Date: 1/12/18 12:29 pm From: EUGENE YOUNG <EUGENE.YOUNG...> Subject: Re: Documenting unusual records in eBirds
Interesting discussion. But in the end, the "authors" will have the ultimate decision as to any record they believe or do not believe. As an example, in BOK we included one species that is not on the "official KOS state-list", but we also excluded another species that is not on the "official KOS state-list" but is on other co-author's list for Morton County (flycatcher)...which, for the record, I believe should be on the state-list and in the BOK. Thus, if we are talking about vagrancy from a state perspective, it's really up to the authors to decide what is plausible and what seems less likely.
Now, how does e-Bird fit into that realm, or bird record committees?
From the KBRC point, all records, whether accepted or not, are published in the KOS Bulletin. All of the data pertaining to records is available for use and archived, even records that are not evaluated. Thus, anyone can access the data and examine it for their own evaluation. In fact, I know of one record, that I allowed to be published in the KOS Bulletin, though it was rejected by KBRC. The publication indicated the record was rejected, but it provided details on vagrancy for the species, which supported their sighting possibility. Thus, one could review that publication and make their own determination if the record is valid in their own mind or not. All KBRC could do was evaluate the observation. The KBRC standard for acceptance is high, but the ultimate evaluation of the records is left up to "experts", you, or the authors. KBRC uses the records, in part to determine what should be added to the state-list, what should be removed or added that requires documentation and evaluation, etc.. But, since each report that is reviewed is reported in the Bulletin, the evaluation is left upon the experts doing the research on species X, therefore KBRC doesn't need to rank a species observation from a 1-10...that can be your own determination.
The e-Bird records, are similar in nature...but there seems to be an issue with accessibility to data, and "reviewers" experience/expertise. Since birds are filtered, certain records are probably removed from analysis. But, is there a way for an "expert" to obtain all records? In some instances, I hear yes, in other instances I hear no. In fact, I believe individuals can make their records not open to the public...is this correct?
If one is using e-bird to examine trends for species X in KS and want to compare with adjacent states...you already have the problem of evaluator efficacy. Who determined who could our couldn't be an evaluator for eBird? What's their familiarity with a region or state avifauna? Are the reviewers "bird watchers" or ornithologists? In state record committees, the reviewers are "known", as far as I've seen, and are often a mix of "professionals (ornithologists/biologists) and non-professionals (bird watchers)." I'm not sure e-Bird reviewers are always known. How are filters determined? Are the filters the same in each state? Obviously this impacts the flagging and the evaluation...as Jon has discussed.
From the KS and OK perspective, I can only tell you what I know. In KS, I'm not sure where the filtering started...but, I believe it was originally made from an out-of-state birder. Eventually, filters changed as "Kansas birders" became reviewers. I'm not sure how many of the BOK authors have been asked about filters for e-Bird, but I know I haven't been directly...though I've had some discussions with one of the reviewers but it wasn't initially started as a result of e-bird inquiry. I would assume the initial filters started with literature review, and at least Thompson and Ely Vol 1/2. Subsequently changed some with BOK. But, if I'm a reviewer and I wanted to think about filters, if I'm responsible for say W KS, I'd certainly be corresponding with Tom Shane, Tom Flowers, Ely, Patti, Mike Rader, and Scott Seltman, if I'm responsible for south-central KS, I'd talk to Pete Janzen, Thompson, Young, Gress. I'm not sure how much of this has been done...and yes, I now it's volunteer work...but, if it's going to work, use the resources (literature and experts).
In OK, the OBRC took on the task of creating the filters for OK and OBRC Reviews e-bird records that are vagrants, and others, which they then verify. I've discussed within KBRC, and looking back, perhaps, KBRC should've done something similar. Regardless, it still takes tons of time to evaluate the records. Obviously far more e-Bird records than KBRC, but the process is time consuming for both processes.
The bottom line, any non-physical record that is evaluated (since these are the most difficult records) examines the plausible nature of the species being in location x, the ability of the observer, and then the "experts" evaluate the ability of the reviewers, whether a records committee or an e-bird reviewer, to ascertain if the record is valid in their own mind. The greater the amount of detail in the process, the easier it is for the "expert" to make their decision. But, let's face it...that (those) "expert(s)" will have their own set of judgements...and there are certain records that will be accepted simply because they believe in the abilities of the observer, regardless of the records committee or e-bird reviewers consensus.
Eugene A. Young
Editor, Kansas Ornithological Society Bulletin