Tuesday, January 26, 2010

eBird Checklists: Questions and Answers

After much prodding and much to my delight, my birder father-in-law has started using eBird!  He called me the other day with some really good questions which some of you may also have. So I thought I'd share...

Question:  "I went birding to two places this weekend, but I also tallied what I saw on my 55 mile drive there.  How should I enter them into eBird?"

Answer:  At the two locations you should be able to enter an "Area Count" which are the most thorough and most useful types of observation checklists, but often the least selected types of observations by eBird users.  Try out the Google Planimeter to estimate the acreage of the area you observed.  Enter all the species you saw and identified to the best of your ability, as well as the quantities of each species.  You could enter a traveling count for the birds you tallied in your drive.  eBird does recommend traveling counts of 5 miles or less, so you could actually break down that route and have come up with 11 different checklists.  When making a "Traveling Count", I really make an effort to start a new checklist when the habitat changes too.

Here is a screen-shot of the observation types you can submit to eBird and each has a brief explanation:

Question:  "If go to one place several times a week, does eBird want a checklist every time I go? 

Answer:  Absolutely.  That is some of the best and most useful data for scientists.  Even submitting checklists from your backyard feeders every day is important and beneficial.  I often submit two or three checklists from my backyard everyday.  One from the morning before I go to work, one at lunch time, and one after I get home from work.  They may only be 10-20 minute observation periods, but the information is useful and it will be fun to see the long term data results.

Question:  Does entering checklists from the same location several times a week, or even per day make it appear that there are more of one species than there actually are?"

Answer:  The data is broken up by day and could possibly be broken down to the minute.  Submitting a checklist for the same Ring-necked Ducks you saw the day before doesn't effect the quality of the data. 

If you go birding with someone, to avoid double-dipping the quantities of birds seen, you can use the "share" tool rather than having both birders enter separate checklists.  You can edit the shared list to remove or add species that you saw and your birding buddy did not.

Question:  What if I am driving down the street and I see a Bald Eagle fly over?  Should I enter that into eBird?

Answer: Certainly!  If birding was not your primary objective and you were just passing by and you only saw it for a few seconds, I'd recommend you submit it to eBird as a "Casual Observation".  All you need to do is report where, what time, and what you saw.  If everyone was doing this, we would have a better understanding of bird distribution and range.  A caution however!  Don't sell your birding effort short...often people enter "Casual Observations" when they could with a little more thought enter Traveling, Stationary, or Area counts.

For more information about entering eBird checklists check out these links to eBird:
Submitting Checklist of Birds
How can I make my checklists more valuable?
What data are appropriate?

1 comment:

  1. These are excellent. Thank you so much for your thought and effort in putting these together.