Bird Conservation Through Education TM

July 1, 2015 

In This Issue
Photo Bird ID Tool
Noble S. Proctor Remembered
Bird Education in Action
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The Bird Education Network (BEN) was created following the February 2007 National Gathering, hosted by the Council for Environmental Education (CEE). BEN is a CEE initiative that seeks to connect and support a community of bird education professionals.


Over 4,000 individuals representing 300 organizations receive communications and engage in professional dialogue through the BEN-run Bird Education Listserv. 


A BEN Committee has been established to provide advice and guidance for this important initiative, to advance "bird conservation through education."

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Cornell Introduces Photo Bird ID Tool


Photo credit: Harlequin Duck by Christopher L. Wood


In a breakthrough for bird watching, researchers and bird enthusiasts have enabled computers to achieve a task that stumps most humans-identifying hundreds of bird species pictured in photos. 


The bird photo identifier, developed by the Visipedia research project in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is available online for free. Called Merlin Bird Photo ID, the identifier is capable of recognizing 400 of the mostly commonly encountered birds in the United States and Canada.


To see if Merlin can identify the bird in your photo, you upload an image and tell Merlin where and when you took it. To orient Merlin, you draw a box around the bird and click on its bill, eye, and tail. Merlin does the rest. Within seconds, it looks at the pixels and combines powerful artificial intelligence techniques with millions of data points from humans, then presents the most likely species, including photos and sounds.


Merlin's computer vision system was developed by Steve Branson and Grant Van Horn of the Visipedia project, led by professors Pietro Perona at the California Institute of Technology and Serge Belongie at Cornell Tech. Their work was made possible with support from Google, the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, and the National Science Foundation.


Educator, Noble S. Proctor (1942-2015)

Gone but not forgotten

Photo credit: Dan Cinnotti

Noble S. Proctor started to watch birds at the age of five, and that pursuit lasted him a lifetime. Following his high-school graduation, he entered the U.S. Army and also spent several years working in construction to cover the expenses of his developing photographic career and the cost of cross-country Greyhound bus tickets that allowed him to see a natural North America in a cheap way. Eventually, Noble went on to receive degrees from Southern Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut, where he earned his Ph.D.


As a professor at Southern Connecticut State University for 34 years, Noble touched the lives and educated literally thousands of students in the fields of biology, ornithology, botany, mycology, and natural history. He mentored many skilled naturalists who to this day attribute their dedication to the natural world to Noble's classes.


An accomplished photographer and author of numerous publications, Noble Proctor's works include the popular and widely acclaimed Manual of Ornithology (with Patrick J. Lynch, 1993), A Field Guide to North Atlantic Wildlife (with P.J. Lynch, 2005), and A Field Guide to the Southeast Coast & Gulf of Mexico (with P.J. Lynch, 2011). Noble also made significant contributions to the successful completion of the classic 5th edition of Roger Tory Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Birds. As a friend of Peterson, Noble was also among the founding members establishing the Roger Tory Peterson Institute for Natural History in Jamestown, NY For over 30 years, Noble was also a much sought-after tour leader; he took groups of birders to over 65 different countries.


He had the very best qualities of a superb teacher: he was fun, highly skilled, and had the exceptional ability to share his knowledge about birds and about the entire natural world.


He passed away in late May. You can find more details on the life and contributions of Noble S. Proctor here.

Bird Education in Action


The 2015 California Junior Duck Stamp Contest Awards returned to Sonoma,CA to celebrate the importance of the art and science curriculum in California schools. Sonoma Birding and San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge have teamed up on several occasions with this USFWS program to help bring the annual event winners to the attention of the area schools and communities in the North Bay. The public award ceremony in late May displayed the winning art and conservation messages and attracted a large crowd of parents and youngsters from across the state. Established in 1993, the art program is now in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and several territories. 
Photo credit:Tom Rusert, Sonoma BIrding


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