Sunday, February 17, 2008

A State Reviewer's GBBC Observations

Our sickly Nuthatch twisting his head around... see below.

I have the honor of being the official NJ Great Backyard Bird Count sighting reviewer. This involves reviewing reported sightings that flagged by the data entry system for various reasons. It may be an unusual high count of a regular occurring species, a vagrant sighting, or a very unusual sighting. The system is "smart" in that it automatically flags these records because it "knows" what species are likely to be seen on the GBBC in each state. I then get to follow up with the observers to check their sightings. In some case, the birds are rarities that have been around or just a nice sighting of 200 Horned Larks for example. In some cases, it is observer error. So far, I've only had 4 sightings to review. One was a Barnacle Goose that has been seen recently in Califon, NJ. I accepted this record for the GBBC, but it may not be accepted by the NJ Records Committee. I also had a report of 30 Little Gulls. The review site allows me to easily email the reviewers. I'm thinking this was either observer error or a data entry error. One Little Gull would be a nice sighting! I've also had a report of Yellow-bellied Flycatcher which is likely an Eastern Phoebe (not a bad GBBC bird itself) and a report of some Western Sandpipers which occur in small numbers on the coast in winter.

We had originally planned to go away this weekend, but passed on it in exchange for buying new kitchen appliances. So, we've been watching our yard birds. We've had the usual birds so far. We have a White-breasted Nuthatch hanging in the yard that isn't looking too healthy. He's spent a lot of time sitting in one place, but he moves along when approached. I hope he's ok because he's the only nuthatch we ever see in our yard and we've grown fond of him.


John said...

Rob did say that he wanted a Barnacle Goose.

Will said...

And I was just going to leave my report of 128 Groove Billed Ani's in Newark. Also about 10 Gray Jays, 2 Spruce Grouse and an Eared Trogon.

Did I mention the Redwing?

Yours is a job I don't envy.

Just goes to show how difficult it is to get accurate information. Even a report of 200 Horned Larks, could have been 20 (I assume it wasn't, but it could have been). Yet these citizen science projects help to under stand the status of certain species or to measure the scope of certain invasions, such as Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Grosbeak or Common Redpolls.

Patrick Belardo said...

John, ask and ye shall receive!

Will, I guess I need to get up to Newark to see those Anis. The job isn't so bad. Out of ~1250 checklists submitted I have had about 8 species with "issues." Some states have wackos that like to submit false reports just to be jerks. I'm lucky NJ isn't one of them.

Rick said...

Anybody know any of those wackos personally? It'd be fascinating to find out what on earth goes through their minds.

Patrick Belardo said...

Seriously. These are people with way too much free time on their hands and maybe a little too much mercury in their diet.

Rick said...

Seems to me that this is 'vandalism' of a different order from the kid who writes "flamingo, penguin, dodo" in the sightings book at Brig. To record birds on the GBBC, don't you have to be registered? Seems like a lot of work for graffiti!

Patrick Belardo said...

Actually, all you have to do is enter an email address when you record your sightings. It makes it easy on the user, but easy to abuse. I'm not even sure if it needs to be a valid email address because you don't get a confirmation sent to you unless you specifically request it.

I love the book of lies at Brig! When I was a new birder, I remember seeing "Eurasian Jackdaw" written in it.