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NVBIRDS  March 2018

NVBIRDS March 2018

Subject:

Hummingbird arrival dates, uncommon thrashers, and other eBird updates

From:

Carl Lundblad <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Carl Lundblad <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 10:17:04 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (119 lines)

Hi Nevada Birders,

I'd like to share a couple of brief updates from the Nevada eBird review
team.  First, I want to say thank you to the large and active eBirding
community in southern Nevada and all of those that I've had the opportunity
to interact with, as reviewer.  The vast majority of those interactions are
overwhelmingly positive, many users have begun to feel like old friends,
and the birds that you all find never cease to amaze.

Hummingbirds:  The expected arrival dates for Black-chinned and Calliope
Hummingbirds in southern Nevada are in very late March and early April
(more mid-late April for most Calliope, and that species is always scare in
spring).  We've received numerous reports of both species in recent weeks,
but generally without supporting details.  The local eBird filters were set
to allow Black-chins a little too early, but that has now been fixed, so if
reporting these species prior to April, please be prepared to provide
sufficient documentation.  The only poor photos I've seen of the purported
early Calliope at Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve depicted what looked like
a juvenile Costa's (and an early Costa's nest was confirmed there in
January).

Thrashers:  We've decided to zero out the filters year-round for Bendire's
and LeConte's Thrashers in southern Nevada.  Both species are regular
breeders *very locally* and with very specific habitat requirements
(Bendire's in mature healthy Joshua Tree forest, usually with a lush grass
understory, and LeConte's in saltbush desert, especially Atriplex
polycarpa, and in some creosote flats) but too many people seem to be
entering them outside of appropriate habitat, and there is a lot of
potential for confusion with species like Crissal Thrasher.  By zeroing the
filters, it should help cue observers in that these are species to identify
carefully and reduce the cases of mistaken identity.  If you report these
species in appropriate habitat, they should mostly sail through review with
only minimal details.  If you report them from unexpected habitats,
including in urban areas, please be prepared to provide convincing
documentation.  I would encourage eBirders to photograph these species
whenever possible, regardless of where you find them in Nevada.

I have been concerned with some of the data quality trends, with lots of
people entering a lot of unusual sightings that they either aren't sure
about or are unable to adequately document.  Remember that if you're not
sure, a conservative approach is better than a guess or hunch.  Most
eBirders do not make enough use of the "slash" (e.g., Cinnamon
Teal/Blue-winged Teal or Eared Grebe/Horned Grebe) and "spuh" (e.g.,
"sparrow sp." and "Empidonax sp.") options, in my opinion.  We've tried to
add frequently-used slashes and spuhs to most filters, but if you can't
find what you need, it can probably be brought up using the "Add Species"
button.  For long-staying rarities, observers will often comment,
"Continuing," which is sometimes acceptable (original documentation is
always better), but some observers will report a different and higher
number of individuals without supporting documentation.  Also, if you are
going to make the comment, "continuing" you should be confident that the
previous report was not in error (that seems to be a trend with the
recently reported Calliope Hummingbirds).  Nothing earns a faster rejection
that entering only "continuing" based on another user's previous error.
Some observers will use "continuing" for the same species for weeks or
months, even long after those birds might have been expected to move
along.  Periodic (or regular, even constant) photos and documentation of
continuing rarities really help, especially for migratory species whose
appearance is expected to be transient.  It's always easier and faster to
validate entries with original documentation than to try and keep straight
which birds are present at which locations.  If the reviewer has to go back
and look up a lot of old entries, then the records are likely to languish
in review for a longer period.

A small number of users still don't seem to understand that comments
entered for flagged entries should include an actual description of the
bird(s), what details were used to identify them, and how other similar
species were eliminated.  If the entry is flagged as a high count (i.e.,one
individual doesn't trigger a flag but some higher number does), you should
include a description of how they were counted or estimated (e.g., "exact
count, all were in view at one time" or "estimated by 10s" or "one flock of
23 on Pond 3 and 5 minutes later 42 more were on Pond 7").  If you get
flagged for a high count, photos of flocks are useful forms of
documentation.

eBird suggests that reviewers defer to the decisions of local bird records
committees, and in Nevada we've generally maintained the policy that state
review species must be endorsed by the Nevada Bird Records Committee in
order to be acceptable by eBird.  We often "provisionally validate"
well-documented review species if and when we are confident that the record
has been or will be submitted to the committee (those that seem destined
for committee endorsement).  So, if reporting a very rare bird, please
check to see if it is on the NV review list:
https://www.gbbo.org/nevada-review-list/ and understand that it will only
make it into eBird if submitted to and endorsed by the NBRC.

Finally, lots of users are submitting increasing numbers of photographs (an
excellent trend), but audio and video is still under-utilized.  Most smart
phones have a built-in voice recorder that is easy to use and which can be
surprisingly good at capturing bird calls in the field.  It's quite easy to
add these to your checklists just like you do photos.  Further, most
digital cameras have video capability that can be useful for documenting
birds both visually and aurally (videos are slightly tougher to add to
checklists for the time being, but can be done through 3rd party sites).
Audio recordings and videos are great ways to document some species and may
be the *only* way to physically document certain species (stub-tailed
wrens, secretive marsh birds, for example).

Here are some links to eBird help pages with lots of additional information
about eBirding best practices and the data quality control process:

*Understanding the review and data quality process:*
http://help.ebird.org/customer/portal/articles/1055676-understanding-the-ebird-review-and-data-quality-process

*eBird review standards:*
http://help.ebird.org/customer/portal/articles/1822748-ebird-review-standards

*How to report rarities:*
http://help.ebird.org/customer/portal/articles/973980-reporting-rarities--elements-of-a-bird-description

Thanks again to everyone who contributes to eBird and for understanding the
importance of the data quality control process.  Now get out there and find
some great spring migrants!

Respectfully,

Carl Lundblad
eBird reviewer for southern Nevada

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