Date: 6/21/20 7:22 am
From: Gary Bletsch <garybletsch...>
Subject: [Tweeters] eBird, rarities, and other matters
Dear Dave and Tweeters,
Anytime there is a rare bird on an eBird checklist, the eBird reviewers have to ("get to") rule on it. In fact, the eBird reviewers have to ("get to") decide ahead of time what's rare and what isn't, and what's an" unusually large quantity" and what isn't. Once a bird (or a count) that has been deemed rare should appear on a checklist, a decision must be rendered. Sometimes that happens very quickly, in a matter of hours. Sometimes it takes days. In the case of rarities submitted in far-flung countries, it can take years, because those countries might have only a very few reviewers covering an entire country.
I once got mixed up on a four-letter code, and my Common Buzzard in Sweden ended up as a Corn Bunting. It took about five years before I learned that my Sweden life list was 99 and not 100! I hated to see that list drop to the two-digit level, but was happy that somebody caught my error, even if it did take a long time.
The review is a two-edged sword. If eBird did not have this vetting process, the data set would be so contaminated with misidentifications, pranks, hoped-for but specious rarities, and typographical errors, as to be nearly useless. The vetting process that eBird does use causes delays, though, and sometimes hard feelings. There are times when a bird would seem rare, but does not get flagged; there are other times when a bird might seem common enough for eBird to dispense with the rarity label, but that does not always happen. 
The hard feelings can come when a bird gets rejected. I can think of at least two Old-World warblers that I saw in Saudi Arabia, which the eBird reviewers have rejected. After a few e-mails back and forth, I could tell that the eBird reviewer was not going to accept them--but that's okay with me. I know what I saw, and I am not going to take it as some sort of personal affront if a few of my observations don't make it onto a computerized map.
Many birders are scratching their heads on the Black Phoebe situation in Skagit County. The phoebes showed up here in August of 2010, and began to breed on Fir Island a few years later. They are still flagged as rare on eBird, even though hundreds or perhaps thousands of birders have seen these birds, and even their nest and young. It is likely that the eBird reviewers have chosen to leave it as rare because there is exactly one site in Skagit County where this species breeds, and it is almost impossible to find them anywhere else in the county.
As best I can figure, eBird has broken down the editing responsibility largely on a state-by-state basis. Each state seems to have its local and regional reviewers. Recent discussions with birders from out of state make me think that this process is handled somewhat differently in some states, compared to Washington. I've heard that some states seem to have a more laissez-faire eBird review process, while others have more vigorous ones, with checklists flagged for all sorts of reasons.
Just yesterday, I noticed that the Kansas eBird reviewers do not like a certain checklist that I submitted almost three years ago. On that checklist is a Red-headed Woodpecker that I photographed in the little town of Concordia, back in August of 2017. Last night I realized that eBird had a problem with my checklist, because my woodpecker photo comes up with a little flag, saying "unconfirmed." There are other RHWO records from that county of Kansas for that same month and year, and they don't have flags.I figured out that the eBird reviewers' disapproval comes from the location of my observation, not the species. I had birded for 50 minutes, travelling 5.5 miles. The flag comes with this verbiage: 
Location issue. This checklist has been flagged because there is a problem with the location, such as an incorrect or imprecise location or Traveling Count covering multiple ecosystems or a very long distance. This checklist and its observations do not appear in public eBird outputs. 
I would think that 5.5 miles is not such a long slog; I have submitted hundreds or thousands of similar checklists in Washington, and not had them flagged for this sort of reason. Good thing I'm not in Kansas anymore!

In the case of the reported Costa's Hummingbird, only time will tell if the report is accepted or not. 
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch




On Saturday, June 20, 2020, 08:56:01 PM PDT, D R <somegum2...> wrote:

Hi tweets,
Why does the June 19 report of Costa’s Hummingbird in Clallam not show up on my eBird-generated rare bird or needs alerts?  I can find it using ‘recent visits’ so it still exists, and if it were unconfirmed it would still show on the rare bird alerts. I guess maybe it was rejected, but the description sounded good to me. Does anyone know?
Dave Robichaud
East Fremont.
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