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October 2014


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Kent McFarland <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Vermont Birds <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 15 Oct 2014 10:27:57 -0400
text/plain (86 lines)
Hi Birders,

We wanted to alert all of you to some changes that have been made on eBird
in the data submission process. You might have noticed recently three
changes in the eBird submission process.

(a) There is now a "historical" category added to the list of types of
observations.  It is for observations for which effort measures are not
available.  This is for use by birders putting into eBird their records
from years before there was eBird, and often those effort measures (number
of observers, duration, distance, and/or area) were not documented in those
days.  Providing the "historical" category simplifies eBird data for its
major analytical purposes.

(b) When you select "incidental" as your type of observation, eBird
automatically selects “No” for the question about "complete checklists".
Thus you no longer can have a checklist that is both "incidental" and
"complete".  This resolves a common misunderstanding about what an
"incidental" checklist is.

(c) And, if you submit a checklist with only one species and select "Yes"
for the question"Are you submitting a complete checklist of the birds you
were able to identify?" a big red box appears and asks you if it really is
a complete checklist.

The big red box question states:

"You have reported fewer than five taxa on a complete checklist of birds.
Answering 'yes' to 'Are you reporting all species?' implies that an effort
was made to record all species present, not just highlight species. Please
confirm that you understand this question or change it to 'no' if it was
not an effort to record all species present."

{The reference to five taxa is a typo and will soon be changed to say "one

The "complete checklist" question is very important in the application of
eBird records in many analyses and applications of the data.  For example,
any questions about which birds are common and which rare requires that
there is an effort to record all species detectable. It extends to all
checklists, not just those with a single species.

The lists of species are based on the observer putting in some effort to
record all species that they were able to identify by sight and/or sound.
 "Identify" means to name the species, or use a category such as
Lesser/Greater Scaup, Larus sp., dabbling duck, etc. as provided by eBird.

However, eBird has discovered that the Yes/No question was widely
misunderstood and incorrectly answered.  For example, they discovered that
tens of thousands of checklists recorded as "complete" for a Snowy Owl, or
other charismatic uncommon species, contained only that one species and
none of the other surrounding birds ... even if other species were in
photographs submitted.  This really made a mess of the data and rendered
them generally unusable for the basic eBird analyses.

Thus, to answer "Yes, this is a complete checklist" you should have "made
an effort to record all species present." In practice this means to record
all the birds you were able to detect by the common methods used by the
birding community, and to identify them to species or group as noted above.

Also, thankfully, it does not mean that specialized methods such as mist
netting, baiting, calling, stationary cameras, radar, etc. are necessary.
It also does not mean that you must spend any certain amount of time, cover
any specific acreage, travel a standard distance or increase the number of
observers .... since the effort measures capture all the variety of
everyday birding outings, and make the eBird data we all collect useful for
countless analyses locally and worldwide.

Thanks for your contributions to eBird.

Kent McFarland and the county coordinators at Vermont eBird

Special thanks to county coordinator Ian Worley for getting this
information together.

Kent McFarland
Vermont Center for Ecostudies
PO Box 420 | Norwich, Vermont 05055
802.649.1431 x2

[image: VCE Logo] <http://www.vtecostudies.org/>