Go Avicaching with the Sonoran Joint Venture!
What is Avicaching?
Geocaching is a global outdoor activity where people go to specific sites around the world searching for small “treasures.” Avicaching is eBird + Geocaching: searching specified locations to spot as many birds as possible. With Avicaching, the birds are the treasures.
Players search for as many birds as possible at designated desert locations and upload their checklists to eBird to earn points.
What is the goal?
Avicaching isn’t just a game; it has an important conservation mission, too. The goal in spring 2018 is to collect bird data in understudied areas in order to help fill in data gaps in southern California’s Mojave and Colorado Deserts. Solar energy projects are being planned throughout the region, often in remote locations that have been understudied by ornithologists and under-visited by recreational birders. Yet birds move through these deserts on their spring and fall migrations, potentially bringing them into conflict with solar infrastructure.
In order to help inform alternative energy mitigation decisions, the Sonoran Joint Venture’s Science Working Group is trying to better understand these habitats and the birds they support, and the SJV needs your data. When you Avicache, not only do you get to explore under-birded areas, but your observations directly help fill knowledge gaps and inform conservation planning.
Every location you visit helps us better understand the potential impact of solar energy development on birds. Your observations improve researchers’ ability to use eBird data for conservation and management.
How do you play?
Earn points by visiting any of our Avicache locations (identified eBird Hotspots) and submitting a complete checklist from that location. (Locations will be announced in January, 2018).
Navigating to Avicaches
Because all of our Avicaches are eBird Hotspots, navigating to them is very straightforward. One of the important parts of Avicaching is making sure you are in the right spot. This doesn’t mean that you have to be exactly on the GPS coordinates to the inch, but try to start within a ¼ mile of the location.
The best way to navigate to these locations is by viewing the SJV Avicaching Google Map (out in January, 2018) on your phone. Just open up this website on your phone and click on the SJV Avicaching Google Map link. It will open the map in the Google Maps app on your phone, displaying your GPS location in relation to all of the Avicaches. Your GPS location on the map can be used even when you’re in a location without cell reception—all you need is to have opened the map in the app when you had data access.
Note: Safety is the highest concern. While all Avicaching locations can be reached by vehicle, the desert is something to always approach with preparation and respect. These Avicaching hotspots may be on terrain that is rough, rugged, and remote. Please be prepared with plenty of gas, water, food, and sun protection. Cell reception may be very limited. You can be of great help to others by notifying us of road washouts, unexpected high clearance requirements, or other access issues. Please let us know if you have any concerns about a particular road or location that you have visited.
All of your observations must be before 10 am or after 7 pm. Each complete checklist submitted at an Avicache site is worth one point.
At the Hotspot, you will conduct a type of protocol called an area search. Area searches are a type of protocol in which the observer covers an area around a starting point over specific time durations. Each survey must last for a minimum duration of 20 minutes and a maximum duration of 60 minutes. For simplicity, Avicachers will bird in a circle around their starting point, on foot, keeping within a ¼-mile radius of the starting point.
The 2018 Avicaching Season runs from February 1, 2018 – June 15, 2018. You must submit a complete checklist of all the birds that you can identify over the 20-60 minute survey period. You can earn points from a specific Avicache once per survey by submitting a complete checklist of 20-60 minutes in duration. Maximum points are earned by visiting as many different Avicaches as possible over the course of the game.
Each complete checklist submitted following the above guidelines earns you points that contribute toward your Avicaching score. The more complete checklists you submit, the more points you earn.
Prizes and Rankings
Every person who submits at least one point-earning checklist is eligible for the prize lottery at the end of the Avicaching period. We will draw five winners from the pool of every person that submits a complete checklist from an Avicache location. However, the more points that you earn during the course of the competition, the higher the chances of winning. Each point enters your name once into a random drawing for a prize. For example, if you have 15 points, your name is entered 15 times; 50 points, 50 times, etc. Prizes include t-shirts, hats, magazine subscriptions, conservation organization memberships, and more!
In addition to the points going towards the prize lottery, there is also a ranking for the most species seen in Avicache locations: The eBirder who reports the highest species list from all Avicaches cumulatively through the end of the Avicaching period will win in the species category and earn a special prize.