Date: 5/20/24 5:44 am
From: <sshultz...>
Subject: Hudsonian Godwit (flown) - New Hanover Cty, NC 5/19
Happy Moon-day out there in Birdville. Hope you had a splendid weekend!

I’m taking a moment our of your day to note the presence yesterday of a dapper, and fairly rare, shorebird at Ft. Fisher, New Hanover County, NC. The bird is a Hudsonian Godwit, which is always nice in the state, but usually found during fall migration along the coast. At that season, HUGO probably approaches annual, and may be most likely to be found in the Pea Island area along the Outer Banks. There are scattered inland “fall” records, some associated with summer/fall tropical systems, with one mountain record*.

However, the bird is quite a bit rarer as a spring passage migrant. Based on review of eBird*, this is about the 7th report (some reports had multiple birds) and the first in almost ten years (the most recent report I could find, two birds on 5/11/15 by Smithson and Lane was from the same location!) The report prior to that may have been in 2006. So a “decade bird” 😊

The bird was feeding in a shallow pool (a few feet above the level of the nearby river, maybe rainwater?) at the north base of “The Rocks”, the breakwater extending south from Ft. Fisher to Zeke’s Island. I don’t carry a camera while birding (and technically, this was not birding since was with the kid on a fishing trip, but when in Rome…) but fortunately Kevin Markham was in the area and did have a camera. So far as I know, we were the only folks to document the bird (well, I pointed it out to some fort visitors who asked what I was looking at, but honestly, they did not really care) as it appears to have spooked, due to a low-flying Turkey Vulture is my understanding, and was not relocated.

By this point I was nearing a spot in Carolina Beach where, I am told, one might hope to catch a “Rainwater Killifish”. And while none of those were procured, the kid did catch a “Dalmation” mosquitofish, that, while not a separate species, is a color morph he had not caught before, and a Sheepshead Minnow, which was only his second catch. So he was happy. I watched on from the balcony of a nearby beach grill with a Birdsong IPA, which seemed appropriate.

*A quick note on eBird, “reports”, and “records”. I purposefully differentiated between the terms report and record, as reports are, well just that. Records have some type of confirmation. If rare enough (not the case here), then by a bird records committee. If not that rare, but still “rare”, by an eBird reviewer. My review of HUGO records was limited to playing around in eBird. But not all good reports of rare birds are in eBird.

One reason this could happen is that whenever a submission to eBird requires notes (i.e. flags in yellow) it is considered “unconfirmed” until an eBird reviewer “confirms” the report, which then becomes a record in eBird. eBird reviewers are volunteers, have busy lives, and may not always have time to pursue reports that they feel they might need to get more information on in order to confirm. So there are cases where valid reports never become records for the simple fact that they were never “confirmed” in eBird (and not rare enough to be voted on by a BRC).

And it is not really easy to see if a rare bird you reported was “confirmed”. My understanding is that the only way to do this** is to look on the species range map in eBird and see if your bird is shown (which may happen anywhere from hours to days after the submission of the checklist). If so, it was confirmed. If not, it was not (or has not been yet).

We realized this when producing the most recent Briefs for the Files in The Chat, which relies heavily on records from eBird. Several good sightings by reliable birders (or during fieldtrips with groups) which had been submitted to eBird where not reflected, and none of the observers had received any feedback or request for confirmation to help validate the sightings. The presumption is that the eBird reviewer either felt that the reports were not valid and that they did not need to reach out to the observer for details, or simply did not get around to confirming the sighting.

I say all this not to try and besmirch any of the wonderful volunteers who help make eBird the powerful tool that it is (it is a big job and the pay is absolutely zero), but as awareness so that reports that might otherwise be overlooked (i.e. not in eBird) can be documented (i.e. in The Chat if applicable). Every three months the editor of Briefs for the Files sends out a collective request for sightings from the prior season. But in reality, most folks let eBird speak for them, and this usually works. But if you had a rare or out of place bird that was not rare enough to warrant BRC review, you may want to check and see if it was “confirmed” and if not, send details to Dr. LeGrand for potential publication in The Chat.

**You can see a list of recently reported eBird rarities (with confirmed/not yet confirmed designation) on the CBC website at Recent notable sightings from eBird ( <;!!OToaGQ!u-uFbGZu2rkNUDbtViUxGq3YGv2tAT40ztuCkqw9fO_iM4Ah_SHa9ilzFVjvjbmDBXSYlfdizqFIqaxqDKo$ > . Reports are the most recent several days for each state. Thanks to Kent Fiala (also an eBird reviewer extraordinaire) for this helpful tool!

Have a great week!

Steve Shultz
Apex NC

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