is a global database where people share their sightings while keeping their own personal lists. Use of eBird has grown exponentially recently and if you would like to be a contributor, registration is free. A smartphone app called BirdLog allows you to use your phone for listing while in the field and then upload your checkists when you get home.
Submitting checklists to eBird begins a fairly rigorous review process using some sophisticated filters which define expected dates and numbers for each species. Birds recorded at either end of the spectrum of dates or in exceptional numbers are flagged for more details. This helps to avoid simple data entry errors and also provides some brief details to assure the ID is correct. Records without sufficient details, which are reviewed by Iowa volunteers, may require contact and follow-up. The Iowa eBird reviewers work closely with the Iowa Records Committee to assure that casual and accidental species are documented and reviewed by the committee prior to acceptance.
Many people use eBird to help plan a trip or target a specific species. Just go to eBird and click on "Explore Data". You can find seasonal bar graphs for many public lands or see where Sprague's Pipits have recently been recorded. Sometimes there may even be a surprise in store. Using eBird as a resource before the IOU trip to central California, we learned that there was a local fall population of Tropical Kingbirds in the area. Who knew?
As more people enter records into eBird, the tools become more refined and useful.
Iowa Seasonal Bar Chart