[CT Birds] Migrants, breeders, C-----'s, data

Greg Hanisek ghanisek at rep-am.com
Thu Jun 4 21:17:16 EDT 2009

Glenn's observations about nesting species, coupled with previous discussions on the state of migration and the C-----'s onslaught, lead me to a subject dear to Dennis V. and overlooked by many - data. I've actually found breeding species in very good supply in the northwestern part of the state. Are my observations more valid than Glenn's? Obviously not. They are what they are. Observations - but if recorded by place, date and number - very valuable data.

I'm a little surprised, given the options now available, how many birders are willing to let their observations float around and disappear without ever converting them into securely stored data easily accessible to others. CtBirds is a very valuable information service - BUT IT'S NOT A DATABASE. Information posted there is not preserved indefinitely.

If I understand it correctly, Dennis has undertaken the rather Herculean task of coverting what people post into a database of his own making. It's a great project, but Dennis is only one person with a limited capacity to protect data. His effort will capture a lot of material, but a lot more can be captured if people use eBird as well. WE CAN'T HAVE TOO MUCH DATA. That message should be clear from the hand-wringing over C-----'s. We'll never know what we're losing if we haven't quantified it first.

This might sound like a lot of work, but I think there's a way to view Dennis's efforts and eBird as complementary. Many people will be happy to continue posting to CtBirds as always without taking on any additional work. Dennis will record that information. He'd love to have people report more extensive (everything seen) lists, but I doubt human nature, time constraints etc will allow much of that to happen. It's also not really the strength of a discussion list. The list would quickly bog down if many people filed complete lists of birding trips with all species and numbers included. You also have to write down all the names of birds etc. to file that kind of posting

eBird is perfect for those kinds of efforts. All the birds are already listed. You just pop in the numbers. Nobody else has to wade through your titmice and catbirds unless they choose to. Each site you bird can be pinpointed using a built-in Google-type map function. eBird will record the exact coordinates for posterity. 

How could Averge Joe and Jane Birder use this in conjunction with everything else going on and not get bogged down? Think about one of two places you bird regularly - your yard, a park near your home, a cemetery where you take a walk. If a lot of people zeroed in on a couple places they birded on a regular basis (or even one) and fully recorded those visits over time (once a week, a couple times a week, a couple times a month) a tremdendous amount of data would flow into a secure, searchable datasbase maintained by Audubon and Cornell. Actually a lot already is flowing in but WE CAN'T HAVE TOO MUCH DATA.

eBird allows you to set up birding sessions as Stationary Counts, Traveling Counts or Area Counts. For instance, I go to Lake Winnemaug in Watertown, stand on the dike road and scan the lake, scan the skyline and look/listen for anything in the surrounding area. I spend 10 minutes. Then it takes me about 5 minutes to enter the data into eBird as a Stationary Count.

Or I walk my neighborhood loop. It takes 35 minutes (longer on a good migration day). I enter it as a Traveling Count of 1.2 miles.

If you had a little park you cover on a Saturday morning, you could enter it as an Area Count. 

The key is to enter time, place and everything you see. You can use eBird to keep lists as well, but its real strength is in recording complete sets of data (which can be done in very small, manageable chunks)

Then when we start to trade anecdotal info about this year's migration, or this year's breeders, we can look at some real data.

Greg Hanisek


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