Manhattan Bird Alert — @BirdCentralPark on Twitter

These tweets provided the first news of the Swainson’s Warbler appearance in Central Park on 28 April 2016 and were featured in the New York Post.

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I developed and continue to manage this Twitter-based system for quickly sharing information about birding in Manhattan, which has been in use since May 2013. It works on all phones, not just smartphones. Alerts can be sent and received as simple SMS text messages. (Users who want to tweet directly from their Twitter accounts are welcome to do so.) You can put crowdsourcing to work and observe more birds while helping others do the same.

Guidelines on alert content

Issue an alert for any observation or comment you believe may be of interest to active Manhattan birders. No species are off limits. That said, alerts primarily should be of rare, uncommon, or noteworthy wild birds in Manhattan.

As new migrants arrive throughout the year, even common ones like Wilson’s Warbler and Wood Thrush, 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?

During daylight hours photos are acceptable ONLY when they accompany a current bird alert. At night this rule is relaxed, but photo posts should be infrequent — this is not a photo-sharing site. Keep in mind that many users of this service receive the tweets only as SMS text messages. If you want to show your birding photos, a better option is the New York Birders group on Facebook. Alternatively, use Twitter but skip the #birdcp hashtag.

Links will be unusable for many, particularly non-smartphone users. As much as possible you should write out what you want say. If you need to attach a link, please explain what it is. Never send an alert that consists only of a link.

If you feel moved to respond to someone’s alert, do so by tweeting at the sender, not by issuing an alert in response.

These alerts are NOT a place for ads, general questions, discussions, complaints, or personal attacks. Followed users who send inappropriate #birdcp tweets will be warned first via direct message. If the problem continues, I will unfollow and perhaps block you.

How it works

The system works by using a  re-tweeting service (GroupTweet) based on the hashtag #birdcp. When accounts followed by @BirdCentralPark tweet using this hashtag, GroupTweet makes @BirdCentralPark automatically re-tweet. This eliminates the need for each user to follow every other user.

How to use it

1) If you don’t already have a Twitter account, make one. They are free and easy to create. See these directions.

2) Follow @BirdCentralPark from your Twitter account and the alerts will appear on your Twitter feed, effective immediately. If this is all you want, you are done.

3) This is a new requirement: if you want the privilege to also SEND alerts to all followers, you need to request it by first tweeting a mention of  @BirdCentralPark and asking to be followed.. As of December 2015 I am no longer automatically following all followers as there are simply too many, the majority of whom do not actively bird Manhattan. If I know you or know of you, I might follow you without your asking.

4) If you are approved for sending alerts, @BirdCentralPark will attempt to follow you. You must allow it to do so before you can have your alerts re-tweeted.

5) IMPORTANT: When sending an alert, DO NOT MENTION @BirdCentralPark IN YOUR TWEET. If you mention it, your tweet often will NOT be re-tweeted. Just use the #birdcp hashtag, which can appear anywhere in the message. See examples below.

[Note for those unfamiliar with Twitter: you can “tweet” by sending a text message to the Twitter short code 40404. There are also other ways to tweet — see Twitter support for more about this.]

How to receive these tweets as text messages

The power of this alert system is that it is very fast — essentially immediate — allowing you the chance to reach a bird before it is gone. To take advantage, you want to receive these tweets as SMS text messages so that your phone alerts you as they arrive. For those who might not be familiar with Twitter settings, here is how to make that happen.

1) Log into your Twitter account on the web. Go to

https://twitter.com/settings/devices

Enter your mobile number (if it is not there already) and check the box for “Tweets from people you’ve enabled for mobile notifications.”

2) Go to

https://twitter.com/BirdCentralPark

On the upper right side, immediately right of “Following,” you will see three tiny circles stacked vertically for “More user actions.” By selecting this option, you can then turn on or turn off mobile notifications of tweets  from the account. You will want to keep these ON for @BirdCentralPark.

If you do this step on your Android phone instead of on the web, select the @BirdCentralPark account and then click on the bell icon so that it appears with a check mark. Make sure you are following the account if you have not already done so.

That’s all there is to it. There should be only a few seconds of delay between when you send your tweet and when users of the system receive it. If you tweet before @BirdCentralPark follows you, your tweet will not be re-broadcast at all, though it will appear on Twitter.

Tweets are assumed to refer to well-known Central Park birding locations unless you indicate a different Manhattan park. Wondering what those locations are? See my map of Central Park birding locations.

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.

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