Seven eBird Checklist Submission Tips A large and increasing number of birders living on or visiting Long Island now use eBird on a regular basis. The appeal is two-fold: foremost eBird provides a simple way to track and store one’s own sightings and at the same time share them with others including ornithologists and conservationists who use the information for research and planning. Rare Bird Alert (RBA) and Kingbird Regional or Seasonal compilers also rely heavily on eBird data for their summaries. This will also be the chief means of data collection for the Bird Bird Atlas.
Many birders value the fact that they can become an eBirder without needing to take a test or demonstrate any knowledge of this citizen science project and its rules of data entry. For this reason, teams of regional reviewers all over the world monitor incoming checklists to make sure they conform to shared data entry standards. The team overseeing New York State’s Nassau and Suffolk Counties has increased to meet the growing volume of submissions from these busy counties and now comprises (in order of recruitment) Angus Wilson, Derek Rogers, Michael McBrien, Brendan Fogarty, Pete Morris, Taylor Sturm, and Brent Bomkamp. Hotspots are created and managed by Ben Cacace. As active birders in the region (and well beyond), our names should be familiar to most readers. We are the folks that set the filters that define species as scarce or rare and the range of expected dates. We review and validate flagged items that exceed these limits ('trip the filter'), monitor overall checklist quality and correspond with you when there are errors, missing information or other concerns. Most people are very responsive to the feedback we provide and it is a delight to see so many contributors improve the quality of the checklists they routinely submit, increasing their value as part of the permanent record. That said, we still encounter the same problems time and time again and have decided to post occasional notes with advice intended to help the community as a whole. Below are seven tips that will help you prepare useful checklists and minimize the chances that you will hear from us! Tip #1. Provide SOME WORDS OF DESCRIPTION (or attach photos) for ANY noteworthy birds. Usually, these will be flagged as 'rare' or as a 'high count' based on the local filter settings. At present, the filters only work at the county level and so may or may not flag very localized or habitat-specific birds. A terse description of the bird or how your method of counting the individuals is important for validation. Notes on what the bird(s) was doing or where it was, are of secondary importance but welcome nonetheless. Simply saying ‘continuing’ or ‘seen by many’ isn’t very helpful at all. Incorporating media (photos, video or sound recordings) has never been easier but should not entirely replace written comments. Tip #2. Try to select the nearest HOT SPOT rather than creating a personal location. There are plenty to choose from. Checklists mapped to hot spots are used to develop occurrence data such as bar charts. If you create personal locations, please avoid general locations (e.g. a village, town or general area) unless there are reasons to not give the specific locality (e.g., sensitive species or no public access). Ideally, sightings should be less than a mile or two from the hotspot marker. For larger sites, it's helpful to include a line or two on the precise location of any noteworthy birds. Just think what would be useful to you if you wished to follow up on (i.e., chase) an exciting finding made by other observers. Tip #3. Avoid selecting SUBSPECIES on the basis of expectation or because they are high on a list of suggestions. Identifying subspecies adds a whole new level of enjoyment to birding. If you use this option, try to explain the basis of your choice. This will add to your own knowledge and provide more accurate data. Tip #4. Pay attention to your PROTOCOL and EFFORT data. Your checklists become more valuable when this information is accurate. While estimates are okay, give careful thought to whether you really hiked exactly 1 mile and birded for exactly 1 hour. The more precise the effort information, the better. And don't forget, for traveling checklists you should NOT be including your return mileage unless you took a different route back to where your checklist originated. Some further guidance on this topic can be viewed at: http://help.ebird.org/customer/en/portal/articles/974012-how-to-make-your-checklists-more-valuable Tip #5. Be COURTEOUS. If you are chasing a bird that was reported by someone else, why not mention them by name? This simple act shows that you respect your fellow birders, encourages people to submit in a timely fashion, and also helps regional compilers understand who first discovered noteworthy birds. Tip #6. Not every individual bird can be identified in the field; for these cases don't be afraid to enter them as a NONSPECIFIC TAXON. Examples include ‘sparrow sp.’, ‘cuckoo sp.’ etc. Be as specific as possible: if you saw some small sandpipers, consider using ‘peep sp.’ instead of the less meaningful general ’shorebird sp.’. To avoid clutter, many of these taxa are hidden when you enter sightings and may only show up by searching for them in the ‘Add species’ box. Some may be automatically flagged as ‘rare’ because they haven’t been included in the filters, so don't be offended when your entry for ‘1000 blackbird sp.’ asks for supporting details. A few words of description such as ‘too distant to identify’ will do. Tip #7. Don’t be OFFENDED if a local reviewer asks you a question. Following Tips 1-6 will minimize this considerably. Reviewers volunteer their time to maintain local data quality and are usually very knowledgeable about the birds in their coverage region - after all, we each peruse hundreds of checklists a month. One can also learn a lot from reviewer queries. It is easy to modify your checklists using the ‘Manage My Checklists’ option within your eBird controls. Again be courteous and send a brief reply to confirm that you received the message and that you will (presumably) modify your checklist accordingly. Wishing you great eBirding in 2020! The Nassau/Suffolk review team -- NYSbirds-L List Info: http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsWELCOME.htm http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsRULES.htm http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsSubscribeConfigurationLeave.htm ARCHIVES: 1) http://email@example.com/maillist.html 2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/NYSBirds-L 3) http://birding.aba.org/maillist/NY01 Please submit your observations to eBird: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ --