07 December 2007

Digital Library Surpasses Goal of 20,000 Bird Videos

By James Ed. Ducey

A remarkable collection of videos of wild birds from around the globe recently had a significant achievement.

The Internet Bird Collection had 20,000 videos on 21 November 2007. The new contributions were of species in Brazil and the U.S.A.

Josep del Hoyo, a bird enthusiast from Spain, and also creator of the video library, provided the videos to reach the goal. He noted "that surpassing the goal means that the IBC is growing in a day-by-day process."

Mr. del Hoyo, of Bellaterra at Barcelona, has been an avid bird watcher for two decades. In 1988, according to his web biography, "Josep along with Jordi Sargatal and Ramón Mascort, began the publishing company Lynx Edicions and in 1992 the first volume of Handbook of the Birds of the World appeared."

When he began taking video in 1998, it changed bird watching for del Hoyo.

Mr. del Hoyo realized how videos were too important to remain filed at home. "A project to archive bird videos would give a sense of purpose to the videos taken on trips, and would act as a stimulus for more trips while making the trips themselves more rewarding. Many people nowadays are likely to travel and film what they see."

His home movies taken of birds at ???? became the first contributions to IBC in January 2002.

"I was thrilled to see that soon after others began to contribute to and benefit from this democratic endeavour. The contributions of the other collaborators means the number of species covered is almost twice what it would be if I was just doing this alone," he said. "Although traditional museums are still very valuable, it is time for digital museums with digital specimens. "

The IBC "is an on-line audiovisual library of footage of the world's birds that is available to the general public free of charge," according to the project's website. It is "sponsored by the Handbook of the Birds of the World," which also provides financial support.

There is a wide variety of contributors to the IBC.

"Some are total professionals that make their living from their videos, but realize the value of the IBC project and send their material free of charge since the IBC is a not-for-profit project and does not pay contributors," del Hoyo said. "I imagine they recognize the importance of the project and also because the Contributor's Page that each of them has can be helpful in making their own products and services known to a very appropriate audience. At the other extreme, we have contributors that are amateurs with simple video cameras, but who also take interesting video and play an active role in the project. So, we like all of the different types of contributors that we have and in the future we expect to have even more of them, especially when soon it will be possible for individuals to upload their own videos to the IBC site from home at their leisure."

"During the last six to seven years taking video on my trips," del Hoyo said, "I find it more stimulating, particularly because when I return home I can take videos with me to see the observations as many times as I want and to remember the details very well," he said "The birds that I have filmed are clearer in my mind and I remembered them better than those that I have not filmed. Also, the possibility of contributing to a collective project like the IBC increases the rewarding aspects of travelling as I know that I am doing something positive for others around the world and for the conservation of the birds themselves, all without harming the birds in any way."

Mr. del Hoyo likes "filming birds anywhere and everywhere! I am not really specialized in this manner, probably because of the work that I do as editor of the Handboook of the Birds of the World, which covers all of the birds and areas in the world. So, I am interested in all groups and, in this case, all places. Some places are easy to film and rewarding, perhaps because there are feeders, etc. I would say that South East Brazil and Ecuador would fall into this category. Of course, there are also places where it is difficult to film and you must take a different approach. When you are successful in these cases it feels really good because you know it was hard to get the material. Most recently I had this experience in Sulawesi, Indonesia. So, I like to go wherever there are good birds - from deserts to oceans and from forests to mountains!"

He remembers "the first day that I was using a new camera (previous to my current one) on a trip in Brazil. The first species that appeared was the Critically Endangered Brazilian Merganser, which I was very keen to see, not to say to film. I had to try to take video of the bird without knowing well how the camera worked (I didn't have time to study it before the trip!). I didn't know how to get the manual focus and the auto-focus kept switching between the duck and the vegetation! At the beginning I was filled with a mix of feelings from happy to frustrated to nervous. However, the ducks were very kind and stayed long enough for me to get some reasonable footage, considering the species involved."

After his recent trip to ???, his early December 2007 tally was 8614 videos, of 2588 bird species from 157 families.

As a new contributor to IBC, Ann Hoover, of Fort Worth, Texas, was "fascinated that someone had enough foresight to bring all these videos together in one central place to document the world's birdlife. I am glad they let amateur as well as professional people donate to the website. I like watching the goals they set as well as seeing the percentage of world birds that have been archived. My friend Ken Archambault pointed me to IBC and I noticed I had video of birds that would be new to them. I was very shy about donating as I am very new at this but they were very nice and I hope to donate as I get more." Her first videos were posted in November.

She got her start when a couple of years ago she "noticed a guy at Ramsey Inn in Arizona videotaping hummingbirds. At the time I thought it was different and the wave of the future. I met back up with Ken on the 2007 Texas Ornithological Society Alaska trip and he passed along his excitement of video recording to me. You really get to study the birds. In Alaska I got to see many different aspects of birdlife such as the wing-flashing display of the Baird's Sandpiper and the beauty of the Spectacled Eider in breeding plumage and I wanted to share this with my family and friends (birding and non-birding). I wanted to give people a sense of the bird." Many of her contributed videos were taken in Alaska.

Her camera is small enough to readily carry in a car or while hiking. She is an occupational therapist.

"Having more than one video of a species is very helpful since more subspecies, behaviours, plumages, etc. can be shown," del Hoyo said. "I believe so much in the community factor of this project that my hope for it is that the challenge to document all, or almost all, of the species of the birds of the world acts as a stimulus to people, like a sort of Human Genome Project but where anyone interested can participate.

The sheer variety of the videos on the website is an especial interest to Ann Hoover: "I like seeing birds nesting, feeding and flying. I like seeing a bird in several plumages and in different states or countries, and of course the rare ones in a country I may never get to. I also like the fact that people can arm-chair bird if they are disabled or elderly."

"You cannot conserve what you do not know," del Hoyo said. "Seeing species behave naturally in the videos is an important contribution to conservation because in this way people learn about the birds and want to protect them. The IBC covers a good number of Threatened species, including a fair amount of species that are classified as Critically Endangered, which we hope will raise awareness about these important cases. The IBC also makes specific contributions to conservation. For example, recently we have been approached to donate several videos to BirdLife International to help promote their Species Guardians and Species Champions campaign, whose goal is to save all of the Critically Endangered birds of the world and eventually all of the Endangered birds."

When the 20,000 mark was reached, the next achievement was announced at the same time. The IBC would represent 50% of the birds of the world.

"The bigger challenge is the next target, having material for 5,000 species," del Hoyo said, "meaning for more than half of the species of birds in the world. I think that at that stage the project will really be a useful tool and will grow even more. It is important to keep growing and improving so that the IBC can be a powerful tool for ornithologists and birdwatchers alike.

"If one day the IBC is to cover almost all of the species of birds in the world and in all of their interesting aspects, we will need hundreds, perhaps thousands of people involved."

There are approximately 10,078 species of birds known worldwide.

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