Date: 1/13/18 3:50 pm
From: Ken Burton <shrikethree...> [CALBIRDS] <CALBIRDS-noreply...>
Subject: Re: [CALBIRDS] Are Regional/County Listservs Still Relevant? [a bit long]

How many miles did your 170-BUOW list cover? eBird requests that lists
cover no more than five miles (and some would say even that's too much).
Even in the Imperial Valley, I don't think BUOW densities reach 34/mile.


On Sat, Jan 13, 2018 at 3:41 PM, Mark Stratton <zostropz...> wrote:

> Ken, you are so right on with this. I have posted to within a few feet of
> where I have seen a bird, only to have someone write me and tell me to move
> it to a hot spot, not all that close to where I saw it. Also, We went on a
> desert trip two years ago and saw something like 170 burrowing owls. We
> didn't estimate, we did the old fence post tally for every single bird we
> saw. I'd say the margin for error was 1 to 2 percent at most, and we were
> told that out list wouldn't be allowed because that was more birds than the
> habbitat would allow. I mean it, and I really mean it and this is still a
> very sour spot for us. We fence posted tallied that many birds, but nobody
> will ever see our list. I even invited the person to join us, but got
> absolutely no reply. If I had done this on a list serv, it would have gone
> through and other could have enjoyed the same success that we did without
> being too invasive on these birds. We need our Listservs, just please, be
> a little more understanding on them is all I ask.
> Mark Stratton
> San Diego
> *Sent:* Saturday, January 13, 2018 at 7:46 AM
> *From:* "Ken Burton <shrikethree...> [CALBIRDS]" <
> <CALBIRDS-noreply...>
> *To:* "Paul Lehman" <lehman.paul...>
> *Subject:* Re: [CALBIRDS] Are Regional/County Listservs Still Relevant?
> [a bit long]
> Paul,
> You raise some good points (thanks for venting). Your eBird analysis
> raises a slightly off-topic issue with eBird that bothers me and this seems
> like a reasonable opportunity to share it.
> As you point out, eBird hotspots can be quite large. eBird reviewers,
> following eBird instructions, ask people who submit rarities at
> more-precise personal locations to move their observations to the hotspots
> or they create new "stakeout" hotspots for them and ask observers to move
> them there. For some reason, there's a desire within eBird to consolidate
> rarity sightings. I feel this consolidation often masks location precision
> that can elucidate valuable movement patterns of these birds, and I
> generally resist these requests (unless the existing hotspot is extremely
> small or my sighting was extremely close to its plotted location), at least
> until the bird is gone.
> Perhaps someone can explain why having rarity sightings clumped into
> single locations is worth erasing the precision of personal locations
> plotted exactly where sightings are made, which is especially easy and
> accurate to do on mobile devices.
> Thanks.
> Ken Burton
> Crescent City
> On Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 2:18 PM, Paul Lehman <lehman.paul...>
> [CALBIRDS] <CALBIRDS-noreply...> wrote:
>> 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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