Sharing bird alerts with @mbalerter on Twitter

Manhattan Bird Alert has enjoyed enormous growth in followers over the last two years. Most followers come for the excellent bird photography and videography and to get a general idea of what birds are being observed in Manhattan.

Among our followers is a smaller group, likely no more than 1,500 or so, of active Manhattan birders who want bird alerts! They may be happy to view photos of common birds during the off-hours, but when they are out in the park they primarily want to get alerts of rare or interesting birds that they can observe for themselves.

In the first few years of operation, Manhattan Bird Alert was an automated account and it had only bird alerts (hence the clever choice of name). In more recent years, it has ceased to be automated—I compose all tweets myself— and it has featured both, with the daytime generally (though not exclusively) being reserved for images of today’s noteworthy birds and the evening for a variety of images of both common and uncommon birds.

As the follower count has risen, so has the number of contributors, those who issue bird alerts or post images, particularly so in the last year as more people have taken up birding and nature photography.

An account that tweets eighty bird alerts per day might be great for active Manhattan birders, but it could be annoying to the other 97% of our followers. It also puts a strain on the account’s manager—that would be me—for whom re-wording and clarifying the alerts of others is time-consuming and distracting.

So, in September 2020, I created mbalerter, an entirely automated account that is much like what Manhattan Bird Alert was in its initial years. It natively retweets approved users who tweet with the #birdcp hashtag.

Since then, the account has been used for a variety of purposes, but going forward, with the intense birding activity of spring migration on the horizon, I want to limit its purpose, which is to say, the use of #birdcp, to the original intent: real-time (or nearly so) alerts of rare, uncommon, or otherwise interesting birds (and other wildlife, when appropriate).

Using the #birdcpp hashtag

What about great photos of common birds? Or of rare birds, but posted hours or days later? Or alerts of common birds? For these, I am asking that contributors use #birdcpp.

By using #birdcpp, you will make your alerts and images easily searchable so that others can view them and so that I can find them and possibly retweet them from Manhattan Bird Alert.

You will also avoid triggering an automated alert from @mbalerter.

Let’s give this new hashtag a try and see if it can catch on. I think it will help to better organize birding posts so that followers can get what they want when they want it.

To summarize:

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#birdcp: prompt alerts of rare or uncommon birds in Manhattan (including first arrivals of migrants), with or without photos or videos

#birdcpp: alerts and bird photos and videos in Manhattan of common birds, or of any birds NOT accompanying a prompt alert

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Further Points

People can use hashtags any way they want on Twitter. We can’t control how #birdcp and #birdcpp are used.

This is true! All we can control is who is approved for automated retweeting. If you use these hashtags in ways inconsistent with our recommendations, we will not retweet you!

It does NOT help to mention @mbalerter in your tweets.

Just use the hashtag! If we see you tweeting well about birds, we eventually will approve your account. You can send us a direct message to speed up approval.

If you want all the bird alerts, we recommend following @mbalerter! As spring migration arrives, @mbalerter will have more alerts, most of which will not also be reported from Manhattan Bird Alert. Rarities and a selection of others along with great photos and videos will continue to be tweeted from Manhattan Bird Alert, of course.

Using @mbalerter with #birdcp

Issue an alert for any observation or comment you believe may be of immediate interest to active Manhattan birders and nature enthusiasts. No species are off limits. In particular, owl reports are welcome. (If you want to pass along a report without having your name or username publicly disclosed, just direct message the @BirdCentralPark account and say so. I will issue the alert myself without attribution.)

We also post excellent butterfly and insect photography, along with that of reptiles (such as frogs and snapping turtles) and even mammals (such as woodchucks, coyotes, and seals). That said, alerts primarily should be of rare, uncommon, or noteworthy wild birds in Manhattan that currently observable or that might be refound.

Bird alerts should have these two data: 1) the full common name of the species (abbreviations are discouraged because they can be cryptic to new birders) and 2) the location, as precise as practical, of the bird, including the park name. If the time is not reasonably close to now, that, too, should be noted.

As new migrants arrive throughout the year, even common ones like Eastern Phoebe and Yellow Warbler, users often alert their first and subsequent next few appearances. Doing so is helpful and encouraged, but use your judgement regarding when to stop. Ask yourself: would birders want to go out of their way to see my bird?

How to send an alert

An alert is simply a “tweet” sent with the hashtag #birdcp, which can appear anywhere in the body of the message. See the examples below.

You should tweet from the Twitter app on your mobile device. See Twitter support if you need help with this. Of course, you also can tweet from your PC using the Twitter website.

Birders use longstanding names of Central Park birding locations in their alerts. Here they are: map of Central Park birding locations. If you want to post or chase bird alerts, you should learn these locations.

If you have questions or comments on these alerts, contact me here.

Examples

  • Solitary Sandpiper working the SE end of Turtle Pond. #birdcp
  • Excellent raptor flight viewed from the Great Hill. Kettles of Broad-winged Hawks and some Sharp-shinned. #birdcp
  • Over a dozen warbler species including Tennessee and Blackburnian, north end of Strawberry Fields. #birdcp
  • #birdcp Orchard Orioles singing in trees by the soccer fields, E end of Inwood Hill Park.

Which hashtag, #birdcp or #birdcpp?

Red-tailed Hawks are ALWAYS #birdcpp. They are around all year and are easy to find. The same goes for Great Blue Herons, Northern Cardinals, and Mallards.

Any warbler is #birdcp for the first few arrivals, even Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Redstarts. But these soon become #birdcpp as more are found and most birders have seen them.

Prothonotary Warblers are always #birdcp! So are Blue Grosbeaks. If you expect to see it only 0 to 3 times per year, it is a #birdcp bird.

Everyone likes to know when the first migrants arrive, even if they are species that eventually become common, like Eastern Phoebes, overall our most common flycatcher. So the first few days of Eastern Phoebes, maybe even the first week depending on numbers, get #birdcp.

Which to use is a judgement call! Reasonable birders can disagree. We are not going to get upset at your choices.

Just remember, the big difference is that #birdcp sends an automated alert to followers of @mbalerter.