Date: 6/28/19 9:26 am
From: Jay Withgott <withgott...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Yellow-billed Cuckoos: Thank you for the robust comments on the ESA de-listing proposal!

Thank YOU, Joel, for putting out the word on this issue and prompting a number of us to take action. Your concerns are right on the money — I’ve been expecting this kind of mis-use of eBird data for some years now, and I am quite sure we can expect more of it in the future. The glowing honeymoon period of joyful innocence for citizen-science / community science is now past and we must be prepared to face the cold hard reality that data freely available online can and will be used and abused by any number of interest groups with anti-conservation agendas.

For this reason, I was especially glad to see Marshall Iliff’s excellent and valuable submission and that eBird Central seems to be taking this threat seriously. It also calls for those of us who review eBird reports at the regional level to be on our toes and perhaps be more proactive in searching for and vetting reports of species of conservation concern (not by treating them with a different standard for acceptance but by trying to make sure we are aware of all reports and that they have adequate documentation).

All eBird users can help, too, by entering comments on our lists for species of conservation concern when context is helpful. For instance, if a species of conservation concern was a special target of your trip, note that in the comments — e.g., if you saw 15 Sage Grouse only because you’d made a special trip to a lek, or if you heard a Spotted Owl only because you’d gone deep into the forest in quest of that particular species. If you report a high number of Marbled Murrelets from a seawatch, note whether exceptionally flat waters and clear visibility were factors, and whether the particular location is traditional or unusually good for them. If you are lucky enough to encounter a YB Cuckoo in an area where it is almost certainly not breeding, note in the comments why you believe that to be the case. These are small steps, but they are easy steps, and collectively may be helpful for properly interpreting data that will remain in the public domain for the long-term.

Again, thank you, Joel — your timely alert may have made some real tangible difference for a species whose protection helps protect hundreds more in one of the most valuable and declining habitat types in the West.

Jay Withgott

> On Jun 27, 2019, at 4:46 PM, <clearwater...> wrote:
> Thank you to everyone who responded with comments on the petition to remove protections for Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo (YBCU), currently listed as Threatened under the Endangered species Act.
> I'd especially like to thank Marshall Iliff and his colleagues for putting in some long hours yesterday, to provide the USFWS with an informed view on appropriate vs. inappropriate use of eBird data, and a very relevant analysis to illustrate the importance of considering hours of birding effort (which the petitioners failed to do). I'm hoping that USFWS will keep what Marshall wrote on file, for the next time that they get a similar petition that cherry-picks incidental reports from the database.
> Thanks also to Brian Sullivan for helping to mobilize the "eBird central" team despite being in a remote location with poor internet access!
> Also a big thank-you to Jay Withgott for adding his informed perspective as an eBird reviewer. This was exactly the kind of insightful commentary that I was hoping for, when I sent out my appeal for eBird reviewers to chime in. Well, more than I was hoping for -- as we all know, Jay is an excellent writer so he did a great job of explaining the issues.
> Thank you to Nancy Baumeister for sharing her personal observations of the "habitat" at some of the Arizona sites that were suggested as secondary habitat in the de-listing petition.
> Thank you to Rich Hoyer for providing feedback on my concerns, and especially for pointing out that reports of YBCU in southern Arizona after June 25th (or thereabouts) could likely be post-breeding wanderers.
> And thank you to Nels Nelson for adding his personal perspective as a birder who still hopes to see one of these birds in Oregon!
> --
> Joel Geier
> Camp Adair area north of Corvallis

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