This is something I've been thinking about for some time now, and Paul Lehman's post yesterday to CALBIRDS with the subject line, "Are Regional County Listserves Still Relevant?" (see http://digest.sialia.com/?rm=message;id=1384078
) has prompted me to go ahead and try an experiment. Paul's main point was that the rare bird information going into and coming out of eBird and other social media is, for whatever reason (and there are many), not being shared with local listserves. I won't offer an opinion here but my experiment is to begin forwarding to sbcobirding an abbreviated version of the daily Santa Barbara County Rare Bird Alerts from eBird. Rare birds are posted almost every day to eBird but never make it to sbcobirding. These forwarded alerts will be short, once per day and will include a link to the alert webpage should you want to dig deeper for the information. Many of us are eBird users and many are not so these forwarded alerts will allow non-users access to the information through the listserve. If you are already subscribed to the alerts and this is redundant information just hit the delete key when they come in. I may not always forward these each day depending on what is in them or if I am not available to do it or lack motivation, etc. It is an experiment and I hope it will generate discussion and follow up from time to time through sbcobirding.
What you will see is a listing that looks like this:
[eBird Alert] Santa Barbara County Rare Bird Alert for [date]
*** Species Summary:
- Garganey (2 reports)
- Broad-billed Hummingbird (2 reports)
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (2 reports)
- Tropical Kingbird (3 reports)
- Gray Catbird (3 reports)
Normally the summary includes a detailed listing including map and checklist links, comments, etc. I don't want to forward all this info so to read details about the birds listed just click on the link. What you need to know about these alerts is that species listed in the above example may not necessarily be from the previous day. Usually, they are. However, if a traveling birder submits his/her checklist a few days after the fact it may pop-up on the daily alert. This is where the link is helpful which takes you to the Santa Barbara County Rare Bird Alert page at eBird where you can see the details on all rarities from the past week. Species are listed taxonomically, but if you click on Date it will position the most recent at the top as they came in on that day. You can also click Show Details or Show All Details to see any attached photos and read comments, etc. It is important to note that below the species name on the webpage you will see either Unconfirmed (red) or Confirmed (green) depending on whether or not reviewers have validated the information. Many of these reports will be known, continuing birds while others (new entries) are unconfirmed and could possibly be erroneous so chase at your own risk. Rare birds are reviewed and validated/invalidated as time permits and when people respond to requests for more information but will always show up on the alerts whether valid or not. This is where the association with a listserve should be helpful. If someone were to chase a claimed rarity and actually confirm its presence we all hope for a follow-up to sbcobirding where we can discuss movement, access issues, keep tabs on it, etc. I think that listserves, in general, serve a different purpose other than just reporting rarities. They should be the means for deeper discussions about local status and distribution issues regarding the birds of the area in addition to rare bird reporting, but there is no escaping the fact that most of the rare bird reports today come from eBird and not through local listserves. There is an obvious disconnect and I think it's just a sign of the times and the way birders get their information.
Jamie M. Chavez
Santa Maria, CA