Date: 1/12/18 5:23 pm
From: 'Mark Stratton' <zostropz...> [CALBIRDS] <CALBIRDS-noreply...>
Subject: Re: [CALBIRDS] Are Regional/County Listservs Still Relevant? [a bit long]
I do have to say that although, I have really reduced my posts a lot
over the last couple of years, I constanly see on our own local list
serv that we should not continuously post about a bird that everyone
already knows about so naturally, I have been spooked away from
posting about something that has already been posted about 3, 4, 5,
....10 times, even if it is rare. Especially for some of us that
aren't amongst the better birders, we just never quite know where to
draw the line. Do we keep posting or don't we??? It has to be one or
the other or we just really don't know what to do. Especailly some of
the newer birders, I use to have so many people thanking me for my
posts but others that said I posted too much. This is conflicting and
dificult to interprit to the newer birders. So, in closing, we can't
be told that we should keep posting, but then told, if it's already
been posted about 3,4,5 or more times, we don't need to keep posting
because we just honestly, don't know what we are supposed to do. Mark
StrattonSan Diego Sent: Friday, January 12, 2018 at 2:18 PM
From: "Paul Lehman <lehman.paul...> [CALBIRDS]"
<CALBIRDS-noreply...>
To: CALBIRDS <CALBIRDS...>
Subject: [CALBIRDS] Are Regional/County Listservs Still Relevant? [a
bit long]

It is pretty obvious that over the past few years that many of the
local/county/regional/state listservs have become less and less
relevant to a large number of birders, as many of these people have
voted with their feet….er, fingertips….and moved over to other sites
such as eBird. Not only that, but bird information dissemination
appears to have become MORE fragmented as time goes on, rather than
less fragmented. We now have the local listservs, eBird,
WhatsApp/GroupMe text messaging groups, Facebook individual and group
sites, personal Flickr sites, personal and private-group text
messaging, and even a handful of old-school folks who actually still
call their friends on the phone! Some of these services are SUPPPOSED
to complement each other, e.g., a text-message group that is supposed
to be used for immediate dissemination of high-end rarity information
only, and folks are supposed to post to it AND to the local listserv
in a timely manner, but instead the former is used almost exclusively
and often for more standard bird fare, so the general listserv gets
only some scraps, if anything.

Using my home-county listserv here in San Diego as an example, the
number of local birders who now rarely if ever post to
SanDiegoRegionBirding has grown steadily. Most of these folks still
happily get information from such sources, but rarely, if ever, post
to it. But a good number of these people do submit eBird reports on a
regular basis instead. Why only to one? Is it the ease of eBird
submissions? Is it the instantaneous reporting from the field? (But
that is also easy to do to a local listserv with any smartphone.) Is
it that they can easily attach their photos to their eBird reports? Is
there a widespread belief that posting rarity news only to eBird is
“enough”? Or for some, are they timid to post publicly, or just lazy,
or simply don’t care to give back to a listserv from which they got
information allowing them to see a rare bird? Whatever the reason,
recent checks on many days since mid-December of the number of posts
to the San Diego listserv versus the number of county “rarity” alerts
coming through eBird is something on the magnitude of 1 to 20 or 30
(albeit somewhat skewed by the numbers of out-of-town Nazca Booby
viewers and local-birder 2018 “big year” kickoffs, and by the
potential for multiple rarities mentioned per a single listserv post
but only one species per eBird alert). A little of this dichotomy can
be explained by the fact that some birds such as a semi-tame,
multi-year-staying Greater White-fronted Goose at a local lake still
appears daily on the eBird rare-bird alert—given that it is a flagged
species—but that virtually nobody would dream of posting its continued
existence on a regular basis on the county listserv. Or, over the past
few weeks, the continued presence of Nazca Boobies, a wintering
Red-throated Pipit, and many other regional and state-level rarities
locally, has drawn an especially large number of California birders
from out of town as well as many out-of-state birders—few of whom have
posting privileges to the San Diego listserv, but almost all of them
can post to eBird.

In most areas, eBird has become the best way to keep track, on an
almost daily basis, of the continued presence of existing rarities.
(With the caveat that some such reports are erroneous, as they are
through any source, and folks should be careful following up on some
such reports, especially when made many days after anyone else has
reported seeing the bird. Even when some folks are chasing known birds
at known locations, they can mess it up. Posted photos of
misidentified stakeouts are not overly rare, and the number of such
erroneous reports without photos are likely even greater. Just
recently, for example, a friend of mine from out-of-state, after
seeing Nazca Booby here, drove up to Santa Maria to see the tame
Garganey. He was greeted there by a birding couple, also from out of
state and chasing the same birds, who proudly pointed out the bird to
him: a female Northern Pintail. He quickly showed them the real
Garganey. But, the bottom line is, don’t underestimate the ability of
some observers to misidentify even known stakeouts. But I digress…)

Are eBird reports also good at giving the needed background
information on how to FIND these stakeout rarities? Sometimes yes,
sometimes no. A dropped pin at a hotspot may or may not signify a
specific spot or may just denote the location of a large park or marsh
where the bird is. Some observers add in exact lat/long information,
but many do not. Also, because many human beings (including many
birders) are geographically challenged, many locations they give in
their eBird submissions are MIS-STATED or MIS-PLOTTED, which is one
potentially serious problem with using eBird data in a number of ways
in general. But even if the general location is indeed correct, the
included comments (if any) may say little about the specific tree(s) a
bird is frequenting, or the best time of day it might be seen there,
origin questionable issues, or information about possible legal access
issues, etc. These specifics, which can be very important, are often
best imparted through posts to the local listservs. Just in the past
couple weeks, such was the case here in San Diego County with a couple
good posts to the listserv dealing with private property issues and
homeowner and birder behavior involving the Ramona Harris’s Hawk.

Does one need to post an update on every continuing rarity every
single day on a local listserv? No, although regular updates on
high-end and just-recently-found rarities are very helpful, and then
periodic (weekly?) updates that such-and-such long-staying or
returning rarity is still present is also helpful to other birders.
But few local birders supply that information. Recently here in San
Diego, there have been MULTIPLE DAILY eBird updates on Nazca Booby,
Red-throated Pipit, Greater Pewee, Thick-billed Kingbird and
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Harris’s Hawk, Tricolored Herons, Nestor
Park birds, etc. etc. etc., and almost nothing on these birds for well
over a week or more on SanDiegoRegionBirding. Nothing. The question
then becomes: “Does it matter?”

Looking at the broad birding community, some birders spend almost
their entire birding lives chasing stakeouts found by other people. If
that’s what they like doing, then great. Some (but far fewer) birders
hate chasing “other people’s birds,” very rarely do it, but spend
almost all their time doing “their own” birding. That’s great, too!
And most of us birders are at some point in the continuum between
these two extremes. But the bottom line is, a relatively small number
of birders find a relatively large percentage of the rare birds. And
many birders do spend much of their birding time chasing previously
found birds. So, what can this large group of chasers contribute?
Perhaps rarity-status update information (BOTH positive and negative)
if they see that such updates have not been made in “a reasonable time
period,” or perhaps any news on changes in a bird’s preferred exact
site or timing of appearance during the day. Maybe include a bit more
information than the standard "continuing bird"? Include maybe where
and when the continuing bird was seen if possibly different from
“usual.” And if the report substantially extends the date-span, then
ideally including some comment about how it was identified, or a
photo. Some eBird reviewers avoid confirming late reports of
continuing rarities without at least some documentation, given that
some birds are reported long after they actually departed.

If folks use only eBird for their rare-bird chasing bird info, and
then submit only to eBird, then fine. If they do likewise only via
some texting or Facebook group, fine! But if they routinely use a
local listserv to get their “chase” information, see the bird, and
then rarely or never return the favor to birders following behind
them—be it for reasons of laziness, cluelessness, or simply
self-centeredness—then this does seem just a wee bit galling to those
birders who are finding and sharing.

Perhaps most birders are perfectly happy with the quality and speed
(i.e., efficiency) of the rare-bird information they receive and think
that my concerns are unfounded and mostly merely tilting at windmills.
Others may sympathize fully. In any case, at least I got to vent!

--Paul Lehman, San Diego



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Posted by: "Mark Stratton" <zostropz...>

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