ILLINOIS birds (no sightings)
To all Mobirders that venture into IL to bird and submit lists to IL eBird.
Forwarded from IBET with Craig Taylor's permission.

Good birding no matter what state,
Charlene Malone
[log in to unmask]
St. Louis co

Subject: IBET Illinois eBirding

From: "Craig Taylor" <tnemec1 AT>
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 15:36:11 -0600
Illinois eBirding is rapidly growing� that�s great news, but results in a
lot of flagged records heading into review.  In fact, even though eBird
reviewers work most days to clear records, we still currently have a
backlog of nearly 200 records in review, many without comments, which
take much longer to process.

Read on to discover the importance of including comments for flagged
species to make sure your observations are getting quickly processed and
added to the eBird database.

Records are flagged for a variety of reasons, including because they are
rare birds, out-of-season birds, or high counts.  When you enter a bird
that is flagged, a green box pops up on the top of your checklist that
requests that you �add identification details�.  It says,

"Excellent observation!  Please check 'CONFIRM' and add identification

Why is it important to add identification details?

This is important because your sighting exceeded one of our checklist
filters and is rare enough to need some further documentation in order
for us to accept it into the database.

The goal here is to try to weed out any mistakes showing up in the eBird
database so when people refer to eBird data for any reason, they can have
some confidence in the quality of the maps and data. Lots of scientists
are now using your eBird data, and eBird reviewers try to approve flagged
records only when they meet high quality standards.  You can read much
more about the importance of eBird data quality here.

Entering comments is the single most important thing you can do to make
sure your record gets processed quickly and gets accepted into the
database.  We are unfortunately forced to reject some records because of
no comments or inadequate comments.

Illinois eBird reviewers are striving to get comments (with field marks)
entered for EVERY flagged record from EVERY observer *(except for the two
exceptions we�ll discuss below). This way we are not favoring birders
with good reputations, rather we are trying to objectively evaluate each

Does anybody actually read these?

Yes!  Rest assured every time a bird gets flagged, a person (for
Illinois, usually Matthew Cvetas, Michael Retter or Craig Taylor) goes in
and looks at the record and has to process it. And of course, in the
future if a scientist is interested in the eBird data, they might be very
interested in knowing details about sightings considered rare, to decide
whether to include or exclude them from a data set.

What do I have to write?

In most instances, we�re looking for 1-3 sentences describing the bird.
That means FIELD MARKS and other descriptions of the bird. We want to be
able to have some documentation for the eBird files that lists field
marks and eliminates other species.

For major rarities, or very out-of-season birds, the Illinois Ornithology
Records Committee (IORC) will be interested in a longer writeup.

The IORC documentation form can be printed out from this PDF*,.
Documentation can also be sent via e-mail: Doug Stotz. To make
documentation by e-mail easier, the documentation questions can be copied
from the IORC Rare Bird Documentation Questions page and pasted into the
body of the e-mail message. An HTML version of the documentation form is
also available: Illinois Rare Bird Documentation Form.

In general we give Illinois eBird users a gold star for a major increase
in the percentage of checklists with comments in 2011. Dozens of regular
users regularly enter quality comments or photos when species are
flagged. However, there are still some holdouts who never enter comments,
and we still see some checklists that have comments, but the comments don
�t have enough content to be useful for evaluating which species was

Good examples vs. bad examples of checklist comments

GOOD Grasshopper Sparrow: Giving ptup-zeeeee song perched on grass. Plain
buffy chest with no streaking on flanks, white eye ring, yellow in front
of eye, dark crown with white stripe down center. Known breeder at this
location for past 5 years.

BAD Grasshopper Sparrow: brown sparrow, gave buzzy song in grass

GOOD Summer Tanager: All red songbird, larger than Scarlet Tanager with
larger bill. Bill was olive-colored. No crest, so it wasn�t a Northern
Cardinal. No sign of dark on the wings so it wasn�t a Scarlet Tanager.
Came to an orange at my feeder.

BAD Summer Tanager: It was definitely a Summer Tanager, I know what they
look like.

GOOD Glaucous Gull:  Massive gull, dwarfed nearby Ring-billeds. Young
bird, pale gray overall, including throughout wings.  Bill was black at
the tip but pink on the other half.  Much bigger than an Iceland Gull
would be.

BAD Glaucous Gull:  Joe Smith saw it and said it was one.

Note that good descriptions focus on field marks and reporting how you
distinguished this bird from similar species.  Descriptions that report
no features of the bird aren't really valuable to us at all.

If you have a photo, great!

In the case of bird identification, a photo is often worth a thousand
words. You can  embed your photo in the checklist.

*Exceptions to always entering comments

We have no desire to make data entry any more tedious than it should be,
so you�re off the hook in two instances:

If there�s a bird at your feeder that flagged, you already sent us a good
description or a picture of it, we approved it, and the bird stays there
all winter, you don�t have to keep writing comments every additional day
it�s still there. You could just write �continuing�.

If there�s a bird that everybody and their brother has already gone to
see (the recent Skokie Lagoons Barrow�s Goldeneye) and pictures have been
posted to the listserv (or IBF etc..) then we don�t need comments if you
submit it shortly after you observed it. You can put �seen by many�,
(however, if you feel like embedding photos or entering field notes for
your own personal records, it's a good habit to get into, and don't let
us discourage you!).

However, if you submit it 5 years later, we DO want you to then document
it, because we can�t remember every bird that was ever seen and the dates
for it.  Much of the current backlog in review is due to historic records
that don�t have any comments, and we have to go looking through data to
check them. If you know your bird was accepted by the records committee
or it was photographed, please say so in the comments field for historic

Flagged birds are cool!

We know some of you might view entering comments on flagged birds as
tedious, and we know keeping good track of bird records can be somewhat
tedious at times.  But we hope you will see the value in entering
checklist comments and not only that � enjoy seeing those flagged birds
come up.  Because that means you found a good bird for your area, maybe a
bird someone else will want to see, or researchers will be interested in,
maybe a bird that is pioneering a new breeding site or migration route.
Most birders get a kick out of that, and while it may take 1 minute to
write-up a short comment, during that minute you can pat yourself on the
back for finding something cool. And you can ensure your sighting will be
preserved for posterity, if anyone in the future goes back in to question
your sighting, they�ll pull up your description and photo about it.

Thank you for using eBird!

"Do you eBird?"

Craig A. Taylor
La Grange, Illinois
Cook County
The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
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