Welcome to Brooklyn Bird Alert. I am David Barrett, and I created this Twitter-based alert system in November 2017 to offer Brooklyn birders a single, publicly-viewable (and searchable) source for rare bird reports and relevant birding news.
For some years Brooklynites have had to monitor a collection of sources to receive all alerts: public and private listservs, Facebook posts, eBird reports, websites, and birder tweets. Monitoring even the tweets alone has proved challenging, as there has been no single master Twitter account to follow—each birder has had to try to follow every other birder. Many opted to make “birding only” Twitter accounts so that others could turn on mobile notifications for any tweets from them.
Still, it is likely that most birders do not follow all accounts that could potentially tweet a rarity. It’s hard to keep up, as new birders arrive on the scene and create accounts. Everyone sees a different picture of the day’s activity, and there is no place to see a complete chronological record of all the day’s alerts.
Having a single, master Twitter account for bird alerts that uses hashtag-based re-tweeting solves these problems. Each birder needs to follow and turn on mobile notifications for only one account, in this case @BirdBrklyn. And they never have to worry about managing updates to the Brooklyn birder roster—the master account handles that for them.
New or visiting birders gain quick access to the alerts, simply by following them and asking (via direct message to @BirdBrklyn) to be followed.
Sending an alert to everyone is easy—just add #birdbk to the end of your tweet:
- Common Gallinule near LeFrak Center Prospect Park #birdbk
The master account uses my proprietary software to instantly tweet this alert with credit to the account that sent it.
Because the hashtag — #birdbk — filters relevant tweets, it eliminates another bother, the need to have a “birding only” account (though those still will work just fine, of course).
So this alert system clearly is a great way to share information over Twitter. It has other advantages, too, over listservs and the like:
- Ease of use in the field: as simple as sending a text message. No need to sign your name or compose a topic heading.
- Mobile notifications: it’s easy to turn these on and have your phone notify you with vibration or sound (which you can choose to be unique for this account, so you can distinguish bird alerts “by ear”) as soon as an alert is issued. It is also easy to turn them off, with just one click, if you do not want notifications, say, when you are not actually birding.
- Ideal for photos, maps, and videos: Twitter lets you attach these multimedia files with one click (no need to link to a photo-sharing site) and lets users view them immediately without having to open a browser.
- Works on ANY phone: even non-smartphones. If you can send and receive texts (SMS), you can use these alerts.
- Speed: system re-tweets instantly, giving you the best chance to reach the bird before it flies off.
- Potential reach: alerts are always publicly viewable and searchable both online and on Twitter itself, a messaging network with many millions of users.
- Multi-borough adoption: follow @BirdCentralPark and use hashtag #birdcp when you bird Manhattan; @BirdQueens and #birdqu for Queens; @BirdBronx and #birdbx for the Bronx. Easy!
Easier Reporting Encourages More Reports
The “system” Brooklyn has had discourages all but the most avid birders from using it. Imagine the directions you would have to give to a new birder: 1) You know that Twitter account you have? Well, you can’t use it unless you agree to tweet only about birds. Go make another one. 2) Then search Twitter and piece together the 100 or so accounts that tweet about birds here. Manually follow them, and turn on mobile notifications for each account separately. 3) Finally, get those 100 to follow you.
Who has time for all that?
How much better to tell that birder: just follow @BirdBrklyn for all your birding reports. Message it and it will follow you back, giving you permission to post to everyone.
The number of people issuing bird reports has grown remarkably over the years in which the Manhattan alerts have been operating. We have over 475 contributors and 7,000 followers, many of them casual birders who sometimes report great finds. Crowd-sourcing works! But first you need to attract the crowd.
I hope you will try this system and see how it can make your birding more productive and enjoyable. Feel free to email me or direct message me on Twitter with any questions or comments.
I have posted a user guide—see the above menu.