Date: 6/25/19 2:50 pm From: <clearwater...> Subject: [obol] Comments on Western YB Cuckoo delisting proposal -- request to eBird reviewers
The petition to de-list Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, filed by the Arizona Mining Association, the Arizona Cattleman's Association, and the Texas-based "American Stewards of Liberty," and their consulting company, Westland Resources, hinges on two main lines of argument:
(1) Claimed evidence that this is not a "distinct population segment."
(2) Claimed evidence that cuckoos use habitat other than the primary type (large blocks of cottonwood-willow vegetation in bottomland river systems).
A large share of the "evidence" in support of the latter claim comes from eBird checklists, which a consulting company painstakingly picked through to cherry-pick examples of sightings from outside of the primary critical habitat. See Table 2 which extends through pages 31-36 of the petition, plus Appendix A on "eBird data."
From various discussions both here on OBOL and in sidebar discussions, it should be evident that many erroneous reports could slip through eBird filters. At least for reports in the USA, the filters are just set up by state and county. The filters are not currently set up to take account of ecoregions or more detailed habitat types, below the county level.
When you have reports of a species that's expected in a given county, those reports will not necessarily get any attention from an eBird reviewer, even if they're reported from bizarre habitat. I've mentioned some examples of this, including reports of Barrow's Goldeneyes at Ankeny NWR, a Vesper Sparrow supposedly on a wire in downtown Corvallis, etc., generally with no details to support the record. Currently if you look at June sightings of Hermit Thrushes in the Willamette Valley region, you'll see a cluster in downtown Salem -- likely innocent mistakes by birders who meant to tick Swainson's Thrush, but they didn't get flagged for review because Hermit Thrushes are regular in June at higher elevations in the same county.
Yellow-billed Cuckoos in Arizona seem to be a similar case. I looked through a bunch of the eBird reports cited as "evidence" by the consulting company, and nearly all of them gave no details. Many appeared to be incidental on checklists where the birders were seeking local "specialties" in e.g. Madeira Canyon.
In addition, locations of reports can be mismapped (like the recent example of Harlequin Ducks supposedly in downtown Independence, or Canada Jays on Kiger Island south of Corvallis). How many of those YBCU reports were just carelessly mapped for whatever spot someone happened to be in when they got on their mobile app?
It would certainly be helpful if eBird reviewers can come forward to comment on how likely it is that such reports and their locations were reviewed with any degree of rigor. In private discussions with individual eBird reviewers, I've sometimes heard frank statements regarding the weakness of the data for this type of issue. "You shouldn't expect too much from a mostly volunteer-run operation," etc.
But to be of any use in protecting Western YBCUs, those kind of statements, from people who have direct experience in the eBird review process, need to be on the record by 9 PM tomorrow.
I think Rich Hoyer is one of the Arizona reviewers, so if anyone's able to get his ear on short notice, please do so. Perhaps the folks at "eBird Central" could also persuaded to chime in with a sober assessment of the applicability of eBird ticks for this type of issue.
Camp Adair area north of Corvallis
From: "clearwater" <clearwater...>
To: "Midvalley Birding Midvalley" <birding...>
Cc: "Oregon Birders OnLine" <obol...>
Sent: Tuesday, June 25, 2019 1:25:21 PM
Subject: [midvalleybirds] [obol] YB Cuckoo at Grand Island, Yamhill County -- good reminder of comment deadline!
In addition to being a sighting of interest for local birders, this also serves timely reminder that comments are due on the proposal to de-list Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo as a federal endangered species.
While detections of in our region have become extremely rare, recent detections such as one and others in recent years from the Sandy River Delta area near Portland give hope that cuckoos from the endangered population in California might move northward. They are late migrants, so June is the best time to listen and watch in appropriate habitat.