Date: 9/25/19 11:18 am
From: Don Roberson <creagrus...>
Subject: Re: [MBBIRDS] Rare Birds on MBB
Clay et al. -- this might be a good idea, but MBB readers would need to
understand that eBird alerts are "unfiltered" and can often include
mistaken identications and protocol mistakes made by newbies or
out-of-towners.

Monterey County has 5 separate eBird filters, four on land and one for
pelagics.  The way the GIS works for the pelagic filter is that anything
reported on salt water (of what the GIS reads as salt water, and that
can include beaches), pulls up the pelagic filter that is meant for boat
trips more than 2 miles offshore, and those excludes landbirds and
inshore pelagic birds.  We've created Hot Spots that usually avoid these
problems, but whenever an eBirder, often a visitor, creates a "personal
location" that the GIS layer reads as salt water, suddenly a whole bunch
of common birds are on the eBird Alerts.  It is easy to tell when that
happens when suddenly Pelagic Cormorant, Pigeon Guillemot, Barn Swallow,
Rock Dove, or Brewer's Blackbird is listed a new "rarities" on the
Alert. Someone out of town this week created a "personal location" at
Bird Rock in Pebble Beach -- instead of using the Hot Spot readily
available -- and the GIS read his spot as "ocean" and Cal Scrub-Jay,
American Crow, Brewer's Blackbird, and Black Phoebe were found on that
day's "rarity alert."

Double-crested Cormorants and Common Mergansers often get caught in the
filter, because the Monterey Peninsula filter includes Seaside and
Carmel as well as Monterey and Pacific Grove.  DC Cormorant has big
roosts at Laguna Grande, Del Monte Lake. and Roberts Lake, but the
filter is set at 12 because, from years of experience now as an editor,
I know that many out-of-towners will claim all the cormorants at Pt.
Pinos as Double-crests because it is the one they "expect" to see where
they live in the East or South. Unless constrained by the filter, we'd
have to spend hours weeking out mistaken huge counts for Double-crests
at Pt. Pinos or Pebble Beach.  So the local eBirders just have to live
with the fact that counts of 30 Double-crests are not rare in Seaside,
but will be posted as a rarity on the eBird alert.  Same problem for
Common Merganser and Common Raven -- both regular at Carmel River lagoon
-- but rare elsewhere on the Peninsula.  Out-of-towners routinely report
female Red-breasted Mergansers in Monterey harbor or Pt. Pinos as
"Common Merganser" [ as will claim crows in P.G. or Monterey as ravens]
-- and the only way to avoid a lot of mis-identifications being shown on
the maps is to set the Peninsula filter for Common Merganser and Raven
filters at zero.

On top of all this, any eBird user -- particularly beginning users --
can be prone to typos or mistakes. One person on Rick Fournier's tour
who got to see the great Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher at Pt. Lobos was so
unfamiliar with rarities that she reported it as "Yellow-bellied
Flycatcher" on her list, and that got on the alerts. We've had new
eBirders use the name of a bird from Asia, by mistake or ignorance of
common birds, and those get on the alerts.  Every eBird alert should
come with the warning: "BEWARE. These are unverified reports.  Use at
your own risk."

These are chronic and continuing problems, and this is just a partial
list.  The reader of eBird alerts needs to understand these
idiosyncrasies, but non eBird users are likely to be very confused by
these sorts of problems.

This is something to think about when considering your propositions.  Of
course, any active birder can get a free eBird account -- and subscribe
to the Monterey County alerts -- without having to do anything more. 
They don't even need to use eBird to get the alerts.  Such folks would
need how to read eBird alerts, with the problems outlined above -- but
that might be easier than automatic provision of sometimes
very-confusing alerts to the general public.

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