Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What are the problem IDs?


We recently published a news item highlighting the issue that many birders have identifying crows and ravens:

We plan to do more pieces like this in the future, mostly focused on the challenges of identifying common birds. The Carpodacus finches is another group that springs to mind. Many birders over-report Purple Finches in places where House Finches are common. The idea is to draw attention to some of the most frequently misidentified groups of birds in eBird, and help beginning birders get a better grasp on range, seasonality, voice.

Rare and unusual birds are easy for eBird editors to handle, as they are always flagged for review. But the real problem lies in the misidentification of species pairs where both are common in a region. 

What other groups of birds do you think we should highlight in this way? Accipiters are a no-brainer for inclusion!

Team eBird

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To share or not to share, that is the question

We' like to take an informal poll here, since you all are some of our most active and thoughtful eBirders.

A couple years back we released "Checklist Sharing" with some fanfare. this was something we wanted for a long time an allowed to friends (or 20 friends) to go birding together, to have one volunteer to do the data entry, and then to copy the checklist automatically to their friend's account. The others that received copies could still edit the checklist and eBird would be able to track the changes and still store a master copy that was essentially the sum of all the lists, and all are linked together in our database. Checklist sharing has been a huge success, and is a great way to expose new people to eBird, especially since you can share a checklist with someone who doesn't have an eBird account yet by just entering their email address.

However, we are wondering whether we picked the right term to describe the process. Checklist sharing might suggest that you just want to let someone know what you saw, whether or not they were there. In fact, this has been a problem, since some people have clicked "share" and entered a listserv address in the sharing field. I'm sure you all have seen this at least once on the listserv. And the problem is that anyone who clicks the link then gets a copy of the list in their eBird account, implying that they actually saw the bird. We have the "email" link to allow people to post their lists to listservs, and checklist sharing was obviously intended for another purpose. It is clear, that the term "Share" does not instantly convey what is going on.

So our questions for you all are as follows:

1) Is there a better term or way to describe this process that would make it clearer what is happening. We are considering an "Add people to this checklist" after data entry as an alternative. Of course, we'd need to have short links (on the "Checklist Edit" page and the "Manage My Observations") too, and those currently read "Share". Would "Add others" be better?

2) Is the term "checklist sharing" already too ingrained in the eBird lexicon that changing it now would just make things even more confusing. We of course need to cater to our long-term users, our occasional users, and first-time users we hope to attract tomorrow.

Any and all thoughts are welcome. Please just comment below, let us know what you think, an why. We aren't sure what direction we'll go, and your feedback will help. Thanks!

More occurrence maps being published

We haven't posted much here recently, and are sorry for this. The winter doldrums have been a time where we have been working hard on several things at eBird, and we'll be sharing these with you here soon.

One of these has been gearing up for publishing lots more occurrence maps. Since the last post 15 December we have posted 16 new maps (involving 17 species!). Over the next month we plan to put up a lot more, so please check in to the Occurrence Maps page regularly and watch for the *NEW* ones!

As always, we welcome comments on the maps here. New species since 15 Dec include:

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrranus forficatus)
Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)
Harris's Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula)
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)
Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus)
Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)
Pacific/Winter Wren (Troglodytes pacificus/hiemelis)
White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)
Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)
Black-throated Gray Warbler (Dendroica nigrescens)
Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica)
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) [not animated -- fine scale]
Kentucky Warbler (Oporornis formosus)
Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus) [not animated]
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)
Dusky Flycatcher (Empidonax oberholseri)

eBirders have provided some great questions and comments about the strengths and weaknesses of these maps. These really help us to refine them in the future. We look forward to more feedback!