Biggest Week alerts to your cellphone

Magee Marsh rare bird alert

by Gunnar on May 7, 2012 · 2 comments

in Social Media for birders

Biggest Week of American birding – a case scenario

Many years ago in the infancy of Twitter (like 3 years ago),  I wrote a blog post on my blog called Twitter for birders part 2. Rare Bird Alerts with Twitter which explained that Twitter hashtags (#subject) could be used together with a RSS reader as rare bird alerts. This still work as described, although few have put the system to the test.

Now I am in Ohio at the Biggest Week of American Birding helping out with the guiding representing my bird tour company Kolibri Expeditions. It works like charm. I provide guiding, get exposure and meet loads of  friends from Facebook and Twitter. Life is good.

Most of us guides are using Twitter to tweet out observations and news about the event on the official Biggest Week Twitter channel. However, there is no good way for the public to communicate sightings of good species. Some visitors have tried sending @replies to @biggestweek, but the guides that use Twitter have  not enough experience to check @replies yet (some just learnt how to tweet) or there is a serious delay between checking the @replies and re-tweeting.   Another factor of course is that it probably is not desirable that the official Biggest Week Twitter channel tweets out unconfirmed sightings of rare birds.  Nevertheless, it is important that information gets out there and that it reaches birders fast.

Hashtags are often used by events to communicate to participants and to connect them with each other.  There are still relatively few here in Ohio that do so, so hopefully this tutorial will get more people sharing their BiggestWeek experiences and especially tweet out sightings.

If this than that

So what to do? Dawn Fine told me about a new service called If This Than That that basically creates RSS feeds for different internet services (too many to go into in detail) which works like a charm for a Twitter hashtag alerts sent as SMS to your cell phone.  Everyone with a Twitter account and a cellphone at The Biggest Week should set this up.  It is FREE!

This is how to do it.

  1. Sign up for an account on Just follow the instructions. Don’t forget to check your email and confirm your account before starting
  2. Create a Task – click
  3. A big “If This than That shows. Click “This” and choose Twitter
  4. Click to “New Tweet  from Search”
  5. Select either just biggestweek or #biggestweek (the former is more ample)
  6. Click That in If this than That
  7. Choose SMS and enter your cell phone number and your are ready to go.

New alerts come with maximum 15 minutes delay, which in average will mean 7-8 minutes delay. That is fast if there is Kirtland Warbler showing right now.

If you don’t want to go through all these instructions, just copy this Recipe I made.

Everybody Tweet Now!

So when tweeting from the Biggest Week, include hashtag #biggestweek to make sure everyone sees it. It will also alert all the leaders (which after posting this also hopefully signs up to this service) to re-tweet on the official BiggestWeek Twitter channel.

If This Than That could be used for more specific rare bird alert or observations in the future. For instance rather than having one hashtag #biggestweek that would include a lot of noise not specific to bird observations, there could be a specific hashtag only for the birds that people could subscribe to. Maybe something for next year? Do see my original article from Twitter Stone Age to get examples.

Happy tweeting everyone!

Gunnar Engblom

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Deborah May 17, 2012 at 10:34 pm

If you are using Birdwatcher’s Diary iOS app to record sightings, it will create a Tweet for you with species name, location and map (URL), date and time, all editable, and any note or # marks you want to add. You can also Tweet a short report of how many total species seen or heard, location, time, date, etc. with a URL to an interactive Google map showing every bird sighting. This feature  makes it faster and easier to tweet, so more likely to get done.


Gunnar Engblom May 18, 2012 at 2:35 am

Thanks for the comment Deborah. I have to check out the app.


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