Date: 2/11/18 7:14 pm From: <david_assmann...> [SFBirds] <SFBirds-noreply...> Subject: [SFBirds] The Value of Ebird
Although Ebird has its limitations, there is an immense amount of value in this ever-evolving global database. I'd like to address some of the questions Brian raised:
1) Messaging about new sightings. Ebird has an alert system, which will send out alerts on an hourly basis, on a county or state basis, of either birds the recipient has not seen (year or life), or rare birds, again on a county or state basis. This includes unconfirmed reports in the case of rare birds, so there is no filtering by ebird reviewers. While hourly may not be as good as instant, it's still a very timely way of getting alerts. List serves have no such equivalent, as far as I know. You need to sign in to list serves to get results. And, if you want to see all reported rarities in an easy to follow format in one place, Christopher Taylor has set up a website at kiwifoto.com/rba which allows you to find ebird reports of rarities (including unconfirmed) that seems to operate essentially in real time. The drop down menus on this site are extremely easy to use - every morning before I go out I check the list of ABA Code 1 and above sightings for San Francisco on this site.
2) I find that the new Ebird app for phones makes data entry pretty straight forward. Filters don't prevent entry (they just require some form of additional validation when you post your list). Hot spots are a necessary element of categorizing sightings for the database, and are pretty easy to use - you can use one of the existing hotspots or create your own - 99 times out of a 100 in an urban area there is an existing hotspot where you are birding that pops up.
3) It's true that the quality of information varies, depending on the observer. Most of the time it will result in an undercount of actual numbers, and species will be missed because some observers will be less experienced. That doesn't mean the information is not valuable in the aggregate to show species observed, population trends, arrival and departure dates, etc.There will be errors in reporting, which is left to the underappreciated Ebird monitors to ferret out and to the best of their ability, verify. Even more experienced birders make errors, at times. I certainly know I do. Remember that this is all going into a large database, providing valuable information for analysis and history. What goes up on list serves just vanishes after a period of time.
4) I firmly believe in the value of daily reporting, since it allows analysis of changes in arrivals and departures of species, documenting, for example, the impact of climate change.
5) It's true that some observers do everything they can to avoid getting flagged. I've done so in the past (reporting 4 Black Phoebes instead of 5 to avoid a flag, for example). I no longer do so - I try to be as accurate as possible and list what I see - if I'm certain I do not mind explaining quantity or giving more details about what I've seen. Some times I'm wrong and change my reports, sometimes I'm sure I'm right and even if it isn't accepted by the reviewer it stays on your personal list.
6) It's also true that experienced birders don't all use eBird. Hopefully that will change over time, since Ebird works best with higher participation. Many birders keep notes in the field, which can be as time consuming as entering into Ebird. My hope for Ebird is that eventually we can record verbally, so we don't need to be looking at our phones when we enter information.
7) Yes, looking at a screen in the field can detract from observations. I'm now trying to record after each group of ten species sighted (10 I can remember easily) to minimize looking at my phone.
8) Ebird does allow for extremely detailed observations. You can post pictures, audio and lengthy descriptions. It takes extra effort to do so, but it is a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge.
9) Finally, the top 100 listing does led to compulsive behavior. You can, however, opt out of this listing if you so choose.