This is a good question, and I can respond from the perspective of the
Monterey Bay area, where there are many pelagic trips. I am one of the
Monterey County editors, as well as a birder who regularly enters
pelagic trips into eBird.
eBird prefers that on-shore Traveling counts be 5 miles or less in
length, in part because habitat often changes within that distance.
There are situations where the 5 mile limit on-shore is extended, such
as when birding over a uniform habitat (a stretch of unbroken sagebrush,
for example), but in general I do attempt to limit my on-shore
checklists to 5 miles or less. However, we have not been using that
convention offshore, in part because habitat is more or less
undifferentiated (with the exceptions discussed below). So, as a short
response, it is typical to enter a single 60-80 nmi pelagic trip on
Monterey Bay as a single checklist, assuming that the trip is within a
The most important aspect of the pelagic trip checklist, however, is to
confine it strictly to pelagic species. For myself, I typically include
only species seen more than 1 nmi mile offshore. So for me, a typical
Monterey Bay checklist has two elements: a Monterey Bay list [using the
existing hot spot "Monterey Bay pelagic (Monterey Co.)"] and a second
checklist for birds seen inshore, from the harbor and along the shore.
Depending on which direction the boat takes, there are two existing hot
spots for this checklist: "Monterey Bay pelagic--Monterey Harbor to Pt.
Pinos" or "Monterey Bay pelagic--inshore Moss Landing to Monterey."
As a county editor, I have slowly been going through pelagic checklists
and disallowing species that map to an offshore locale but were actually
seen in the harbor or next to the shore. I have more or less completed
this for Harlequin Duck, for example, and hopefully no eBird map will
show Harlequins in the middle of the Bay or well offshore, as all the
eBird data entered for this species is off "in the harbor" or "next to
shore" observations. In my opinion, including inshore birds on a
pelagic checklist is the single biggest problem with pelagic lists in
It is typical for a standard Monterey Bay pelagic trip leaving from
Monterey harbor to also go into the Santa Cruz County side of the Bay.
If I am aboard, I enter a third checklist for such a trip, using these
three hot spots:
"Monterey Bay pelagic--Monterey Harbor to Pt. Pinos"
"Monterey Bay pelagic (Monterey Co.)" and
"Monterey Bay pelagic (Santa Cruz Co.)"
This is a little more complicated because one must segregate the
offshore observations between two counties, and jot down time and
mileage in each county, but I find this is not very difficult. The
leaders of most Monterey Bay trips will announce when the county line is
crossed, and Elias Elias has posted recently about this information
being available for downlaod into GPS units.
A longer trip might also go into San Mateo Co., and in such instances, I
do yet another eBird checklist, using the hot spot "Offshore waters (San
There are also existing hot spots for other destinations farther
offshore, and when aboard such a longer pelagic trip, I will use
whichever existing hot spot best fits the trip. These include
"Monterey Seavalley pelagic (Monterey Co.)"
"Monterey pelagic--nearshore waters to Pt. Sur"
"Monterey pelagic--to offshore Pt. Sur" [these are for trips that go
farther offshore but are not overnight trips to the Davidson}, and
"Davidson Seamount pelagic (Monterey Co.)"
I have used all of these hot spots to enter checklists, and some of
those trips are 12+ hours long and 100 nmi in length. This may not be
ideal, but is at least practical. It is also fair to say that while
there are distinctive zones of habitat offshore, these are not fixed
boundaries but change day to day and year to year with water temperature
& salinity. From a practical standpoint, entering such longer checklists
over the ocean does not seem objectionable to me, as long as the
distinctive inshore species are not included. The avifauna does change
dramatically when one reaches the North Pacific gyre, typically at 50-75
nmi offshore in the Monterey area, but very few pelagic trips get out
Species that I avoid including on pelagic trip checklists -- unless they
are actually seen well offshore, where they are very unusual -- include
Pelagic Cormorant [the least pelagic of the coastal cormorants], Pigeon
Guillemot [very restricted to inshore waters unless on migration... I
have seen it twice in 30+ years at mid-Bay], and inshore ducks, grebes,
loons, waders, etc. There is an existing hot spot just for "Monterey
Harbor", and I also use it a lot when the boat otherwise goes straight
out to deeper water.
In looking a a map of eBird hot spots, it looks like most eBird users do
something similar in their areas of the State. I hope this is a helpful
Pacific Grove CA