Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Fall of the Bird Police: Death by EBird?






The Crescent City Common Scoter, a jaw-dropping rarity and first North American record. Do I have it an eBird checklist?  Yes.  Did I send a report to the Bird Police?  No.  Are these things connected?  Read on.

Earlier this month, frequent Bird Policeman for the California Bird Records Committee (CBRC) and beloved birding legend Kimball Garrett wrote the following email to the local L.A. listserv:

L. A. Birders, 

In corresponding with CBRC Secretary Tom Benson, I learned that he has received documentation for the Thick-billed Kingbird in Horsethief Canyon Park in San Dimas this past winter ONLY from a single observer on 22 November 2014. Yet eBird records indicate that the bird was found on 15 November and seen by dozens to at least 3 January 2015. Many eBird submissions during that period were accompanied by photographs and/or descriptions. 

Similarly, the Worm-eating Warbler at The Village Green, seen by approximately 23,687 people, was documented for the CBRC by only three submitters. Yet there were about 125 eBird entries, many with good photos and other documentation. 

This is (yet) another plea for observers to submit documentation for CBRC review species to the committee for review, even if you know that many other observers also saw the bird. First, you might be surprised by how little documentation the CBRC receives even for long-staying mega-rarities. Second, your added documentation can provide crucial information about changes in appearance (e.g. through molt) and behavior of rarities, and can provided important information on phenology by helping to pin down the date spans over which they are present. Finally, and most importantly, the CBRC maintains a thorough and permanent archive of rare bird records for California, and your submissions become part of that archive. Photos on photo-sharing sites (such as Flickr) that are linked to eBird submissions may not be there in a decade, or a year, or even next week. 

Yes, the eBird folks are working on a more permanent way of archiving documentation photos, video and audio, and the ways in which records committees, North American Birds editors, and eBird users interact will clearly evolve over time. But at present the laudable emphasis in the birding community on eBird has unfortunately translated to a vast reduction in direct submissions to the CBRC. 

Well...what do you think?  Kimball is certainly not condemning eBird in any way, but is eBird really behind the drop in record submissions to California's Bird Police?  Is there a direct correlation between the rise in eBird use and the decline of reporting to the Bird Police?  Being the nation's #7 birder, as ranked by the Global Birder Ranking System, this issue is of great interest to me.  Some thoughts:

- While eBird is not a permanent place for documenting bird records, it is ostensibly pretty close. EBird is not going anywhere anytime soon.  If you put something in eBird, it is going to stay there for as long eBird is around, which will probably be for a very long time.  That said, like any website, it is vulnerable to hacking.  Can you imagine what would happen if a disgruntled birder (and there are a lot of those) acquired some hacking skills? Or, much more likely, if Flickr got hacked?  Yeesh. Observers can delete their checklists at any time. Photographers can delete their photos at any time. We must give the Bird Police some attention.  But am I ever going to be deleting/hiding my eBird records and my photos?  Nope.


San Francisco's long-staying Rustic Bunting was seen by hordes of birders, I suspect well over 1,000.  I wondered how many folks submitted documentation to the CBRC, so I checked.  The answer is ten (10).  I wonder how many birders even thought about submitting documentation to the CBRC...  

- An eBird reviewer may make the incorrect decision of negating an observation of a very rare bird; eBird reviewers, after all, often do not have the credentials of your average Bird Police Officer and they are only one birder.  Conversely, there is no doubt that misidentified rarities slip through the cracks and make their way into eBird.  When an eBird reviewer thinks they personally have found a rarity, you can be sure that they will get it into eBird, whether it was correctly identified or not.  All birders are fallible. Princess Leia's classic line comes to mind: "I am not a committee!".

- A huge proportion of the birding community do not care about submitting documentation to the Bird Police, regardless of experience, age and skill.  There are a multitude of reasons for this, and it has nothing to do with eBird.  I'm not dissing the Bird Police here, just stating fact.

- I've been birding for over 20 years now, and I am comfortable saying that there are more birders now than ever before...which means there are more new birders than ever before.  Shouldn't that automatically translate to more love for the Bird Police?  Well, no.  Newer birders generally do not concern themselves with submitting records to the Bird Police.  They often lack the skills and the confidence to submit records, and it probably does not seem like a high priority for them if they are still struggling finding and seeing comparatively common birds.  And if they associate with other birders who don't submit documentation either, then they won't be doing it any time soon; it's just not in their culture, so to speak.


This is one of two (2) Rusty Blackbirds I have ever seen, both of which fall under the jurisdiction of the CBRC.  I've yet to see one where they actually belong, though I have a chance next month!  Photographed in Santa Cruz County, CA.

- One thing that eBird is great for, in terms of rarities, is documenting exactly how long a rarity is being seen at a particular site.  The Bird Police, as far as I know, has no good mechanism for this; they just hope birders will keep on submitting records for an (usually) already well-documented bird. I suspect it is a common situation in which a records committee will receive a small number of records of an individual Vague Runt that may actually be seen over a span of weeks or months.  Do the Bird Police completely ignore the data that is readily available on eBird about the dates the bird was really being seen for?  I suspect it depends on which department (er, state) we are talking about.

- I will readily admit that I was one of those birders who eBirded the Thick-billed Kingbird mentioned above, but did not send a record to the Bird Police.  For posterity, here is my description: "Heard only by Dan Maxwell and myself.  Originally heard from a great distance in the housing tract west of the park making short, 2 or 3 note calls that I was not familiar with that sounded similar to a Cassin's Kingbird. Eventually the bird came considerably closer, and once clearly and loudly uttered a single series of distinct and varied calls that Western (extremely unlikely to be present here during this season), Tropical and Cassin's Kingbirds are incapable of making; Thick-billed Kingbird has much more variability (and sometimes, melody?) in their vocalizations than any of these species, which we clearly could discern.  Identification was confirmed by checking recorded vocalizations on site. We lingered in the area but we never heard the bird again."

That's it.  That's all I've got.  I would never in a million years send this to the Bird Police had I not known that a Thick-billed Kingbird was present on site, and I feel that follow-up reports should bear the depth worthy of accepting the record as if it were a first-time sighting...or at least have a decent photo/recording of the bird.  I am 100% sure we heard the Thick-billed Kingbird, but let's face it, my description sucks!  Would it really get accepted? Does it belong in the annals of Bird Police History? I think that when you yourself would strongly consider rejecting your own record (and I am #7!), that is a valid reason for not offering your observation to the Bird Police.

- I think there is a very strong case for claiming that birders will use eBird instead of notifying birders of notable species via listserv or RBA or North American Birds, you won't get any argument from me there.  I'm guilty of that myself, though I don't consider myself a chronic offender.

- Birders are generally unaware that when hundreds or thousands of people see a review bird, almost no one is submitting documentation to the Bird Police.  Kimball was right to bring this up; it is not a widely-known fact.  Even some Bird Police will neglect to submit documentation of committee birds that someone else found, and they know full well about this problem.



This is the famous Monterey Arctic Loon, which wintered near the Municipal Wharf and was relatively easy to see, unlike the other members of its species I've seen in the Aleutian Islands. Querying the CBRC database, I found out that the first Arctic Loon I chased (unsuccessfully) years ago ended up being rejected by the committee...good to know, and I'm glad that information is available online.  Bird Police departments everywhere should do their best to maintain an active online presence; I think it's good for all of us.

So the real question is this: how often do birders submit their sightings to eBird as a direct substitute for submitting documentation to the Bird Police?  Despite appearances, I believe this happens relatively rarely. When I enter a record of a committee bird into eBird, that does not mean that I would have sent the CBRC documentation had I not been an eBird user, and I think that the same applies for thousands of other birders.  I do not make the conscious decision to submit a photo or description of a review to bird an eBird checklist as a direct substitute for sending it to the Bird Police. Personally speaking, when I don't submit documentation of a review species, but know that I should, it's almost always because I know that other Bird Police officers have seen the bird. Part of their sworn duties as Bird Police are to submit documentation of review species they see, amirite?  As Kimball said, I suppose one should never assume that a rarity is being packaged up, sealed, and sent to the Bird Police's evidence room for safe keeping.  All birders, even the Bird Police, are fallible, and all but the most demented of us have tendencies of laziness.

EBird has brought countless rarities and birds of interest to the public sphere that likely would never have seen the light of day otherwise.  As others have pointed out, there are a lot of birders who utilize eBird who do not contribute to listservs or RBAs at all, let alone bend the knee to the Bird Police.  By now, many thousands of birders owe something to eBird, whether they are active users or not.  The Bird Police are going to have to start incorporating eBird data sooner or later; it is truly the elephant in the Bird Police Station. Exactly how this unfolds will be fun to watch.

Thank you for all your hard work officers, for keeping us safe from the stringers and the sketchy birders.  And thank you, eBird, for being god's gift to birders...you seem to be winning the popularity contest.  If you are one of those people who do pledge allegiance to the Bird Police, at least once in a while, we would like to hear your take on all of this, and obviously if you are a Sworn Officer of the Birding Law, we need to hear from you.  Despite appearances, your birders need you...now, more than ever.

30 comments:

  1. There were 183 (or so) eBird entries for the first North American record of Common Scoter, but only 9 submissions to the CBRC. Certainly there is some correlation between eBird submission and lack of CBRC submission. Or do you really believe that only nine people would have submitted documentation to the CBRC if eBird didn't exist?

    The CBRC does incorporate eBird data, but let's face it--mining eBird and listserves for all of the reports of CBRC review species would be a full time job, and the current secretary already has one of those in order to support his birding/twitching/ticking/county listing/chasing obsession. He most certainly doesn't want another unpaid full-time position (if he did, how could he ever hope to gain any ground on #7 in the GBRS?). The CBRC also relies on input from regional and sub-regional editors to North American Birds. But how many birders submit seasonal reports for NAB? I bet it was a lot more before the advent of eBird. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge user and supporter of eBird, but I also understand the value of submitting reports to North American Birds and the CBRC. The individuals who compile this information do an incredible amount of work, which birders have all benefited (and continue to benefit) from whether they know it or not. Expecting these individuals to collect this information from listserves and eBird on their own is ridiculous. And while not every birder needs to submit NAB and CBRC reports, the more experienced and knowledgeable of us who do understand the geographical and temporal significance of our sightings should make a greater effort to ease the burden of those collecting this information and submit documentation. By doing so, and by encourage others to do the same, perhaps submitting documentation would become part of the birding culture.

    Tom Benson
    Bird Policeman and Secretary
    California Bird Records Committee

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful response Tom. Yeah,I believe the CBRC would have gotten more COSC records without eBird, but would it really be like how it was 10-15 years ago...would there have been 40 scoter records submitted instead of 9? Are factors other than eBird at play here? I think these are valid questions to consider. I have no doubt NAB (and listserv) submissions have dropped off because of eBird use though, no argument there.

      Yeah, I certainly understand that bird cops put in a lot of their own time doing what they do...but it is not painstaking (more a small pain in the ass) for anyone to open a window, open eBird, and glance at the last day the COSC was reported in order to get the bird's chronology correct. It is quick and easy, not a ridiculous task at all, though obviously not all rarities and situations are so straightforward. Should it fall on a single bird cop to take on that whole task on their own, for dozens of records, looking at god-knows-how-many different variables? I certainly don't think so, but I don't have any great ideas about how to address that either. Obviously Bird Police departments were set up far before eBird, and they simply aren't organized in a way that is very conducive to integrating eBird's information, which is sitting there, at everyone's fingertips, thus the elephant in the Bird Police Station.

      Hopefully this post and discussion will help spread the word, at least to a small degree, about the challenges of the modern bird cop. Hopefully the idea of submitting records to the Bird Police won't seem like such a hard sell in the age of eBird. There's more discussion on BB&B's FB page, if you care to comment there.

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  2. It seems to me that it's time to join the ebird team with all the Bird Police in the U.S. As for me I do ebird every day and I also submit to the Bird Police almost every time it's appropriate. It doesn't require that much extra time especially with photos.

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    1. Yeah, I think it's all about getting in the habit of it and realizing that no one else is going to do it. There will always be those who, to varying degrees, don't see the value in it though, whether it be a complete dismissal of the whole concept of committees or the notion that a 10th COSC submission is simply redundant.

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  3. Here in New Mexico we probably benefit from having fewer birders and eBird users than many states, so it makes it easier to mine the reports. We also have a few policemen that serve as both BRC and eBird reviewers so we are able to catch many of the interesting reports as they pop up in eBird. We use many of the same details provided in eBird to review as records for the BRC. Hell, we've reviewed a record that was just a print-out of an eBird checklist. Not sure if this is the BRC way, but it seems to be working for us.

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    1. Interesting approach...simply infiltrate and occupy eBird. Well done sir.

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  4. "Can you imagine what would happen if a disgruntled birder (and there are a lot of those) acquired some hacking skills? Or, much more likely, if Flickr got hacked?"

    Query: are there any birders who aren't disgruntled? Perhaps the Human Birdwatcher Project needs to add a new metric for this. I suspect that I would rate about 6.7 on an open-ended Birder Disgruntalment (is that even a word?) scale, if you were to model it after the Richter scale used for seismic events. But you would probably have to adjust the scale as the data flow in, as this is probably not that high.

    Am I a true bird nerd? Probably. A couple of days ago I tracked down a geographic location for a wastewater treatment plant that hasn't existed in years (county gov records), in order to submit an eBird checklist. Because Lesser Yellowlegs.

    Sadly, I also do (in)security. Part of that is what is known in the trade as penetration testing. Or, "Can I steal all your stuff, and devastate your systems on the way out?" The point of the exercise is to determine what is at risk, how it is at risk, and what the potential damages are.

    Given how broad nerd culture is, and that some random guy is now commenting from a clear blue sky, you might want consider that the "disgruntled birder with hacking skills" ship has long since landed.

    Cornell systems have been breached in the past. Looking around, I find:
    Security Breach Leaves 45,000 at Risk of Identity Theft
    http://cornellsun.com/blog/2009/06/24/security-breach-leaves-45000-at-risk-of-identity-theft/
    and that is only one example. Is it more likely that flikr will be breached in the future? There are too many factors involved to really answer question, and your stating that it is "much more likely" is just a guess.

    The rabbit-hole goes even deeper. Take listservers. I've a couple, without half trying, that are running ancient software with vulnerabilities that have been known for a long time. I wouldn't be surpised to find that many are run by some random birder, who is not a professional systems admin or security worker, as a public service. Possibly at their own expense, possibly by some local ISP who provided it at no cost back in 1995 or something, in the name of community relations, when the Internet first became widely available. Browse them, and you find people blissfully disguising their email addresses, unaware that all of those addresses can be stolen directly from the server, in one large dump, because the software hasn't been updated to fix known vulnerabilites. For years. Those birders may get a lot of spam, and wonder why.

    Like damned near all of infosec, it's a pretty sad state of affairs. Better upgrade my Disgruntellation Factor, because I am disgruntled on at least two different fronts.








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    1. So if a security pro such as yourself isn't convinced that Flickr is more likely to be compromised than something as absurd (to the general public, anyway) as eBird, why is that? I assume Flickr is more secure, but what else are you thinking?

      I hope you stay happily gruntled Greg.

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  5. Losing control and authority does not sit well with some on the force.. As they say if you can't beat them then you'd better join them. Thanks for an interesting read! (BTW-I prefer e-bird method too. It's just more fun).

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    1. EBird is fun, which is a disgustingly nerdy thing to admit, but we all know it to be true. I don't prefer eBird as the place for documenting crippling rarities (although some do it quite well), but its not difficult to see why it is more popular than sending your evidence to those who serve and protect.

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  6. In Wisconsin, many of our eBird reviewers are also members of the records committee eliminating any power struggle between eBird and state Bird Police. It's one big happy kumbaya team of Bird Police. That being said, the records committee does struggle to get submissions on rarities. Without compelling photos/documentation, any WI Review-list species do not get validated in eBird until the WI records committee votes on the record.

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    1. Interesting about the eBird validation...I think Bird Police everywhere would love to have that control....AND POWER...oops who said that?

      California is just too big and has too many birders for something like that to work here, but I'm glad it works somewhere!

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  7. Its almost comical that you refer to those looking at significant e-bird records (endless lists from the public) as "reviewers", but in contrast you refer to those looking at very significant records (by a body trying to establish a scientific database) as "The Bird Police." But that's ok, why worry about science when you can have so much fun by creating those endless lists that are so self-gratifying?

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    1. Can I ask, what is the scientific importance of state records committee data? I am not trying to be snarky or glib, I genuinely don't know. I have some idea of what you can do with eBird data and how it can be applied to conservation purposes, but I have no equivalent picture of how scientists use records committee records.

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    2. Many, but here's one: American Ornithologists Union "Checklist of North American Birds" -- status and distribution of species. Pretty straight forward.

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    3. I am fully on board with the value of a permanent, established record of the birds that occur in a state, the breeding bird atlases and the various surveys they conduct, all that feeds into the understanding status and distribution, yes. At the same time, though, I wonder how important it is to keep track of vagrants with complete accuracy. Vagrants kind of seem like an issue of marginal scientific importance.

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    4. Alan, thank for your vitriol. As a biologist, your assertion that bird policing is important scientific work and eBird is not seems pretty far-fetched. The AOU checklist is what is says it is...a checklist...not much else. As Antid correctly points out, vagrants have marginal significance (at best) in the big picture, which is what science is actually all about, not isolated incidents of birds who made poor navigational decisions. I'm very happy that the Bird Police have good documentation of the one Couch's Kingbird ever seen in California...this is great for birders, but is absolutely meaningless when looking at the species as a whole. In cases where Bird Police Departments actually are documenting a really interesting trend (i.e. the recent surge of Hawaiian Petrels, a highly threatened species, in California), they will simply just remove them from the review list when records become too "common". How is that conducive to conservation or useful to science? It is set up this way in every state. The data Bird Police have on their hands is, generally speaking, much more useful to the birding world than the scientific community. That said, as I said in the post, I certainly encourage birders to submit records to the bird fuzz.

      If you still think I am way off base here, perhaps you could discuss this with one of the dozens (hundreds?) of bird cops who also do eBird review duty on the side.

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    5. Antid, you asked all the right questions. I purposefully avoided bringing this issue up in the post, as it is worth a discussion in its own right, but I don't have any answers for you. Naturally-occurring vagrants do occasionally colonize new areas (i.e. finches in Hawaii and the Galapagos), and the Bird Police are well equipped to document the very beginning of that, but obviously this doesn't exactly happen very often.

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    6. Antid, I have one word, just one word (well, it's actually quite a few words and some alphabetic gobbledy-gook, but...):
      http://californiabirds.org/cbrc_book/index.html

      The referenced tome is what can result from a stellar Bird Police Squadrom in a state in which, at least formerly, a very high percentage of rarities identified (whether correctly or not) were documented by at least one (usually more) observer. This tome is the end-all, be-all of such products and has no equal in the New World, and it may never have an equal. Having served on two BPSs, I feel comfortable making that statement.

      However, the most important part of my reply is to point out that vagrants are not considered "marginal scientific importance" any longer. We now know it as a mechanism that permit, even encourages, range expansion and, even, speciation. I mean, you don't really think that the precursors to the great Hawaiian or Galapagos landbird radiations actually WANTED to strand themselves 1000s of miles from the nearest part of their "normal" range, do you?

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    7. Considering how often birds become vagrants and how often these vagrants actually expand range/colonize new areas, I still think the "big picture" significance of these birds is often (not always!) hard to capture by the bird cops, partially for the reason I mentioned above (i.e. Hawaiian Petrels increase, documentation ceases). The CBRC almost removed Blue-footed Booby from the review list entirely just because of the 2013 invasion year...glad that didn't happen. Glad you incorporated "squadron" into the lingo by the way, nicely done.

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    8. Seagull: So fully documenting a sighting of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker for a state records committee is not important? Just a trivial sighting with no scientific or conservation value?

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    9. Alan, I do not understand the point you are trying to make, or what you think my opinion about state committees are...I am not of the opinion that people should not be submitting records to state committees, which I have stated over and over again. I do have to say, your woodpecker example is strange: a sighting of an IBWO has the utmost scientific/conservation value...which has absolutely nothing to do with records committees. A records committee does not decide if a species exists or not, that is not their purpose. A records committee did not pay millions of dollars to fund multi-year search efforts in multiple states, buying up huge amounts of land for this species (for good or ill). A records committee is a self-appointed group of birders who require absolutely no scientific education to be a member. But, to take your bait, if someone was to actually sufficiently document an IBWO, their highest priority should be getting that information to IBWO experts all over the country and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who are in a position to actually be able to do something about protecting the bird. A records committee could be helpful in networking and getting that information in to the right hands, absolutely, but by a significant margin they are not the most important people who should be seeing that information.

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    10. And yes, after the dust settles, any self-respecting birder should submit that record to the Bird Police. Obvi.

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  8. I've been thinking about this post a lot and about the role of RBC. A friend of mine on an RBC said that the goal of an RBC was to evaluate whether or not the sighting had been documented well enough. Filling out an RBC is a great exercise in identification beyond "continuing" or "picture posted" that often is seen in ebird. I think in terms of that, RBC is definitely getting edged out by ebird. While ebird seems to be more of a counting/listing operation, RBC serve a more scientific/observational purpose. The two aren't exclusive but perhaps the RBCs need to find more ways to make themselves accessible and make their purpose more distinguished from that of ebird.

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    1. As I mentioned elsewhere, I think eBird serves science better than the bird police does, once you accept the fact that the quality of data in eBird pales in comparison to what committees have accepted...eBird gets all that data by turning itself into an awesome, interactive birding tool, which is not a ploy available to the bird fuzz.

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  9. A few more comments from one of the ‘bird police’ folks [Secretary for the Washington BRC]

    On the ‘back end’ as several others have mentioned, there is broad overlap between eBird reviewers and BRC committee members – that helps a ton in keeping everyone on the same page. When a WBRC review species gets posted on eBird, we let each other know pretty quickly. Steve, you expressed surprise at the WI mention of having integration between eBird review status and BRC acceptance. We do the same thing here, and I believe a lot of states follow the same protocol. It isn’t required by eBird, but is recommended. Basically, the rule we use is: On eBird, a BRC review level bird will ultimately be validated/not validated according to the BRC review decision. However, because it takes a while to get to annual BRC meetings, and because eBird is much faster-paced, review level species that are well-documented and look pretty uncontroversial are often validated on eBird long before the WBRC reviews them.
    Review birds that are less of a slam dunk are held as ‘pending’ on eBird until WBRC review is complete and then decided accordingly. [And anything provisionally validated on eBird that is later decided differently in a WBRC meeting is edited in eBird to comply w/ WBRC decisions.

    How our committee ‘handles’ eBird submissions: For every review species, we try to collect as part of the official archive all eBird reports of the sighting. As you mentioned, these are especially helpful for nailing down first/last dates and the like. We’ll often reach out to some of the eBirders who have posted photos to ask to include those photos in the formal record as well. And if someone asks us to use their eBird observation as a formal write-up, we’ll include that as a separate submission in the file for that sighting. We are trying hard not to ignore that elephant in the room….

    But: We don’t automatically count every eBird submission as a submission to the committee, and if you only submit your sighting of a rarity to eBird, you won’t get any recognition for your contribution to the formal record [and the glory and fame that comes with that…]. The vast vast majority of eBird submissions do not include more than a quick note – especially w/ birds others are also seeing, the note is usually something like ‘continuing rarity’ – Photos and some written observation notes can be excellent [and equivalent to formal rarity write-ups] but rarely are. And it would be hard to take on the role of trying to draw a line about what counts as a substantial enough submission to be part of the record, and what is too thin for that. Instead, our policy at this point is to keep an archive of all the eBird submissions of rare sightings, reach out to some observers as needed to flesh out the photo and written formal submissions, and still depend on stalwarts to come through with formal write-ups to really build the documentation.

    As for the ‘what’s the value’ question: It definitely isn’t an either/or between eBird and BRCs, and I tend to agree that the quantity of data on the ‘regular’ birds provided by eBird is vastly more important for a lot of scientific studies that come to mind [or will be down the road]. But there’s also a lot of value in more thoroughly documented, carefully reviewed records of rare birds in BRC archives. I can define a set of questions and then judge whether eBird or something else is better, but I’d rather leave the question-defining to those who do the research, and then let them decide where to look for historical data. For some researchers, there’s definitely still value in looking at the more detailed WBRC submissions: Every year I get requests from ornithologists conducting a study on some random topic and asking for copies of old records, or from someone writing a book on some topic of bird distribution who wants to check on some element of the Washington piece of the puzzle.

    That’s my take from this precinct.

    Matt
    Secretary,
    Washington Bird Records Committee

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    1. And this is how eBird review is handled in Colorado.

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    2. Brilliant. If only you could circulate this as a memo to the other precincts, I'm sure they would all be interested. Actually, if you don't mind, I'll copy and paste the first 3 paragraphs to BB&B's Facebook page as food for thought.

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    3. feel free to repost as desired!

      Matt

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  10. Interesting thread. I'm late to the party, but have a few thoughts. Where do you go if you want a reliable list of Black-headed Gull records in California? Certainly not eBird! Where do you go if you want to find the status of Purple Martin at San Joaquin Wildife Area? Certainly not the records committee?

    Yes, there is overlap and there is more and more synergy between eBird and records committees, but the two are not competitors. They ultimately have different purposes and they do different things. The things they do, I think they do very well. There is plenty of room for both.

    That said, neither can function effectively unless they receive data from the field. Please submit your checklists to eBird and if you spot a rarity that is a review species, send off an email to the overworked records committee secretary. It will be acknowledged and appreciated more than you know.

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