Tonight I faced a familiar dilemma while entering data for a local place.At what level do I want to enter data?
When I first started entering eBird data, I tried to be as specific as possible. For large areas with diverse habitats, I knew there was a huge difference between Nature Centers with bird feeders and the ducks on the lakes in the same park. Hey, even as a new birder, I could figure this out ... :)
I initially thought about how the data might be used, and as a person who previously ran biological surveys (albeit in the marine environment), I tried to go with the more specific.I made lots of personal sites.
As I learned more about the workings of eBird, I saw many more "Hotspots" start emerging. I wanted my data to be included. I was pleased that a few of my suggestions as Hotspots were accepted for eBird (Thanks eBird - I do not suggest hotspots lightly...). And so it (i.e., the family of Hotspots) grows. ;)
Anyway, I started recording data more into Hotspots than the more specific personal locations I had previously used. Heck, I am not doing surveys, and get my birds into the right area. I am positive that on the national level of eBird, it matters little. I learned how to merge my past location data (yes, I still need to do more merges) into Hotspots.
It matters not at all from a "listing" point of view. My birds are recorded. I can see my records anytime I want! And, it does not matter from a county review, or the "top one hundred", or basically any eBird slice of data. I feel great that I am making a valuable contribution to national (and now international) bird distributions! Cool!!! Most of my records are birds I see on my deck each morning over coffee, and even those records are valuable. After a couple years of recording data, I now really get to see when birds appear and leave my deck. It has been fun recently to see the winter/spring border of arrivals here and comparing them with past records - and I can see my reports over time without going back to my journals!!! Cool!
YET .. something is missing!
By "taking the easy route" for most sites, I have lost data (no - not really, most of the data are still in my journals - which BTW probably no one will ever see... not that it matters on a grand scale...)
Tonight I entered all my deck birds for the last two weeks (up to date!), then went on to record birds Judy and I saw at Belle Isle (BI), Wayne County, Michigan last week and other places. I discovered a Hotspot that I think was not there when I first started recordng BI birds. I had a personal site called Belle Isle Nature Center. I found an eBird Hotspot at the same place called Belle Isle Nature Zoo (actually a more correct name because the Nature Center (NC) there is really an extension of the Detroit Zoo - they have Steve - a horny special deer - and his gals in an outside enclosure ... except when Steve is too frisky...). I merged my site with the Hotspot.
OK. But I had given up thru lazieness separating my bird data between the Nature Zoo and the remainder of Belle Isle (main Hotspot). It is so much easier to record Belle Isle for everything! It bugged me because of the huge difference between we see there at the feeders and what we see on the rest of the island. The difference is especially huge in winter!
Again I doubt it means little to national eBird data. Yet I know a great birder, Allen Chartier, has been studying birds on Belle Isle for several years and has extremely refined data. Allens's recent BI checklist on eBird can be seen at: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13402242
And I also think about the the fact the Nature Zoo folks probably would love to have data to justify their existance (and probably also the cost of bird seed) and the eBird records would be invaluable for this.
Far beyond the present example, I have always been bothered that the local Metro Parks show up in eBird as
The problem remains with the much larger Macomb County part of Stoney Creek that includes the Nature Center with feeders. I do not know if anyone is doing surveys there, but if I worked at the Nature Center, I would certainly love to have records of birds seen in my immediate area of responsibility!
Similarly, Kensington Metro Park. Most of the park is in Oakland County. The smaller piece in Livingston County is basically watching birds from the boardwalk or taking a hike around the smaller lake. OK. Fine. Yet, the Nature Center is in Oakland County - an area with quite diverse habitats! The Nature Center with its trails (where people can place seeds in their hands and have birds feed - WOW!) is a very special place indeed!
Why should I care? Heck, the same thing exists at Streamwood Estates (where I live). We have a wonderful fairly long stretch along the Clinton River, but especially in winter, a walk along the river yields few birds except near areas where neighbors have feeders. Makes sense to me... I would much rather hang out near a fast food place in winter! I record my deck (feeder) birds separately from my river walks. And my site (combined = eBird "yard") is not anywhere as large as the afore-mentioned parks. Well, I guess this area is my survey site and it matters.
But the question I propose (Hey did you think this was just a "ramble" without a question?) is:
At what level of detail do we want to record eBird sightings? For the referenced cases, I guess I would like to think someone cares about the difference between nature center feeders and what birds are sighted "in the wilds". One solution is to have hotspots for NC areas, then label the remainder of the larger (eg., park/county) area as - for example, "Belle Isle except Nature Zoo"; "Stoney Creek Macomb County except Nature Center", and so on. Using eBird, it is easy to create a "patch" or "yard" that includes multiple sites, so if you wanted to see all Belle Isle Birds, or all Stoney Creek Metro Park birds, you just select and include them as part of the yard or patch!
I also think of Pte Mouillee (again with diverse habitats in a major area) as a candidate for more specificity (and I do see more hotspots there now than before...).
What do y'all think?
Thanks for reading my "ramble"!!! And - do please use eBird! It makes it easy to record your sightings and see your "life list" and offers an amazing variety of ways to "cut your data".
- "Dr. Bob"