the night, but you may be surprised by all the birds that are out! It’s not just nightjars and owls, but also wetland and grassland birds and even some forest birds. 

If no route exists near you, you can make one!

Learn how to participate

World Series of Birding Team
Raising Funds for the Atlas 

Hello! My name is Jackson Mesick, and I am a birder from Upstate NY. I am the captain of a birding team that will be competing in New Jersey Audubon’s World Series of Birding on May 14th, 2022 from midnight to midnight. Apart from being an intense birding big day competition, the WSB is also a fundraiser. Our team, which is called “One Wren to Rule Them All”, will be raising money for the NY Breeding Bird Atlas!

Use the link below for details on how you can support our fundraising efforts or to just follow along with our team as we attempt to identify 200 species in one 24 hour period! Thank you so much for your support!

Support the Atlas at WSB!

New York's Ivory-billed:
American Three-toed Woodpecker
American Three-toed Woodpecker © Thomas Ford-Hutchinson/Macaulay Library (ML84723841).

American Three-toed Woodpeckers are a true grail bird of the Adirondack Mountains. Though not observed in the state for nearly a decade, their scarcity and elusiveness make it hard to know for sure whether they’re truly gone—or whether they’ve simply gone undetected for all this time. 

Learn more about where and how to search for this boreal specialty

May challenge - wetland birds
Pied-billed Grebe family © Sandy Podulka/Macaulay Library (ML255328821)

May is American Wetlands Month so we’re putting the spotlight on marsh birds. 

This month, we challenge you to explore wetlands, an under-surveyed habitat with high conservation value. Every checklist you submit with a breeding code for wetland birds gives you a chance to win this month’s prize—an Atlas t-shirt! Wetland birds are species that require wet habitats for breeding, including marshes, swamps, and coastal areas.

Learn more about wetland birds (includes link to sound files for studying!)

Crossbill Extravaganza Final Trip Reports
White-winged Crossbill © R M/Macaulay Library (ML411605491).
Atlaser Story:
Atlasing on a Haunted Road

Excerpt from a guest article by Mike Morgante

April 4, 2020. Just weeks into the pandemic, in what already felt like a long time spent at home, I decided on a Friday night that I would get up early the next morning and try for woodcocks and owls in the priority block I signed up for. This would be my first outing for the new atlas. I did not know the block well; there were descriptions of many encounters of weird and paranormal activity. While I tend to not believe in such things, I had to wonder. 

Continue reading about Mike’s adventure

Upcoming Events

Atlasing season has started! Check out the Atlas Events Calendar for details on how to participate in upcoming Atlas events, from chats to trainings to in-person walks!

  • May 11: Talk for Buffalo Ornithological Society (7 pm)
  • May 13: Talk and field trip at Taking Flight (3 pm)
  • May 14: Field trip for North Country Bird Club (9 am)
  • May 14: Celebrate Global Big Day (all day)
  • May 14: Celebrate World Migratory Bird Day (all day)
  • May 14: World Series of Birding - Fundraiser for the Atlas (all day)
  • May 15: Field trip at Taking Flight (8 am)
  • May 19: Atlas Town Hall (7 pm)
  • May 20: Talk for Delaware-Otsego Audubon (7:30 pm)
  • May 21: Field trip to Windham High Peak (7 am)
Coming in June: The 2nd Annual Big Atlas Weekend! June 24-26.
Get your swag on!
  • Visit our online store to purchase atlas-themed items. A percentage of the proceeds go to the Atlas. Look official while supporting the atlas!
  • Sponsor a Species of your choosing and have your name featured in the final Atlas product! Together we've raised $38,900!
  • Donate directly to the atlas. Donations go toward supporting outreach events and data collection all in the name of conservation.
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