Day 354 - Sifting Through the Nonsense

Monday, December 19, 2016 2 Comments A+ a-


In the waning days of 2016 I have been hyper-focused on trying to track down a handful of remaining species I need for the year. Currently, the best way to do this in lieu of a majority of a community that refuses to share sightings in any type of timely matter if at all, is to check the eBird alerts every morning first thing. As frustrating as the lack of sharing is, it's even more frustrating getting your hopes up when you see 2 species pop up in your needs alert on a Monday morning, only to quickly realize the reports are garbage. You see the name connected, and then read their notes or see their pictures and you want to gouge your eyes out and quit birding altogether. The time wasted sifting through the nonsense has taken its toll on this birder.

You may say, "Hey Mr/Mrs. Secret Big Year Birder, that's pretty harsh!". And to you I say, hold on--hear me out. In this week's case of bad bird reports Monday, the reports both came from the same birder. They claim to be no beginner in their eBird bio, with many years (More than 10? More than 20? Maybe.) of experience that have either made them willfully ignorant to reality or they've just never progressed beyond the skills of a 1-5 year noob. I digress, when I see their name attached to reports I roll my eyes and move on. But that moment of hope when you see a species you need being so quickly dashed becomes frustrating. Time and time again you see the same names on your own eBird alerts and if you aren't lying to yourself, you do the same thing I do.

This morning I thought I had a huge day ahead of me with possibly 2 new years birds that I could track down by nightfall. But alas, anyone with any sense about them can write both off without hesitation. This has become a new normal with the growing popularity of birding, eBird, Facebook birding groups, etc. An ever growing group of birders, equipped with apps, cameras, and eager enthusiasm. But ever lacking in field craft and ability. Groups on Facebook like "What's this bird", and state-level groups have given these "bird watchers" a place to paste their photo and request, "Please ID". With little or know information about the bird, or notes about what the observer actually saw. Photos are often lacking critical details and can even be misleading.

There seems to be little in the way of reward--or better yet a "gold star" at the end of an assignment for improving skills for this generation. With so many willing to help--or try to help ID their quarry through photos, many of these new students will remain students for their entire life. Some will try to extend their skill without a real clear understanding of the birds they see/hear--and report a flyover Smew on what was clearly a Herring Gull. Or a singing Rose-breasted Grosbeak when it was really a Summer Tanager. There are lots of very gifted birders out there, and there are lots that try to be. We all can't be Sibley, Kaufmann, or Lehman. But knowing our boundaries is just as important as trying to stretch them.

This rant isn't meant to discourage new birders. But in the digital age with the need for instant knowledge or gratification, there are a lot of lazy birders out there who aren't eager to really get better. And for the rest of us, that makes a mess of sorting out the good from the bad sightings. I know whose birds I'll chase, and whose birds I'll dismiss before I even read their report. So this Monday morning, I dismiss what I thought was going to be a good day after sifting through the nonsense. Maybe Tuesday will bring better prospects. Or maybe I should just crawl into a hole for the next 12 days and let the year come to an end and forget about all this!

And don't get me wrong--I encourage everyone to get better at birding, including myself.  We are all students.  Being a great birder doesn't happen overnight, or in some cases ever.  But no camera, app, or Facebook group is going to make it happen.  It takes a lot of time looking at and listening to birds, and a desire to learn.


New birds this post: 0
Year List: 356


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December 26, 2016 at 8:58 PM delete

Good post. I often feel the same way. It sucks to watch someone climb the ebird 100 when you know some of their sightings aren't legit. I'm no expert and hold myself to a very high standard when it comes to ID's. If I'm unsure, I don't claim it. The guy I'm referring to is either the luckiest sob out there, or full of it. Keep your head up!

December 30, 2016 at 9:35 AM delete

Thanks! That's just me venting. It's birds. It is what it is. And I'm sure a few people will take issue with my number when I add all my eBird checklists for the year in this week. Oh well.