Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was among the top 20 checklist producers for Oregon on eBird in 2014. I suspect that some will find that a frightening statistic, given my regular and occasionally unflattering criticisms of eBird. I, however, find it a very telling statistic. Even more telling is the graph that goes with it (what? you thought I’d forget the math?)
There were 85823 checklists posted to eBird from Oregon last year. 54.6% of these were posted by the top 100 contributors, 27.7% by the top 20 contributors. What this tells us is that there are not nearly as many people using eBird as some eBird users might think (or want). And that’s okay. As I have stated before, eBird use is and should be entirely voluntary.
If the birds seen by eBird users are important enough to post on eBird, some of those birds are probably important enough to post to other information distribution hubs like Oregon Birders On-line (OBOL), Central Oregon Birders (COBOL), Willamette Valley birders, Tweeters, etc, especially if eBird flags them as rare. The assumption that posting on eBird is reporting to everyone is clearly flawed. Nevertheless, a surprising number of eBird users do not make the extra effort to report what they see to the larger community, even when those birds are flagged as rare by eBird. How do I know? I check the “recent visits” page at eBird…
And then there’s the way stuff gets posted to eBird…
If a user is reporting from GPS based app, the location is given as a set of lat-long numbers like:
46.07112,-123.65022, Clatsop County, Oregon, US
And all too often when one clicks on the map link, it looks like this:
Obviously, reporting what we see to all those list-serves and phone-trees is (and should be) just as voluntary as reporting to eBird. An eBird user is no more obliged to report to OBOL than a birder is obliged to report to eBird, but if eBird users also want to share their observations with the larger regional birding community, they cannot depend on eBird alone as the mechanism for doing so. Yes, there are tools eBird users can use to get the reports from other eBird users, but most birders are not eBird users and some of the reports provided to eBird do not provide location information that is intuitively useful to regular folks (kind of like using 4-codes instead of actual bird names frustrates regular folks).
If eBird users want to use eBird as one of the mechanisms for communicating information about bird status and distribution to the larger birding community, it behooves them to consider how they post their information to eBird (maybe use their words to describe a location in the comments section) and take the time to use alternate venues for reporting what they’ve seen to the clear majority who are not eBird users.
Inclusion, not exclusion. That’s all I’m saying.