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Birding reputations and the weight they carry


millipede

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Just venting... and, just a little. I'm not as upset as I might end up sounding.
I think I'm going to go through my list and reach out to the reviewer and ask for some more of my sightings to be "confirmed."

Basically, I'm not a "pro" birder... the experts in this state, when they report something with a vague description, it's accepted fairly quickly. (Side note, some of them are getting older and their senses are not what they used to be but, that's another story.)
Then I come along... I can have a decent description and be certain that NO other bird could have been there... but, I don't have a photo or, I don't explain the details word for word as they'd be found in a field guide... so, a lot of my sightings are on my eBird life list but, not on the actual public lists as records.
There are some where, I kind of get it.
My burrowing owl sighting... heard only. In the field, I did not ID it, I was in a rush(one of the many encounters where I REALLY regret not going through all the thorns and such and not caring if I was late somewhere) I wrote in my notes "cuckoo/jay" because it sounded like it was saying cuckoo... two notes... well not really like cuckoo but, how else do I describe it? who whoooo... with a really rough and gritty(how I worded it on eBird) ending. When I got home, I searched real quick and, found it fairly quickly... identical sound. Perfect match.
Not only that but, there were jays making a racket in the exact area where the bird was. They were not happy. I'm absolutely certain... and not only that, just a few days prior, there was a confirmed burrowing owl(I did not know it at the time) IN town, at a school, maybe 15 minutes away.

But, my bird should show up as the "last seen" but no, the bird from a few days prior is.  Oh well.

My kiskadee...  This would be the second sighting for the entire state... in my yard... in perfect sunlight atop a tree... Brown back, BRIGHT yellow belly/breast, and black and white head. It even called out. My daughter was there, heard the call but didn't see the bird. HATES that she heard it because she wont count heard only...  The bird was gone right after it called. I opened up Merlin and played the calls and, perfect... absolutely perfect.
How on earth do you mistake a kiskadee? Seen AND heard?
But, the committee will not accept it. (not that they were kind enough to tell me that)

I've had two heard only henslow's sparrows... One, just called once. I'm sure that's what it was but understand not accepting that. The other, I heard it multiple times, even 10 feet away, responding to playback but just would NOT pop up where I could see it.(Sometimes birds upset me, HA)
Still, not confirmed.

Some of the older and/or more reputable birders get their reports approved quickly, with little info sometimes. This is frustrating.
I ran into someone at a local hotspot that said he had photos of something and it still wasn't accepted, while the "experts" didn't have photos, just descriptions, and theirs would be accepted.

Part of me wants to make a fuss, at least over a few of them.
But, I'm just a nobody.
I've helped the reviewer MANY times in finding reports from others that were mistakes... He and I have had a lot of conversations about someone that refused to stop using Merlin for all their IDs...
He knows I'm not a complete amateur...  But still...
I can't describe the little details on this part or that part as mentioned in the books... so.....

One year, a few years back, I did bring this up to him. He said back then that it was hard for him to know how good a birder I was because I didn't have birds on my life list that he believed to be common. He lives HOURS away where there are more species reported and what's common there and here are different. So, that's not a fair thing to go by. I believe blue-winged warbler is one of the ones I was complaining about not having yet back then.
And, to people like him's surprise, I still don't have a whip-poor-will on my list. Why? I haven't been in the right place at the right time.

Meh......  
I know what's on my list and that's what matters most but, I wouldn't mind the data reflecting a few more of the birds I've seen.

Who wants to give this guy credit for a kiskadee? Nobody official I guess... 
Side note... I wouldn't mind finding the contact info of EVERY eBird reviewer between northern TX and Illinois.
The year I saw the kiskadee, different months near that time, kiskadeed were reported in both areas and I fall right between them. I feel it could be possible it was the same bird, just passing through... and, I wonder if there were any unconfirmed sightings(like mine) along that route but only the eBird reviewers could dig that up for me.
I might have to look into that...

Again, I'm not as upset as I sound.
I am curious though...
Have any of you come across this thing where some people will have their ID's accepted a lot faster than someone else's?

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1 hour ago, millipede said:

He and I have had a lot of conversations about someone that refused to stop using Merlin for all their IDs...

I've followed the local sightings frequently enough that I can tell who is visiting from out-of-state and using that app to legitimize their reports. The filter for Las Vegas includes a huge variety of habitats, and sometimes you'll see a non-local report an alpine bird in the middle of the desert without getting caught in the filter. Even if they don't add a description of "ID'd by Merlin," it's clear that's how it got on their list.

In fact, there's a probably-incorrect "ID'd by Merlin" sparrow on the county Rare Bird Alert now, but I'm not going into detail to respect their privacy.

Edited by Zoroark
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This is a long post, but a couple of things stand out.

Do you have a cell phone, a camera? Even most old phones have the ability to capture audio. This can go a long way in getting a record approved.

Keep in mind that part of gaining a reputation as a reliable birder is by letting things go from time to time. Some of what you describe should fall into that category, IMO. I don't know the exact situations here beyond what you have provided, but situations such as...

 - A heard only Burrowing Owl not ID'ed in the field? BUOW are diurnal and live in large, open fields and agricultural areas. They are generally not hard to see if you give some effort in the right habitat/location. Why submit it as heard only? Why not go back and try to get a visual?

 - Calling a Henslow's Sparrow on a single call, heard once is... I am not sure I would call even known, common, everyday species, if I heard a single note only once. Maybe really obvious things, but there is simply way too much variation in bird vocalizations to utilize this practice.

Also, FWIW, a second state record based upon a submission from an observer's yard without photos or audio is unlikely to pass muster amongst most/all states' Bird Records Committee. Something as significant as a second state record should be scrutinized very closely (for good reason), and sufficient documentation is critical. There are many experienced and "expert" birders who would not likely get such a record accepted.

Lastly, you don't have to be on eBird. It's a choice, and there are guidelines and expectations that come with that choice. If you are finding yourself at odds with the processes and people involved with those processes, maybe it's time to give it a break? If it is causing you stress, anxiety, or negative feelings, I would definitely recommend taking a step back.

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Since anyone can join eBird and there is no verification process to make sure someone has any bird ID skills or is a real person at all (I’ve seen accounts for dogs, and there was that one account posted here that was a cats kill list) it makes a lot more sense for reviewers and the like to assume BS on reports coming in from people they don’t know that don’t have proof. 
If you ever scroll through the trenches of Facebook you can see just how bad peoples bird ID can be. Saw one post suggesting a NSWO was a Tawny owl, and another person asking a thorough explanation of the difference between a house finch and a redpoll as they couldn’t tell….

There’s some people here that can get approved with only an explanation, but generally most do provide a photo or the sighting is backed up a few hours later by someone else. Though, even some of the big cheeses with photos don’t get approved right away (or ever) so I would say there’s no real difference in the confirmation process. 
There’s also the possibility that photos/sounds are being sent to the reviewer through other means than eBird, or the bird itself was reported by someone not on eBird (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc) and is already a known bird outside of the eBird bubble.

Your unconfirmed birds still count towards your County ranking so that data is still being reflected in that way and others can see the addition of those birds (if you’re in the top 100). In one of the counties I frequent, someone’s rank went up with the addition of an Indigo Flycatcher… which has a very limited range in Malaysia. 
 

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1 hour ago, IKLland said:

If you don’t have photos and /or audio(or even if you do), the written description is INCREDIBLY important. I’d suggest reading this fantastic article by @Tony Leukering, and if you still have questions, then come back and ask. 
https://cobrc.org/Articles/writingbirddescriptions_leukering.pdf

I have to say, while it is no doubt a lost art, the landscape surrounding written descriptions has changed drastically in the almost 20 years since Tony wrote this article. First and foremost, technology has accelerated exponentially. In 2004 cell phones didn't have cameras, DSLRs were literal dinosaurs compared to today's mirrorless spaceships, and half the people on this forum weren't even born; but that's beside the point.

Another crucial change is that information about birds has become extremely accessible, perhaps too accessible. I know of cases where highly inexperienced observers, or even worse, observes who are known to falsify sightings, write up picture perfect field guide descriptions of what they saw. They simply checked a few field guides, opened up Birds of the World, and voila!

So, the old adage is still true...a picture is worth a thousand words. This is especially true when reviewers are reviewing hundreds or thousands of sightings in a year. It's just so much easier to interpret a photo than it is a written description. Just think about all the treads on here where someone writes what they saw and an ID is never landed on, versus the number of photos that are put up here and are accurately ID'ed.

Edited by DLecy
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I can tell you quite confidently, as someone on the my State Records Committee, that it is likely that none of the OP’s example sightings would be accepted if they were submitted to us for scrutiny. Even sightings by experienced birders, with a decent written description, but no photos or audio will often not be accepted. Even the smallest contradictory detail or field mark that isn’t correct can be enough to disqualify. With a species that only has a few records in the state, (like the OP’s Kiskadee), the bar is very high for acceptance. It isn’t personal and just because a bird isn’t accepted by “officials,” it doesn’t mean that they don’t believe you or that you didn’t see the bird. It simply means that the sighting wasn’t well-documented enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the identification was accurate. 

Edited by blackburnian
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A few more things on the potential Kiskadee just to try to put you into the heads of a records committee. 
 

It isn’t enough to say the “call was a perfect match.” A detailed description of the call is necessary. 

Describe the viewing conditions. Distance? Duration of sighting? Do you have any experience with Kiskadees? Did you immediately identify it as such or did you consult an external source? 

“Brown back, BRIGHT yellow belly/breast, and black and white head.” 
 

Most importantly, this description is very much lacking (I don’t know what you actually submitted to the records committee). The first thing that is obvious is the complete lack of analysis of size and shape. Color is often misleading in the field. If I was voting with the given information, I would be worried that no mention of the bill size was made, as a Kiskadee’s honker of a bill is its most prominent feature and should stand out to the viewer. 

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6 hours ago, Birds are cool said:

It happens all the time.

If you're referring to your reports not getting accepted, one suggestion I have is to wait to enter a sighting into ebird before you are sure about the ID. A lot of your posts on the forums have about a seemingly rare bird which you are uncertain on the exact ID. I've noticed you upload media (wether photo or audio) under the rare species on eBird before you get the the photos/audio confirmed. Posting these records on ebird before you are certain of what it is could leave a bad taste in a local reviews mouth. Seeing constant reports of rarities which are quickly changed could make you appear like you have less knowledge about the birds than you actually do, and could lead to the reviewer trusting you less. eBird has many slashes and spurs on the website that can and should be used if you are uncertain about an ID. Also, like Derek said a few posts back, audio can go a long way, I'd just recommend leaving the recording running for at least 20 seconds or so. It's a lot easier to confirm a bird from a recording if you can hear multiple calls which are at least slightly spread out. It's often impossible to ID a bird from a short one or two second long recording, as the calls blend into the background noise. 

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6 hours ago, blackburnian said:

It isn’t enough to say the “call was a perfect match.” A detailed description of the call is necessary. 

I have seen people(clearly less experienced people) write this as their ONLY written info on eBird for a rare bird. And then I’ve also seen some people submit a really rare bird to eBird, and their comments simply say “yes”. 

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Here’s another little thing that I’ve found helps to grow your reputation as a birder. 
 

Basically, to sum it up, I’ve found that now that I’ve been in contact with a few of the birders in my county, I feel like they have gotten to know more/better, which leads them to trust me, especially when they’re in the field. I’ve also been on two pelagic trips, and on both trips, one of my main reviewers was on it. I got to talk to him a lot, and I even managed to spot a Brown Booby and point it out to him, and I also showed him a photo of a 1cy Bonaparte’s Gull which I thought might have been a kittiwake, but I didn’t call it one. I simply just showed him the photo, and(especially since I’m young), he appreciated that didnt jump to conclusions.
 

So what I’m trying to say is, if possible, being in contact with some of the top birders in your area appears to (at least in my county), help grow your reputation as a good birder.
 

Another thing that would help even more to gain the reviewers and  other peoples trust is to go out birding with some of the top birders in the county. I’ve done this once or twice, and when we submitted a rarity(we didn’t share checklists), my alert came in first and was accepted before I added photos. 

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8 hours ago, DLecy said:

This is a long post, but a couple of things stand out.

Please be careful responding to thoughts you did not read. A lot of what you said shows you did not read all I wrote.
So, I have to answer your questions that I already answered in the original post?


I'm going to ask that we drop the conversation now. Please.
I was venting. The fact is that some of my reports, had they been by a few certain people, they would have been "confirmed" fairly quickly. I am not the only person in my state that has complained about this and, again, I suspect this is a widespread thing. People have biases.
I get it... I've argued with a person that saw a 3 foot tall woodpecker.
I've had a bird 10 feet away responding(answering) to playback... but will never be confirmed. If mr expert birder wrote the same exact thing I did, his would have been accepted.
I tried recording it but it was never singing while I had it recording, or the mic on my phone didn't pick it up. I'll go back and see if I can find any recordings and listen to them.
And, how do you describe a call? You could do, as someone mentioned about field marks, the easy thing and look up how other people have described it and copy them. I don't want to do that. How do you describe something of a scream like call from a kiskadee. I could, to this day, open up my app and play the exact call... still don't know how I'd describe it.
Or the henslow's sparrow that answered playback repeatedly... how on earth do you describe that?
I feel my description of the burrowing owl is fairly decent. Two "who" type notes with the second ending all rough.
How do the books describe that call? ugh...

Sorry, I'm venting again. Please drop it. I didn't come to vent to be criticized.

6 hours ago, Connor Cochrane said:

I've noticed you upload media (wether photo or audio) under the rare species on eBird before you get the the photos/audio confirmed.

Really? How many times have I done this exactly? You've looked me up on eBird every time I've asked about an ID here? IF I've done this, it can't be more than a few times.
99% of the time I'm asking for ID's BEFORE I upload images.

Please drop it... ESPECIALLY if you're not reading the whole conversation. Don't argue one or two thoughts if you're not listening to me, please.
And again... this is just a vent.
 

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5 minutes ago, millipede said:

Really? How many times have I done this exactly? You've looked me up on eBird every time I've asked about an ID here? IF I've done this, it can't be more than a few times.
99% of the time I'm asking for ID's BEFORE I upload images.

@Connor Cochranequoted @Birds are cool’s post. He wasn’t saying this about you, he was saying it about @Birds are cool

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11 minutes ago, millipede said:

Really? How many times have I done this exactly? You've looked me up on eBird every time I've asked about an ID here? IF I've done this, it can't be more than a few times.
99% of the time I'm asking for ID's BEFORE I upload images.

Please drop it... ESPECIALLY if you're not reading the whole conversation. Don't argue one or two thoughts if you're not listening to me, please.
And again... this is just a vent.
 

I was responding to @Birds are cool's post above. He posts eBird links on all of his posts. I have no reason to look up any particular person on eBird unless they're posting their photos/audio on the forums via eBird.

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7 minutes ago, IKLland said:

@Connor Cochranequoted @Birds are cool’s post. He wasn’t saying this about you, he was saying it about @Birds are cool

I apologize if this is true... except in that, Birds are cool wrote just a few words. To then be called out and criticized in that way in a topic they didn't start? Seems personal. Seems wrong.
Birds are cool wasn't making the complaints I was, they simply said "it happens" 

Anyway, there are times I wish this was like facebook and I could turn off comments on my own post.

I vented... I stand by some of my frustration, even though I understand some of the arguments. My vent is valid. The arguments of others are valid.
Let's move on.

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1 hour ago, Birds are cool said:

@Connor Cochrane, I post ebird links, because it is easier to see the bird in ebird than on whatbird. When I don't know what the species is I lost it under some species. 

 

Maybe I was just misremembering because I thought you had them under species rather than spuhs. 

1 hour ago, Birds are cool said:

 

Example: New World Warbler species.

I don't upload the photos to an actual species until I know what the bird is.

That's the way to do it!

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15 hours ago, millipede said:

I know what's on my list and that's what matters most but,

Then no 'buts'.  I was in Houston in December, and saw a woodpecker.  I initially thought it was a Red-bellied but the GISS was off.  I did a bit of digging and found Golden-fronted weren't uncommon the next county over.  I listed it and the reasons why I thought it wasn't a Red-bellied.

The review contacted me later that day to say GFWO would be a first for Harris County, and he'd need better documentation to accept it.  (He even offered to drive to the location himself if time permitted!)  I replied the description was all I had, I had no photos, and marked up a screen shot showing the exact location if he has the time.  I also said I understood completely why he couldn't accept it.  I saw it, it's on my list, and I don't care if anyone else can see it.  No 'buts'.

15 hours ago, millipede said:

Have any of you come across this thing where some people will have their ID's accepted a lot faster than someone else's?

I don't know how to determine how fast other people's IDs are accepted.  It's never been something I've been interested in.  I don't care what others have on their lists or what they have accepted.

Your concerns are what I'm talking about when I say I don't care about my reputation.  More specifically, I don't care about doing anything to build it.  I try to not have any behaviors that may pull it down.  If I wind up with a decent one as a result, fine; if not, it's not going to affect my enjoyment.

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2 hours ago, millipede said:

I'm going to ask that we drop the conversation now. Please.  I was venting. 

Sorry, I'm venting again. Please drop it. I didn't come to vent to be criticized.

I didn't see anything critical in the responses but that's in the eye of the beholder. 

I usually try to have your back but if you don't want responses, consider venting somewhere other than a public forum.

The mods can lock or delete this for you.

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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2 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I didn't see anything critical in the responses but that's in the eye of the beholder. 

If you don't want responses, consider not venting in a forum.

you are critical with your responses, often... and here. You're telling me how I should feel or what I should do. This was not asked for.
I specifically stated I was venting. I wasn't crying or demanding justice. Just expressing some frustration that others in my community have expressed. People shared their opinions. I want it to be over but, no, someone else has to have the last word.
No buts? I really don't like it when people tell me how to think, feel, or post.

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13 hours ago, Connor Cochrane said:

Presumably a misinputed Indigo Bunting?

I think so, but even then Indigo bunting would be very rare as well. As of now there’s still no confirmed reports of one in that county 🤷🏻‍♂️

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