Date: 11/21/17 4:25 am
From: Steve Patterson (via carolinabirds Mailing List) <carolinabirds...>
Subject: a word about eBird

Hello, birders.

If you use eBird, you have probably had the experience of loading a list of birds you thought were perfectly normal, and a box pops up indicating you need to supply details. Dutifully you comply, perhaps confused why a usual and expected bird needs to be described. (For example, that happened recently here in Kershaw County with Dark-eyed Juncos). Part of the reason this happens is because the protocols or filters set by eBird are done on a regional basis, not county-by-county, or site-by-site. What is not unusual in your county can be rare in another part of the region (or collection of associated counties), and the result is that sometimes eBird will ask for details on what you consider pretty common stuff. The reviewers have done a good job helping us realize this.

But there is an opposite reality I have noticed, and I want to make a point about that.

Because the protocols are set regionally, you will sometimes find a rare bird, and eBird does not ask for any details, documentation, justification, etc. You are getting ready to do the tedious work of thumbing-in the minute details of perhaps a first county record, and guess what...eBird doesn't want details! Free bird!!

As tempting as that is, don't let yourself get away with that. If you know a bird is unusual where you are (or just suspect it is a "good" bird), supply details anyway. If you're unclear, it's worth asking someone if details should be included. When the filters are changed, or when the eBird regions are split into smaller regions or individual counties, your undocumented rarity could come under stricter scrutiny. If you have confidence in the bird you are reporting, show it with details; if not, it's not ready to be reported.

Just because eBird doesn't flag it as rare doesn't mean it is an expected bird where you are. We should not use the eBird filters to convince ourselves that we are seeing/hearing what we think we're seeing/hearing. EBird, just like range maps in a field guide, cannot decide for us what we did or didn't find. This is not meant to criticize those who didn't realize it, but to inform and invite toward better practice. A little extra attention and effort to describe what might be questioned makes all our lists a little stronger.

Bird well, and thank you for reading.

Steve Patterson

Camden, SC

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