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eBird Reports - complete versus incomplete reports.


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I am more of a casual birder and happen to visit a local hot spot, equally for exercise and birding, on an almost daily basis; sometimes alone when I can focus on birding and sometimes with friends when it is more social.

My approach has been to post a complete list every week or so if another birder has not visited/reported and just add any specific sightings of interest in between.

Even on the more social walks I am still birding, probably very annoying to my fellow walkers, and could probably post a pretty complete list on a daily basis.

I suppose I should be posting everything as, if nothing else, it will increase the accuracy of the data.

My question is whether the "incomplete lists" have any less weight or are just absorbed into the database on an equal basis for the birds reported.

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@RobinHood, while I agree that complete lists are the best, an Incidental is better than nothing, and much better than using Stationary or Traveling when birding was not your primary purpose.

It sounds like your using Incidental properly for the most part.  Might I ask what date and location you're entering when you're summarizing a week of multiple days and locations on one list?

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47 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

Might I ask what date and location you're entering when you're summarizing a week of multiple days and locations on one list?

I wasn't very clear but I post the 'interesting" birds on the day I saw them. This morning is an example as I saw three duck species (Redhead, Gadwall and Ring-necked) which will be tagged because of time of year so I will post them but not the Mallards, Black Ducks, Goldeneye, Mergansers etc. which are well documented. This means other birders know they are still around on a specific day.

I think my main problem is that I don't do an accurate count of the typically twenty to thirty species  on a daily basis so feel uncomfortable doing a complete report. That's my excuse anyway.

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2 hours ago, Aaron said:

Currently, only complete checklists power eBird Status and Trends and many other research and conservation projects worldwide.”

Thanks Aaron. I may have to change my ways as my reporting of just the "interesting" birds is apparently not contributing to the Status and Trends which is my primary objective. I could cheat and call a partial list complete to make sure the data is used but that just seems wrong although to my mind perhaps better than the data not being used at all.

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5 hours ago, RobinHood said:

I will post them but not the Mallards, Black Ducks, Goldeneye, Mergansers etc. which are well documented.

Yeah, definitely use 'Incidental' if you're leaving anything out. 

5 hours ago, RobinHood said:

I think my main problem is that I don't do an accurate count of the typically twenty to thirty species  on a daily basis so feel uncomfortable doing a complete report. That's my excuse anyway.

if you don't have a complete count, you can enter an 'X'.

For anyone interested, here's eBirds 'Bird Counting 101 / 102 / 201' series:

http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/counting-101/?utm_source=Cornell+Lab+eNews&utm_campaign=b06879ffed-GBBC_eNewsletter_Jan2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_47588b5758-b06879ffed-278123221

http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/counting-102/?utm_source=Cornell+Lab+eNews&utm_campaign=f8a32bdc17-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_24&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_47588b5758-f8a32bdc17-278123221

http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/counting-201/?utm_source=Cornell+Lab+eNews&utm_campaign=b06879ffed-GBBC_eNewsletter_Jan2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_47588b5758-b06879ffed-278123221

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They also mention that you could create a 5 min complete checklist when seeing a notable bird to avoid using incidental.

That would allow you to not have to count that many birds (depending) as you could make it stationary and only count those seen/heard from that particular spot in a short time period. 
Though, of course, I suppose that biases the data somewhat. 

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14 hours ago, Aaron said:

They also mention that you could create a 5 min complete checklist when seeing a notable bird to avoid using incidental.

That would allow you to not have to count that many birds (depending) as you could make it stationary and only count those seen/heard from that particular spot in a short time period. 
Though, of course, I suppose that biases the data somewhat. 

There's a series of ponds on my work commute.  On my way home I often stop at one or more for five or ten minutes.  I stop specifically to bird, so I post them as Stationary.

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17 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

if you don't have a complete count, you can enter an 'X'.

This should be avoided if at all possible. An "X" could signify you saw 1 bird, or 1 million birds. In terms of data, the "X" is pretty much worthless. If you look across a pond and note 100 MALL, but in actuality there are 247 of them, it's not a big deal and is still more accurate than "X." 

I try to put down a number even in difficult situations such as a certain species of geese heard flying overhead in dense fog. I really have no way of knowing how many there were, but I do my best to put in a number, even if that number is only "1" plus some comments to explain my rationale/count. I reason that "1"  or "10" is closer to the actual count (even if there were 100) and an "X" is not a number value that can be included in a data set.

I also find that in refusing to use "X" it forces me to pay much closer attention to the number of birds I am observing, even if that number is an estimate versus an actual count.

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Thanks for the input everyone, I'm pleased I asked the question.

One thing I will do is go back and try to fill in the incomplete reports which have uncommon sightings, changing them to complete. I basically keep a photo diary and try to grab at least one photo of each species during a walk, birding or casual. Using this, memory and other reports at the time it should be reasonably accurate.

Going forward I will probably try to do more frequent complete reports, every two or three days rather a week or ten days.

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Update, just for anyone who still has a mild interest in the topic.

As I last mentioned I have been trying to go back and change some of my "incomplete" reports to "complete", mainly for any reports including uncommon birds.

I came across this example which clearly answers my original question. Just two reports of a single flycatcher, one complete and one incomplete (mine), at a hot spot. I'm pretty sure I meant to go back and fill in the gaps later (there were some other decent birds) but didn't get around to it.

It appears Frequency (20% v 0.2%) and Abundance are the main impacts on the data.

https://ebird.org/barchart?r=L3841142&bmo=1&emo=12&byr=1900&eyr=2021&spp=yebfly

Lesson learned!!

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15 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

Is the eBird app an option?  You could build your checklist as you go and submit it directly from the field.

Thanks Charlie. That wasn't the original problem (I was trying to avoid submitting almost identical lists on a daily basis by just submitting incomplete lists for the more interesting birds in between complete lists).

I am a fumble fingers, especially when temps are below freezing, and typically only send very brief texts/emails on my phone when I have no other  choice.

However I will give it a go when things warm up. Binos, camera gear, scope, phone data input - it's starting to feel like work?.

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2 hours ago, RobinHood said:

Thanks Charlie. That wasn't the original problem (I was trying to avoid submitting almost identical lists on a daily basis by just submitting incomplete lists for the more interesting birds in between complete lists).

I am a fumble fingers, especially when temps are below freezing, and typically only send very brief texts/emails on my phone when I have no other  choice.

However I will give it a go when things warm up. Binos, camera gear, scope, phone data input - it's starting to feel like work?.

That's one reason I haven't considered a scope.  The camera goes in a case strapped over my shoulder.  That case has a mesh pouch on one side that I keep the phone in.  Binos go on a harness.  Hat on my head, EpiPen in my pocket, and I'm set.

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I've always wondered about this as well. I often bird a patch in a community garden across from a park, and the park itself usually has 100 or so Canada geese, dozens of gulls (almost if not all glaucous-winged), and dozens of crows. I know they're there but I'm not really looking at them. To submit a list do they really want me to itemize all those? I've started doing X for Canada Goose and gull sp so I'm not not submitting a full list, but it seems beside the point. (For what it's worth there's a large homeless encampment in the park so I try not to aim binoculars or a camera in there unless there's something specific to look at; invasion of people's privacy otherwise.)

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On 2/7/2021 at 3:57 PM, PaulK said:

I've always wondered about this as well. I often bird a patch in a community garden across from a park, and the park itself usually has 100 or so Canada geese, dozens of gulls (almost if not all glaucous-winged), and dozens of crows. I know they're there but I'm not really looking at them. To submit a list do they really want me to itemize all those? I've started doing X for Canada Goose and gull sp so I'm not not submitting a full list, but it seems beside the point. (For what it's worth there's a large homeless encampment in the park so I try not to aim binoculars or a camera in there unless there's something specific to look at; invasion of people's privacy otherwise.)

Yes,eBird / Cornell really wants you to post as much accurate info as you can.

https://support.ebird.org/en/support/solutions/articles/48000795623-ebird-rules-and-best-practices

Are you familiar with the techniques for counting large numbers of birds?

https://ebird.org/news/counting-101/?utm_source=Cornell+Lab+eNews&utm_campaign=b06879ffed-GBBC_eNewsletter_Jan2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_47588b5758-b06879ffed-278123221

https://ebird.org/news/counting-102/?utm_source=Cornell+Lab+eNews&utm_campaign=f8a32bdc17-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_24&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_47588b5758-f8a32bdc17-278123221

https://ebird.org/news/counting-201/?utm_source=Cornell+Lab+eNews&utm_campaign=b06879ffed-GBBC_eNewsletter_Jan2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_47588b5758-b06879ffed-278123221

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16 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

Are you familiar with the techniques for counting large numbers of birds?

Thank you, this is really helpful. If I'm counting large flocks I usually try to count in blocks of 10s and the links make me realize I've likely been undercounting.

What I still don't understand is how to count gulls for this. Our most common gulls are glaucous-winged, but we have others scattered through. I'm assuming it's better to count all the ones I can identify and if something else pops up only report it then, but I've been hedging with gull sp. because I'm awful at gull ID. 

(This is just whining, but: I think the requirements to try to do a full count likely end up suppressing the number of checklists submitted. I know I need to cross a mental threshold to start keeping a list (a lot of my birding opportunities are me going for a 20 minute walk to take a break to get outside in the middle of the workday), and the idea of spending a few of those 20 minutes counting a mixed bag of geese and gulls, or staring at the top of the poplars with binoculars to get a rough count of starlings is a different type of birding from what I find interesting, and I'm less likely to keep that kind of record. It doesn't make me a good birder, but so it goes.)

 

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I'm like you, @PaulK.  When I see a huge flock of geese or ducks I usually say "oh, no..."  Partly because my eyes can't take using my scope for even short periods of time and partly because counting/estimating large numbers of birds is not very fun to me.  A lot of times I make someone else get a count while I look through the flock.  An eBird reviewer told me it was probably best to use an "X" and put my rough estimate in the comments in situations where I don't feel like trying to get a more accurate count.  It can still count as a complete checklist.

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2 minutes ago, The Bird Nuts said:

I'm like you, @PaulK.  When I see a huge flock of geese or ducks I usually say "oh, no..."  Partly because my eyes can't take using my scope for even short periods of time and partly because counting/estimating large numbers of birds is not very fun to me.  A lot of times I make someone else get a count while I look through the flock.  An eBird reviewer told me it was probably best to use an "X" and put my rough estimate in the comments in situations where I don't feel like trying to get a more accurate count.  It can still count as a complete checklist.

Interesting. I've had a reviewer tell me that you should always put a estimate rather then an X, even if you just look for 5 seconds and estimate from that as it has much more scientific value then just putting X down. 

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1 minute ago, The Bird Nuts said:

I'm like you, @PaulK.  When I see a huge flock of geese or ducks I usually say "oh, no..."  Partly because my eyes can't take using my scope for even short periods of time and partly because counting/estimating large numbers of birds is not very fun to me.  A lot of times I make someone else get a count while I look through the flock.  An eBird reviewer told me it was probably best to use an "X" and put my rough estimate in the comments in situations where I don't feel like trying to get a more accurate count.  It can still count as a complete checklist.

Good to know, thanks. I'm glad I'm not the only one!

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1 minute ago, Connor Cochrane said:

Interesting. I've had a reviewer tell me that you should always put a estimate rather then an X, even if you just look for 5 seconds and estimate from that as it has much more scientific value then just putting X down. 

Yeah, I've read that's what you're supposed to do too.  But this reviewer would rather that I use an "X" than a guess.  He wants explanations of how I got the estimates every time.

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An 'X' with a brief 'Too many to count!' or 'Over 200!' is better than an 'X' with no comments at all.  Of course, 'Incidental' is always an option too.

I enjoy the challenge of counting a large flock.  Time permitting and birds cooperating, I'll count twice or even three times.  If they're on the wing, even better!  I'll start by tens and if necessary, switch to hundreds.

I'll also go back and check for vagrants in several spots.  Say I'm repeatedly finding a pattern, like one RWBL for every twenty COGR.  I'll report an appropriate percentage of the total count is Red-wingeds (in this case, 5%), reduce the COGR estimate by the same amount, and enter a comment on my methodology.

I also like pouring warm, semi-congealed lime Jell-O down my pants.  But only lime; the other flavors would just be weird, right?

 

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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