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VTBIRD  January 2019

VTBIRD January 2019

Subject:

Re: White-breasted Nuthatch

From:

Richard Littauer <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Vermont Birds <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 12 Jan 2019 23:00:40 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (139 lines)

Thanks, Ruth, and thank you also, Zac, for the thoughtful response.

I'm afraid most of the recent logs for this bird have been mine. I don't
know how many people get those alerts, and I apologize if it has come off
as spam.

I've been spending a lot of time looking into Red-tailed Hawk subspecies,
recently, and I was excited to learn that there are other subspecies, for
other birds, in the area which haven't been routinely logged. At the same
time, I've also been disappointed that so few people seem to log
subspecies. Having read the Red-tailed article above, I figured I would
just start doing it, as it is encouraged if you can. This seemed to me to
be a logical extension of becoming more familiar with eBird.

I've since spent more time recently looking into the White Breasted
Nuthatch, in particular looking at how the eastern subspecies looks and
sounds different than the western ones, and, consequently, I've begun
logging them when I see them. For me, this has meant identifying them
directly, either by sight (the subspecies here has a paler back and cap) or
by sound (it seems to me that the yank is lower and clearer than the
western subspecies, for instance). I apologize for writing 'default
subspecies' on occasion, which I am certainly guilty of doing - I *have*
been identifying them, but it seems that it's the lack of representation in
eBird that causes this bird to need to be commented on, at all, and writing
the same message - "pale blue back, thin black cap, low yank" - seemed more
onerous than saying that I was happy identifying them as *Sitta c.
carolinensis. *It didn't appear to me that logging a subspecies should be
any different from logging a normal species - that is, by the honor system,
where we assume the logger knows how to identify birds in the first place*.*
I'll work on my comments, in the future, if they are helpful. I also
apologize for logging several a day; I've just been birding more than usual
recently. Admittedly, there are times when I may have made assumptions
based on a quick ID; I'll work on that, too.

The user experience for eBird, especially on the app, is not clear on
whether or not subspecies is encouraged; if anything, the app seems to
discourage logging subspecies, as you have to look for rarities, add it,
and then comment. But I figure that if more people learn about the
subspecies and log them, then the more we'll know about the bird's
distribution, and this issue (and logging subspecies can be an issue,
especially as the eBird reviewers have to look over these) will be
eliminated. It's a rather cyclical situation: no one logs rarities because
it is harder to do so, and because no one sees them as an option, and so we
don't have any logs for rarities, and so they stay rare. This doesn't seem
to be the case for everything - I've seen nothing but Slate colored Juncos
here, although both Slate and Nominate options are listed. But look for *Buteo
jamaicensis borealis* sightings on eBird, compared to just Red-tailed Hawk,
and you'll see what I mean. I figured it might just take a few particularly
zealous people to change this, so I started doing so (and again, I
apologize if this has been annoying to anyone).

In any event, I really do encourage others to learn more about subspecies,
too. The process has given me a great amount of joy.

Best,
Richard


On Sat, Jan 12, 2019 at 8:09 PM Zacheriah Cota-Weaver <[log in to unmask]>
wrote:

> Ruth,
>
> I'm glad you asked this question as I've heard it from a few others as
> well. This may be a good time to start a discussion on subspecies
> reporting.
>
> eBird is a powerful tool for collecting data and turning those data into
> meaningful inferences about bird populations. The insights gained from
> eBird are only as good as the data that go in. While people most commonly
> report bird species to eBird, you can report individuals of just about
> every taxonomic level. My guidance to birders is to make reports based on
> your level of experience and the quality of the observation.
>
> I'll provide an example. If you observe a large soaring bird in the
> distance but don't get many field marks on it, perhaps eBirding it as
> "diurnal raptor sp." is the best bet. If you can tell based on shape,
> flight, and personal experience that it was a buteo genus hawk, eBird it as
> "buteo sp.". If you get a good look at a rusty tail and dark patagial
> marks, you might confidently eBird it as a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo
> jamaicensis). Now, if you've studied your Red-tailed Hawk subspecies and
> get a good look at an overwintering one with a dark, nearly black appearing
> chin, heavy belly band with large and globular streaks, you might be
> justified in eBirding it as a Northern Red-tailed Hawk (abieticola) (Buteo
> jamaicensis abieticola). Here is an article  if you are interested in
> Red-tailed Hawk subspecies:
>
>
> https://ebird.org/vt/news/red-tailed-hawks-recognizing-subspecies-in-vermont
>
> Sometimes birds are better left at higher levels, such as genus or family,
> when the quality of the observation is poor or when you just don't have
> experience/confidence with a certain group of birds.
>
> eBird gives the option to report subspecies, and many regularly occurring
> subspecies are listed when you start a new checklist. I encourage people to
> follow the guidance above. If you have studied the subspecies and feel
> confidence with your observation, feel free to report it and document it
> appropriate. We should not assume, however, that we are always seeing the
> most commonly occurring subspecies. I often hear/see the phrase "default
> subspecies", which to me signals that people are not truly identifying the
> bird to a certain subspecies, but are making an assumption.
>
> When a species or subspecies is flagged for review, as the White-breasted
> Nuthatch subspecies are, they show up on the alerts. I encourage folks who
> are interested in reporting subspecies to study them well and document them
> thoroughly in eBird. There are quite a few here in Vermont, including some
> that may someday be their own species (i.e. Eastern/Western Palm Warbler,
> Eastern/Western Willet).
>
> I'd love to hear what other folks have to say about subspecies reporting as
> well.
>
> Zac Cota
> eBird Reviewer
>
> On Sat, Jan 12, 2019 at 6:28 PM Ruth Stewart <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
>
> > What's the story on the WBNU showing up on the rare-bird alert?
> >
> > Ruth Stewart
> > E. Dorset, VT
> >
>
>
> --
> Zacheriah T. Cota-Weaver
> 175 Depot Street
> Hyde Park, VT 05655
> (802) 696-8613 cell
> [log in to unmask]
>


-- 
Richard | @richlitt <https://twitter.com/richlitt> | burntfen.com
<http://www.burntfen.com>

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