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James, I haven't used Merlin but I couldn't agree with you more about how neat e-Bird is.  I think it is no exaggeration to say it has revolutionized birding.  There are too many neat features to go into, but I find it indispensable when traveling.  In the Rio Grande Valley in the spring, I used e-Bird to get a list of the target species I needed for my U.S. list that I was most likely to see in Hidalgo County, TX, at that time of year.  I used e-Bird's "explore a region" feature to see what was being seen in Hidalgo county each day or at each of the "hotspots" in the county.  I also carried along a fine printed guide to birding in the Rio Grande Valley (2008) but found I was using e-Bird much, much more than the guide.  

I especially like the "explore a region" feature, which is full of fun facts.  Birders have put more than 21,000 lists into e-Bird in Missouri so far this year and e-Birders have recorded 299 species so far for the year in Missouri (compared to just under 21,000 lists for far less populous Kansas and 352 species so far this year; but who's comparing?).  You can see which counties get the most birding activity, at least by e-Birders.  Another fun fact from e-Bird:  The only county in Missouri that hasn't had an e-Bird list entered so far this year is Scotland; 26 other counties have had fewer than 20 lists entered.  Maybe e-Bird needs to add a "target county" feature.  Would somebody please get up to Scotland county soon!  It's too far for me.

Western Kingbirds nesting on a telephone-pole transformer on a fairly busy side road just north of Zona Rosa.  Also neat.

Tom Jones
Platte County
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