I want to let people know about an awesome service/website...it's called eBird, and it's run by Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology. It's a shared database of bird observations. Professional ornithologists and hobbyist birdwatchers alike are able to contribute--you go out into the world and follow a set of simple protocols, identifying and counting birds to the best of your ability, and then enter it into the database. Then, everyone can view the collective data. Here are some examples of data that you can pull:
Range Map of the Common Raven - Hit the tabs to see other data!
List of All Species Reported in the State of Ohio - You can click on each species and it will show you detail of each sighting.
If you already birdwatch, using this site can be a great way to contribute to the collective body of ecological knowledge. It also is a useful way to look up species that you want to see by seeing what you would be likely to see in a given area, or looking up a species and seeing where and when you'd be likely to see it. If you've been thinking of picking up birdwatching, this site can be a motivating factor to get into birdwatching...it allows you to turn something from a fun and challenging hobby into a serious way to contribute to science and conservation! It's easy to look up where there are holes in the data too, and pick times and places to go birdwatching so that your data will be most useful. Even if you don't birdwatch, the data is available to the public and it's a great way to get up-to-date information about bird observations, which gives clues about populations and distribution.