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eBird: A Call for Participation

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  • Kimball Garrett
    California Birders: The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society have launched eBird a continental database of bird sightings with
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 4, 2003
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      California Birders:

      The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society have
      launched "eBird" a continental database of bird sightings with important
      utility for bird monitoring in North America and the added bonus of
      managing and maintaining one's personal birding lists.

      I urge California birders to look at the eBird web site
      -- http://www.ebird.org -- and get acquainted with its features and
      possibilities. In many "citizen science" applied ornithology projects,
      support is slow in coming from western North America, and yet eBird will
      only be a useful tool if birders participate from throughout the
      continent. The official "unveiling" of eBird will come soon, but it has
      actually been up and running for some time and this would be a great time
      to jump in.

      I recently attended a meeting of the eBird advisory board, and I can assure
      birders that there is a great team at Cornell dealing with the details of
      the project, a team that includes some of the best birders in North America
      (e.g. Ken Rosenberg). The advisory board has been constituted to provide
      input from the birding and ornithological communities and various agencies
      and other entities that would also benefit from the eBird database. The
      ABA is represented by Allan Burns along with Ned Brinkley of North American
      Birds and Regional Editors such as me, Chris Wood (Colorado), and Hector
      Gomez de Silva (Mexico); Steve Kelling, a Regional Editor from New York, is
      one of the architects of eBird at Cornell. The concerns of Bird Records
      Committees are also represented on the advisory board (e.g. Dave Rintoul of
      Kansas).

      Please take a look at eBird and consider entering your sightings from
      birding outings; it only takes a minute to register, and entering a
      morning's list from a birding site only takes a couple of minutes. Even
      if you don't wish to enter your sightings, there is a wealth of information
      that can be gleaned from the maps of entered sightings (and this
      information will grow tremendously as input increases).

      There is ample opportunity to enter comments or suggestions on the eBird
      web site, but if you prefer to direct any suggestions or concerns to me, I
      will be happy to pass them along to the eBird team.

      I don't think that CalBirds and local (e.g. county) listserves are the
      proper forum for any lengthy discussions of eBird, but I do think it is
      appropriate to use these outlets on occasional to discuss the impact of
      eBird on California birding and vice versa.

      Please feel free to post this message on local listserves is you feel it is
      appropriate.

      Thanks,

      Kimball

      *****************************************************
      Kimball L. Garrett
      Ornithology Collections Manager
      Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
      900 Exposition Blvd.
      Los Angeles, CA 90007 USA
      213-763-3368
      213-746-2999 FAX
      kgarrett@...
    • Kimball Garrett
      ... Birders: David Suddjian raises an important point about eBird that I did not elaborate upon in my initial message. For each state (and, in California, for
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 4, 2003
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        At 12:56 PM 4/4/2003 -0500, you wrote:

        >What process in eBird insures the quality or validity of the reports that
        >are entered? This has been a primary concern I have had. Similarly, with
        >the Great Backyard Bird Count, the info seems largely unvetted and other
        >than selected rarities, I can't see how such a thing could be controlled
        >for quality. Any thoughts on this re eBird?

        Birders:

        David Suddjian raises an important point about eBird that I did not
        elaborate upon in my initial message.

        For each state (and, in California, for the northern and southern regions)
        a set of "Filters" was developed by the eBird staff and local authorities
        (usually an NAB regional editor). These filters allow eBird to flag
        unusual observations. For example, if you were to report five
        Yellow-breasted Chats in southern California in May, there is no
        problem. But a report of a hundred chats in May, or of even a single chat
        in December, would trigger a flag when such records are entered. The
        observer is alerted that such a sighting is unusual, and is asked to
        "confirm" it. Obviously a bogus sighting can still be "confirmed" by the
        observer, but it is not entered into the eBird database until a regional
        authority (NAB editors, again, will likely play an important role here) has
        vetted the record (either through familiarity with the circumstances or
        through requesting, receiving and approving documentation). For CBRC
        review species, a flag will obviously pop up for any claim in any month of
        the year.

        Yes, incorrect sightings will infiltrate the eBird database. Especially
        troubling are records that don't trigger flags given the existing filters
        (for example, an Abert's Towhee could be entered from Santa Barbara because
        the filters only go down to the state or regional level). But there are
        ways of assuring as clean a database as possible, and the eBird staff, NAB
        staff (over time) and other regional authorities will be enlisted to
        continually improve mechanisms for keeping the records "clean." And on the
        positive side, this could be a great vehicle for bringing important records
        to the attention of regional editors.

        Ultimately I would like to see eBird filters in California written at the
        County level, if we can get the participation of all county subregional
        editors.

        In summary, I can assure birders that quality control in eBird will be
        orders of magnitude better than that in place for the Great Backyard Bird
        Count, but I recognize that there will be some recurring issues that we
        will all have to work on to improve.

        Thanks, David, for your excellent query.

        Kimball


        *****************************************************
        Kimball L. Garrett
        Ornithology Collections Manager
        Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
        900 Exposition Blvd.
        Los Angeles, CA 90007 USA
        213-763-3368
        213-746-2999 FAX
        kgarrett@...
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