Date: 12/29/18 4:53 pm
From: <clearwater...>
Subject: [obol] Timing of posting of CBC results (and other reports on eBird)
Hi all,

In general I agree with the observations made by Wayne Hoffman and others:

Once a bird is reported via eBird or any other widely accessible digital media (e-mail list-servs, Facebook, Twitter etc.), it's basically out there in the public domain. Unless there is some particular reason to keep a report under wraps (e.g. risk of harassment or unwelcome intrusions on private property), it seems sensible to assume that any such report can and probably will be forwarded to other interested parties.

Since there has been some commentary and speculation about when and how I forward rare-bird reports to the Mid-(Willamette) Valley bird list, I'd like to explain that process here.

As background, the Midvalley list was set up by Jim Norton in 2006, with two main functions: (1) to keep local birders/birdwatchers informed of interesting local bird observations and opportunities, and (2) to simplify the task of compiling local field notes. Jim eventually left for a job in Texas, but we've kept this list going because it's still useful for those functions. When I work on the local Audubon field notes (as I'm doing this weekend), it's very useful to have everything in one place.

In part to maintain those functions, I subscribe to both OBOL and COBOL (which sometimes yields reports for the Santiam Pass portions of Linn County, within the service area for Corvallis Audubon) in digest form. The digests come out fairly predictably in the wee hours of the morning, so part of my morning routine is to skim through the digests, pick out and forward postings that seem pertinent to the mid-valley region. It only takes a few minutes and I usually just forward postings verbatim, without putting much thought into it. Sometimes I'll add a bit of context on locations, and/or translate 4-letter codes or other "birder-ese" for a broader audience.

As eBird gained popularity in the late 2000s, and quite a few interesting local reports were no longer being shared via e-mail lists, I signed up for eBird rare-bird alerts (RBAs) for Linn, Polk, and Benton counties. These RBAs come out at seemingly random times during the day. When they pop up in my inbox, I take a look and forward them immediately if they seem like they could be of interest, and if I haven't yet seen a report on the mid-valley list. There is usually at least a 3-hour delay for these RBAs.

I don't forward every "me-too" report of continuing rarities such as the Tundra Bean-Goose (which has generated many dozens if not hundreds of RBAs) or birds that are only likely to be of interest to hard-core birders (such as occasional Tricolored Blackbird reports from the Philomath sewage ponds, or reports of so-called "Cassiar" Juncos), or reports of ephemeral sightings that are unlikely to be replicated.

But if a report of something as charismatic a mockingbird pops up, I'll definitely forward that as soon as I see it. Historically wintering mockingbirds have tended to stick around long enough for many people to see them. Even people who aren't hardcore birders tend to enjoy mockingbirds, especially if they grew up in a region where these were familiar birds.

I certainly appreciate when birders take the time to post notice of unusual birds to the MidValley list, but I know it often gets forgotten. Some birders who use eBird for all of their observations have suggested that everyone should just sign up for eBird, and then they'd get these reports directly, either as RBAs or as "needs-list" reports.

I know the folks who make these suggestions are trying to be helpful, but it reflects a gap in understanding of how 80% or 90% of local birdwatchers pay attention to birds. If you're not keeping a state/county "year" list or a life list you don't "need" any birds, but you might still be interested. I haven't signed up for "needs" lists myself because I don't want to hear about how I really need to go see a Ruddy Duck at the Philomath sewage ponds just so I'll have it on my list for Benton County this year. But if someone finds something else cool in my neighborhood, I might still be interested.

On the Midvalley list we have a few folks who make a regular routine of visiting Baskett Slough NWR. They're not necessarily listers or "chasers" but they share their own notable sightings. I think they'd appreciate knowing that a mockingbird is around, for next time they go out there.

Like some of you guessed, I wasn't thinking at all about the Oregon CBC tradition of keeping rarities under your hat until the countdown, when I forwarded that RBA. I was thinking about how to organize the Oakridge CBC the next morning, and also dealing with a house full of guests, and our septic system which has been acting up lately. I was aware of the Dallas CBC (and I regretted not being able to help Caleb this year -- especially after seeing the list of "misses" since my contribution in recent years has usually been to do a bit of owling, then hike clearcuts in the higher elevations on the west edge of the circle). But when this RBA came out at 6:20 PM, it never occurred to me that someone might be offended if I shared it.

I appreciated Isaac's comment on his own expectations regarding eBird postings. My hunch is that the younger generation, in general, have a good handle on the realities of digital communications.

Happy birding in the CBC season,

Joel Geier
Camp Adair area north of Corvallis

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