Learn more about eBird and (we all) win something

Richard Bradus

Apologies if this is deemed "off-topic" - hopefully it will be of value.

Just wanted to alert all of you - before the month is up - that eBird's challenge of the month is to submit a checklist and then complete their "eBird Essentials" course online, which gives you a chance to win a pair of choice binoculars. See https://ebird.org/news/january-ebirder-of-the-month-challenge-2020

While many of you have been using eBird for some time, there are still some pointers that you may discover (or re-learn) by going through the course (it's pretty quick). And for those of you that are new to eBird or have not yet started it's a great way to jump in. In particular, you will learn some of the better practices for entering your data so that the information you provide will have scientific value - it's not just about the numbers! And, hopefully, we can all learn to use the platform more wisely and reduce unnecessary errors.

In particular, a couple of errors that are seen far too frequently:
1) Overstating the distance traveled. 
For those using the "Traveling" protocol to enter their observations (i.e. just about everyone), please note that the distance to be entered is a one-way distance. While birdwatching it is typical to go out and back on a particular trail or route, or to wander all over, but then the distance recorded (particularly if using the mobile app) will be incorrect, often markedly overstated. Please pay some attention to this, and correct the distance, especially if using the automatic recording feature on the mobile app.

2) Mis-use of the "Incidental" protocol.
Yeah, we know what it sounds like, but "Incidental" is actually a very specific - and the least useful scientifically - of all the data entry protocols. It is to be used only when you are doing something else and see something notable, for example when you are driving to work and you happen to spot a hawk perched at the side of the road. Here is a good example: https://ebird.org/checklist/S63424323 (thanks Dominik!). If are out somewhere, even if you are without binoculars, and you stop to study a bird or note the birds that are around, this is no longer an incidental observation; if you list 7 species, it's not incidental! Please use "Traveling" "Stationary" or other protocol and indicate "incomplete" if you were not keeping track of all the birds you saw or heard.

And, since the Essentials course is just a start, please explore the other features on the eBird data entry portal and elsewhere on their site. One thing you may want to do is to use the "Area" protocol (inexplicably buried under "Other" in the main checklist entry page) - it is the best protocol to use for many of our trips in our local parks, where we are not traveling along a trail or set path but rather observing from throughout the park, such as at Lafayette Park (a frequent hangout of mine) or the Lily Pond, where our observations are in a well-defined area. SF Rec & Park website lists the area of many of the parks under the specific park's description. Plus if one uses the Hotspot map, there is a distance scale at the bottom; not only is this very useful for submitting accurate distances, when using meters it is very easy to calculate areas as well (100 meters square is a hectare). And, really people, it's the 21st century - we should all be using meters and kilometers and hectares!

These are just a few issues and pointers. Please avail yourself of the contest, learn a bit more about eBird, and hopefully take some time to explore the site - especially check out the Explore section, you will be amazed with all the information that one can access. And it's all up to us to share and enter our observations so that all the data can be made available to advance the science and for our education and enjoyment.

And please review your checklists after you are done submitting, and and comments!! 

Many thanks also to Dominik Mosur, our tireless eBird reviewer.

Thank you all!

Richard Bradus
San Francisco

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