(corrected version) the eBird review process and the fixation on 'Confirmed' reports


Justyn Stahl
 

As nearly a year and a half has passed since I wrote this email: https://groups.io/g/SanDiegoRegionBirding/message/9979 it appears it is time to refresh some people on the eBird review process.

Every two weeks or so I receive an email from an eBird user stating something to the effect of  "Why wasn't my record confirmed? Someone else reported the same bird, and it says 'Confirmed.' Why am I being singled out?!" (I received one like this this morning.) In almost every case the observation is not even 24 hours old. Between the time the record was submitted by the observer (which may or may not have had appropriate documentation at the time of submission) and the time a *volunteer* reviewer can review the record, an hourly rare bird alert and a daily rare bird alert may have been generated. This is so that the public can know, in a timely manner, what rare birds are being reported, and generally, unless confirmed, should be treated as 'buyer beware.' If the report is not yet confirmed, a user can make their own judgement based on the documentation provided (photos, written description, etc.). If a photo corroborates the ID, maybe you will want to chase that bird. If it seems outlandish and simply says "in a tree," maybe you shouldn't fire up the chase wagon. The emailed alerts show any reports submitted since the last alert, and if a record has been reviewed and confirmed by an eBird reviewer it will be stamped "CONFIRMED" in the email. If it has not been reviewed (or perhaps lacks appropriate documentation) it will *not* have a "CONFIRMED" stamp in the email. (The 7-day alert, visible on-line here, https://ebird.org/alert/summary?sid=SN35818, is slightly different, showing "CONFIRMED" and "UNCONFIRMED.") Now, what many folks don't realize is that the queue of records awaiting review (489 as of 7am this morning) is sorted such that the most recent observations are first. So looking at it now, there are about 15 records from 16 February at the top. Most reviewers may just spend 10-15 minutes each morning or afternoon, going through the top of the queue. Some records are well-known, well-documented birds and require just 2-3 clicks to approve. Some records are misidentified, mis-plotted, or lack documentation (or any number of other issues we encounter) and a reviewer can go down a rabbit hole of inspecting the rest of that checklist or other checklists by that observer and generating multiple emails, which then lead to more emails, etc. All records will eventually be reviewed but there is no guaranteed timeline as to when. As to "Why wasn't my record confirmed? Someone else reported the same bird, and it says 'Confirmed'." - the answer is likely because that other observer submitted it before you did and a reviewer has seen it, whereas your report, which could have come in hours later, hasn't been seen by a reviewer (or when it did, it lacked documentation). I suspect many birders take a sense of pride in seeing that 'CONFIRMED' stamp, and those same people might take it as an insult when they don't see the same stamp, as if they've been targeted and somehow slighted. That is certainly not the case! The best advice I can give you is to provide documentation (this means writing something other than "continuing") and be patient!

If you are an eBird user and you have not taken the eBird Essentials please do:

What is documentation?

And more on the review process:

Thanks for understanding,
Justyn Stahl (on behalf of the San Diego eBird team, and probably reviewers everywhere)
San Clemente Island