Date: 1/13/18 5:20 pm
From: 'Mark Stratton' <zostropz...> [CALBIRDS] <CALBIRDS-noreply...>
Subject: Re: [CALBIRDS] Are Regional/County Listservs Still Relevant? [a bit long]
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
StrattonSan Diego Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2018 at 7:46 AM
From: "Ken Burton <shrikethree...> [CALBIRDS]"
<CALBIRDS-noreply...>
To: "Paul Lehman" <lehman.paul...>
Cc: CALBIRDS <CALBIRDS...>
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 BurtonCrescent 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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Posted by: "Mark Stratton" <zostropz...>

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