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How to become an Ebird regional reviewer?


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Why do you want to be a reviewer? I think that's an important question to ask yourself first. There is a lot involved in becoming a reviewer, but I'll try to be succinct here...this is general advice, not directed at the OP.

To start, I would not neceassrily focus on becoming a reviewer. Personally, I don't know anyone who became a reviewer through the application process. Maybe this happens elsewhere in the country, but here in California it's fairly unheard of.

Instead, I would focus on sharpening your birding skills and gaining a deep understanding of status and distribution across your county. Both of these skills are invaluable as a reviewer. Work on your reputation as a birder, and by that I mean, relax on the competitiveness of birding and listing. Spend time observing birds and their behavior. If you aren't sure what something is, let it go; use the slash or spuh options. Bird with others who are better and more knowledgeable than you. Listen to them and learn. Ask questions. Read the literature. Be patient.

There is no rush. I was a birder for over a dozen years before I became a reviewer. 

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Disclaimer: I am not a reviewer. This is just food for thought. 🙂

Being a reviewer is a volunteer job. You'll be wading through "identified by Merlin" rarities that couldn't be more incorrect, modifying the local filters as trends change, and e-mailing the sleepyhead who attached a Northern Mockingbird photo to their Northern Shoveler report.

Whenever birders in your community submit their rare sightings, it'll be you making the executive decision whether or not it should be approved and become a part of the permanent record. Is that blurry photo actually a Willow Flycatcher, or is it the much more common (in your county) Acadian Flycatcher? Did they actually positively identify it by sound? How about the description? @Tony Leukering shared this document on quality descriptions; it might be nearly 20 years old but it still holds true. This discussion became a bit heated that it had to be locked, and it would be you in the position to settle the debate.

Someone submitted a personal location as a public hotspot. If it isn't obvious like a newly opened preserve (or a mistake like a location named "my home"), you may have to drive there and investigate.

If you decide to take a vacation, the sightings won't just stop. They'll still be there, waiting for your review, when you get back. You might even start getting e-mails about why "obvious" sightings aren't getting approved.

Are you up to the task?

Edited by Zoroark
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13 minutes ago, Zoroark said:

Disclaimer: I am not a reviewer. This is just food for thought. 🙂

Being a reviewer is a volunteer job. You'll be wading through "identified by Merlin" rarities that couldn't be more incorrect, modifying the local filters as trends change, and e-mailing the sleepyhead who attached a Northern Mockingbird photo to their Northern Shoveler report.

Whenever birders in your community submit their rare sightings, it'll be you making the executive decision whether or not it should be approved and become a part of the permanent record. Is that blurry photo actually a Willow Flycatcher, or is it the much more common (in your county) Acadian Flycatcher? Did they actually positively identify it by sound? How about the description? @IKLland shared this document on quality descriptions; it might be nearly 20 years old but it still holds true. This discussion became a bit heated that it had to be locked, and it would be you in the position to settle the debate.

Someone submitted a personal location as a public hotspot. If it isn't obvious like a newly opened preserve (or a mistake like a location named "my home"), you may have to drive there and investigate.

If you decide to take a vacation, the sightings won't just stop. They'll still be there, waiting for your review, when you get back. You might even start getting e-mails about why "obvious" sightings aren't getting approved.

Are you up to the task?

And this is only the tip of the iceberg...lol

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I'd like to add an addendum: I seriously did not see this post before making the comment about the Willow Flycatcher in my previous comment. The Acadian Flycatcher was the first tricky bird I thought of that was very common in the southeast, then I looked at range maps of similar empids to pick out one that was uncommon in central Georgia to use as an example.

I apologize to @Birds are cool if you thought I was poking fun at your query. It was genuinely a coincidence.

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I've wondered about the process for declaring a location to be a hot spot.  What are the criteria for becoming a reviewer / approver, what criteria are used to approve or reject a request for a new hot spot, are they periodically reviews to see if the site should remain a hot spot, etc.

It doesn't appear that proximity to an existing hot spot in taken into account.  A recent topic regarding CA included a map that looked like hot spots were assigned to every tree and cat tail.

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3 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I've wondered about the process for declaring a location to be a hot spot.  What are the criteria for becoming a reviewer / approver, what criteria are used to approve or reject a request for a new hot spot, are they periodically reviews to see if the site should remain a hot spot, etc.

It doesn't appear that proximity to an existing hot spot in taken into account.  A recent topic regarding CA included a map that looked like hot spots were assigned to every tree and cat tail.

Do you know how to suggest a location as a hotspot? 

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23 minutes ago, IKLland said:

Do you know how to suggest a location as a hotspot? 

When you create a new personal location, there's an option to request having it declared a hot spot.  I've suggested three.  One of them wasn't accepted and in hindsight, I shouldn't have suggested it.  One was declared fairly quickly.  I'm waiting to hear on the third that I suggested a couple of months ago.  It's a popular, productive spot but someone told me there are property issues.

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

When you create a new personal location, there's an option to request having it declared a hot spot.  I've suggested three.  One of them wasn't accepted and in hindsight, I shouldn't have suggested it.  One was declared fairly quickly.  I'm waiting to hear on the third that I suggested a couple of months ago.  It's a popular, productive spot but someone told me there are property issues.

Oh, sorry. I know exactly how to do it, I was making sure that you knew how.

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3 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

When you create a new personal location, there's an option to request having it declared a hot spot.  I've suggested three.  One of them wasn't accepted and in hindsight, I shouldn't have suggested it.  One was declared fairly quickly.  I'm waiting to hear on the third that I suggested a couple of months ago.  It's a popular, productive spot but someone told me there are property issues.

I've suggested two, one was excepted, the other was not. 

Also I have this strange feeling there was a third one, that I suggested just recently, but what, where, and if I even did it, is drawing a complete blank.

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5 minutes ago, Kevin said:

I've suggested two, one was excepted, the other was not. 

Also I have this strange feeling there was a third one, that I suggested just recently, but what, where, and if I even did it, is drawing a complete blank.

Found that third one, it was excepted. 

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3 hours ago, Zoroark said:

I had one get accepted, and another one was just merged into a nearby hotspot.

Merging is pretty common. 

 

12 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

What are the criteria for becoming a reviewer / approver, what criteria are used to approve or reject a request for a new hot spot, are they periodically reviews to see if the site should remain a hot spot, etc.

It doesn't appear that proximity to an existing hot spot in taken into account.  A recent topic regarding CA included a map that looked like hot spots were assigned to every tree and cat tail.

The are different philosophies about hotspot review and becoming a hotspot editors. In many counties though, the people who are regional reviewers are also hotspot editors, but hotspot editors can also be people who have knowledge of a county, state, country or other areas and aren't necessarily regional reviewers.

The criteria for a hotspot and other information can be found here...

https://support.ebird.org/en/support/solutions/articles/48001009443-ebird-hotspot-faqs#anchorHelpWithHotspots

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Honestly, most regions in the United States already have a decent review system in place. In other words, not many "openings" for reviewers. Georgia took a long while to get multiple reviewers with appropriate coverage throughout the state, but it's in pretty good shape right now. I don't foresee any changes in the near future.

To answer your original question, "how to become a regional reviewer," it comes down to a few things that work synergistically: connections, experience, and rapport.

Knowing people who are involved with eBird under the hood is important. They have to be able to vouch for your ability. Your knowledge of ID by sight and sound, habitat preferences, phenology, migration, distribution, familiarity with local hotspots and environments have to be sharp and that has to be known by the right people. On top of all that, you have to know eBird protocol like the back of your hand.

So, if you one day want to be an eBird reviewer, get to know the birders in your area, be involved in the birding community, and learn from more experienced birders. I agree with DLecy - focus on sharpening your birding skills first.

Also, I'll add that people skills is important. There are reviewers that act like real eggplants to other birders, which is uncalled for. Most of reviewing is telling other birders that you think their identification might be (or is) wrong and it is very easy to come across as an jerk or a know-it-all. You have to learn to phrase messages diplomatically and friendly and even then you still get huffy responses.

Reviewing isn't about prestige, it's about service. Volunteering your time to help eBird and other birders, which is the privilege and burden of being an experienced birder.

It's possible to be shadow-banned from eBird, by the way, and if an individual was shadow-banned, it would take significant effort to recover their sullied reputation among the reviewers in their state... 🤷‍♂️

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When I started birding I made a couple of very stupid identifications. I have deleted them all now, but I probably have been shadow banned by a couple reviewers.

Western Bluebird was probably my stupidest misidentification.

@Birds are cool - we have all been there.  Both reviewers I have had have been great, despite more than a few bonehead calls on my part.  One asked for opinions on filters to a few of us, and the other alerted me directly when he found county first Barrow's Goldeneye.  

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So what exactly is shadow-banning??

I've got to say the reviewer for my county is a really nice guy, and I've often helped him out by pointing out misidentified observations that weren't flagged by the filter. 

@Quiscalus quiscula Shadow-banning in Social Media is when the site purposefully doesn't push your content, or keeps your followers from seeing it, even if they asked to be notified.  You aren't banned outright, not promoted as you should be.  

I think in this context though it may be your rare sightings are just never acted upon.  I think that happens to someone locally here as they have a camera, but often post some fairly rare birds with little description and no pics.  I don't think they maliciously do it though.

 

Do you contact your reviewer directly on the missed-ID's or use the reporting function on eBird? 

Edited by chipperatl
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