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Just wondering.....what are some things you do while birding?


IKLland
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27 minutes ago, IKLland said:

I came back to this thread to refresh my mind on the awesome tips here, and this post brings up a question that i've had for a while. 

If you have species while birding that you only heard, I know that Ebird still wants you to report them, and I always do. But, is it worth it to state in the comments of that species "HO" or "Heard only"? Or should you not waste time writing that for every species that you only heard? I usually do write it out when I only heard something, but it can take up time. Is it worth it, or only do it with something rare? 

Typically, I won't add notes for a heard only bird. There are exceptions of course, like is it rarity, or just an uncommon bird that other people may be interested in observing, then I'll add notes. That's just me though, I know there's people on this forum who are a lot more consistent with designating heard only. 

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1 hour ago, IKLland said:

I came back to this thread to refresh my mind on the awesome tips here, and this post brings up a question that i've had for a while. 

If you have species while birding that you only heard, I know that Ebird still wants you to report them, and I always do. But, is it worth it to state in the comments of that species "HO" or "Heard only"? Or should you not waste time writing that for every species that you only heard? I usually do write it out when I only heard something, but it can take up time. Is it worth it, or only do it with something rare? 

I do tend to write “HO” often in my checklists, indicating that I did not see a bird. I find that when I have a larger list, where I have used “HO” often, I’m picky and don’t like the look of lists like that. When that happens, I will generally write other comments that provide more details.

Sometimes it is nice/important to write how I arrived at my number when only hearing birds. It’s pretty easy to justify how you visually tallied a group of birds, but I find it’s helpful to indicated how a number was reached when heard only, or a combination of seen and heard. 

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2 hours ago, IKLland said:

I came back to this thread to refresh my mind on the awesome tips here, and this post brings up a question that i've had for a while. 

If you have species while birding that you only heard, I know that Ebird still wants you to report them, and I always do. But, is it worth it to state in the comments of that species "HO" or "Heard only"? Or should you not waste time writing that for every species that you only heard? I usually do write it out when I only heard something, but it can take up time. Is it worth it, or only do it with something rare? 

Do you write 'Saw only' for the birds you saw but weren't calling?  Then why write 'Heard only' for the ones you heard but didn't see?

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Just now, Charlie Spencer said:

Do you write 'Saw only' for the birds you saw but weren't calling?  Then why write 'Heard only' for the ones you heard but didn't see?

If you don’t write anything, nobody will know whether you saw it or heard it. By writing heard only, people will know which birds you saw and which birds you only heard. 

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Just now, Charlie Spencer said:

Why does it matter?

#1. It often helps to know how often local birds are calling or singing, and by writing that you only heard it, it confirms that the bird was vocalizing. Kind of like the breeding code of “singing bird”. There isn’t a code for “calling bird”, but that is still important to know. 
 

#2. If somebody is going to a hotspot to look for a certain species, it can help to know whether the bird is incredibly tame, perching 5 feet away, or extremely secretive, never giving you a view. 
 

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9 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

Why does it matter?

I’m not wedded to the practice, but it’s a habit I picked up when I was a beginning birder reading checklists of more well-known and reputable birders.

I think a lot of it comes from the assumption that when one is entering a count in an eBird checklist, they are doing so with birds that are seen. As I stated earlier, it’s often easier to justify those types of counts. Many times observes put things like “counted by 50’s” or “tallied” or “separate flocks of 23 and 31” and so on. These are clearly methods of describing what you SAW, so I just developed the habit of noting when I was counting birds that I clearly didn’t see by writing “Heard only.”

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5 minutes ago, DLecy said:

I’m not wedded to the practice, but it’s a habit I picked up when I was a beginning birder reading checklists of more well-known and reputable birders.

I think a lot of it comes from the assumption that when one is entering a count in an eBird checklist, they are doing so with birds that are seen. As I stated earlier, it’s often easier to justify those types of counts. Many times observes put things like “counted by 50’s” or “tallied” or “separate flocks of 23 and 31” and so on. These are clearly methods of describing what you SAW, so I just developed the habit of noting when I was counting birds that I clearly didn’t see by writing “Heard only.”

You explained it a lot better than me. Another question. Say you encounter 6 HUVI, and you only saw 3 of them. The other 3 were heard only. Do you list that 3 of them were HO, or not say that?

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22 minutes ago, IKLland said:

You explained it a lot better than me. Another question. Say you encounter 6 HUVI, and you only saw 3 of them. The other 3 were heard only. Do you list that 3 of them were HO, or not say that?

To me it depends on how you observed them to some extent. I don't know what a HUVI is (and I'm not going to bother to look it up) but let's say I hear a Mexican Violetear (hummingbird), walk for 20 minutes and see another one, walk another 10 minutes and hear another. I would confidently count that as 3 separate birds. But if there's a treefull of warblers all chirping at once and I can tell there are bazillions of them, I won't count the heard ones as part of an accurate count. I'd get the best count I could of each species and perhaps add a note saying that there were many of them calling but not possible to count. I wouldn't call this heard only, because I saw one of them.

I'm also more conservative when counting numbers of heard-only birds. If one calls from one side of the path and another one answers from the other side, I'm fine calling it two. But if I keep hearing one call repeated from a tree, I'd only count one unless I could confirm that there are more by sight or another method.

I've also been given to understand that large round numbers suggest approximations. So if I report 172 Lesser Scaups, it's becasue I was in a position to count them (like riding in a boat going past groups of them sitting on the lake). But if I see a bunch of swallows flying overhead and use one of the estimation methods to get a count, it will be 150 or 200, not 172. I also usually am only in the position to make this kind of count when I'm with other birders, so someone can count while others ID, record, etc.

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3 hours ago, IKLland said:

If you don’t write anything, nobody will know whether you saw it or heard it. By writing heard only, people will know which birds you saw and which birds you only heard. 

Yeah, it bothers me when people report owls, for example, and don't include if they only heard it or not.  I write "Heard only" for myself so I can go back and know which birds I didn't see, and for others who are looking for reports of specific species and are wanting to SEE it.

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54 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

Oh, agreed.  I just didn't see any value in breaking down the detection method.

I think it’s worth remembering that eBird is the scientific database. So, the more specific you can be about any observation, the better. Ideally, one would add information about how you detected birds, the habitat the bird is in, what the bird is doing, if it relates to a breeding code or not, the weather, molt, etc…you get the point. 

In actuality, all of this is nearly impossible to do for every single observation. I just use this to highlight the idea that more information is typically much better.

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On a related note, I've just picked up a practice from one of my region's top birders of including Merlin identifications with a note and a 0 count. So if I know what a bird is I just list it, even if I confirm with Merlin, but if I haven't got a clue I'll list as 0. This doesn't apply to all the weird Merlin glitches where it identifies multiple species, or human voices as bitterns or whatever.

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9 hours ago, PaulK said:

On a related note, I've just picked up a practice from one of my region's top birders of including Merlin identifications with a note and a 0 count. So if I know what a bird is I just list it, even if I confirm with Merlin, but if I haven't got a clue I'll list as 0. This doesn't apply to all the weird Merlin glitches where it identifies multiple species, or human voices as bitterns or whatever.

Why?  Is this the just "not counting birds one cannot ID in the field" approach to birding?  

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2 hours ago, chipperatl said:

Why?  Is this the just "not counting birds one cannot ID in the field" approach to birding?  

More just that it's a scientific database as noted above, and so if one of the research tools provided spins up a plausible id it should be reported, but I don't trust my birding by ear skills enough to actually count it. I'm a pretty conservative counter, especially for birds I've only heard, so it's either this or just not reporting at all, which doesn't seem right.

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I know I've mentioned this somewhere before but I do use playback during CBC.  If I go Owling I'll use it to try to solicite replies.  I also have a track I mixed that I use to call in smaller birds.  It is mix of Eastern Screech-Owl and alarm calls from Chickadees, Titmouse, Blue Jays and others.  Works really well on winter birds.  

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I've been practicing sounds this year, mostly so I can quickly identify the common birds. I don't tend to notate if a bird was heard only, especially if it's a small job I don't want to locate in the foliage like a Verdin, Yellow-rumped Warbler, or Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but if it's something special I definitely prefer having a visual confirmation. Secretive birds like bitterns, wrens, and rails are far more frequently heard than seen.

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